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Life After Celtics? 2 Players Say Yes

March 13, 1989|PETER MAY | The Hartford Courant

PHILADELPHIA — The 19-year-old seated in Section V had her sign ready. She wore a custom-made white shirt with the name of her new favorite team on the front and the number and surname of her idol on the back.

"The moment I heard about the trade I got tickets to the game," Joy Murrey of Lancaster, Pa., said at the Spectrum Thursday. "I didn't have the money, but I borrowed it from my mom. I'll pay her back when my income-tax refund comes. I just had to see him. The last time he was here, he didn't play and I just about died."

The object of her affection, Danny Ainge, was in the midst of a 4-for-15 shooting night and his team, the Sacramento Kings, was in the process of losing to the Philadelphia 76ers, 106-96.

It mattered not to Murrey, whose bedroom walls are adorned with Ainge-o-bilia, who has made two video cassettes of Ainge highlights ("Definitely Danny" and "Dynamite Danny") and who left work early on this day for the 90-minute drive to the Spectrum.

"I still can't believe they traded him," she said. "After all those years of being so dedicated to them."

After the game, Ainge was somewhat more equable about his new digs.

"I'm still not used to it," he said. "It really is different. I mean, I'm still not used to wearing white sneakers."

On the afternoon of Feb. 23, Boston Celtics Coach Jimmy Rodgers placed a call to Ainge. Around that same time, agent Ron Grinker placed a call to Brad Lohaus, another Celtic. The two callers had the same message: Ainge and Lohaus no longer were Celtics. They were going to Sacramento in a swap for Joe Kleine and Ed Pinckney.

Lohaus, a second-year 7-footer whose game had regressed after a promising rookie season, was floored by the news. Ainge wasn't as fazed; he had openly talked of possibly getting dealt, mindful that the Celtics desperately needed big men to help out their front line.

And he knew he was the most marketable commodity the Celtics had in terms of age (30), experience (eight years), ability (All-Star), salary (his $675,000 was 1 1/2 times greater than the value of Kevin McHale) and status (expendable).

"I certainly don't feel like I was a scapegoat or anything," he said. "I don't take it as a shot to my ego or a blow to my pride. I think the Celtics knew they were losing a good player when they traded me."

The Kings certainly feel like they got a good player.

"He's already the best guard in the history of the Sacramento Kings," Coach Jerry Reynolds said. "And that should tell you something."

Ainge and Lohaus are trying to make the best of an uneasy situation. Ainge would have preferred to remain a Celtic; indeed, he still feels he always will be regarded as one. He still gets booed in introductions, though not as lustily as when he was a Celtic.

Lohaus, however, recovered from the news and realized it was an excellent chance for him. He and the Boston coaching staff had not seen eye to eye and, frankly, he had blown a great opportunity. Something new was better for everyone concerned.

"I'll play more," he said. "The offense we run here is more suited toward me than the one in Boston. I did have my problems there and I didn't know what was going on. I think a lot of it was simply that we weren't winning."

The Kings aren't expecting big things from Lohaus, who's seeing a lot of time at backup center behind non-center Jim Petersen. Reynolds calls him "a support player" and Lohaus played only nine minutes against the Sixers.

"Ainge was the guy we wanted," Reynolds said. "We think Brad can give us 12 to 20 minutes a game. But when you can get a top flight guy like Danny Ainge, they just aren't easy to get. Ainge has been an All-Star and someone who might help us and who has potential. We did that."

But for now, the new Kings and ex-Celtics are in an even more unenviable position than the one they left. The Celtics still should make the playoffs. The Kings are lottery locks, having won 16 games all season.

And their franchise, while never approaching the Clippers on the Laughingstock Ladder, is still one that actually employs Bill Russell in a decision-making capacity and has an owner who climbed onto a crossbeam 85 feet above the floor in Arco Arena recently to help hang towels because there was a leak in the roof.

Ainge already has a 45-point game with the Kings and is averaging around 23 points while playing six minutes more a game than he did in Boston. He starts in the backcourt with point guard Kenny Smith.

Lohaus already has had a 12-point, 10-rebound game and is playing a shade more than 15 minutes, his average with the Celtics. Reynolds is quickly discovering that Lohaus will have trouble against the smaller teams, but that, in the coach's words, "he can also present problems for the other guy, too."

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