AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Watching the Detroit Pistons play for the NBA title with a major assist from trading-deadline acquisition Rasheed Wallace elicits no partisan or proprietary feelings from Celtics executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge. But except for Detroit president of basketball operations Joe Dumars, a case could be made that no other NBA executive improved the Pistons' title chances more than Ainge, who who midwived the three-team trade that brought Wallace from Atlanta to Detroit.
"First of all, when the trade was going down, I knew what a home run that was for Detroit," said Ainge. "My feeling was, `I don't care who wins the NBA championship if I can't win it.'
"The other thing is, do I want Rasheed Wallace to end up in Detroit and be a good team or do I want him to end up in Indiana and have them be a good team or do I want him to end up in New Jersey or New York and have them be a much better team? He was going to end up in one of those good team cities because I had conversations with Rasheed Wallace's agent myself. Rasheed didn't want to come to Boston."
Asked if he tried to obtain Wallace's services, Ainge said, "Absolutely. I looked into all the good players. I don't know what I would have done to get Rasheed and so forth. But yes, I had conversations when Rasheed was with Portland and when Rasheed was with Atlanta.
"The bottom line was, I got Chucky Atkins and a first-round draft choice for nothing. That's all I care about because I'm trying to get better. I'm trying to get to where Detroit is." Ainge then clarified his remarks, noting that he did not consider one-time Boston starter Mike James "nothing."
He simply felt a point guard of James's skill and experience would be easy to find in the future. For Ainge, James was the player who made the contract numbers work for the deal.
"As far as I'm concerned I'm rooting for Detroit," said Ainge. "I don't want Phil Jackson to beat Red Auerbach's record [for most championships as coach]. I didn't do as much for Detroit winning it as Atlanta did or Portland did; they traded Rasheed twice."
House call for Doc?
A meeting of Celtics past, present, and possibly future took place when new coach Doc Rivers almost literally bumped into Robert Parish in the cavernous Palace of Auburn Hills. The two shook hands and Rivers said, "I figured if I couldn't beat you, I might as well join you." Parish laughed. Rivers added, "I want to see you around a lot." Parish seemed taken aback by the remark, and Rivers said, "Really." Parish indicated that Rivers should call him, and Rivers made it clear he would. "I'd like to see Larry Bird around if we can get him around," said Rivers. "He can say he's with the Pacers, but we all know [he's a Celtic]. I want K.C. [Jones], Red. I think it's so important for our young guys to understand our history." . . . Less than a year after acquiring Antoine Walker from the Celtics, the Mavericks left the power forward unprotected for the Charlotte Bobcats' expansion draft. It is not uncommon to find high-profile, highly paid players made available. New York's Allan Houston, along with Miami's Brian Grant and Eddie Jones, are examples of notable players with weighty contracts who were left unprotected. Typically, expansion teams prefer not to take on large contracts.