Danny Ainge: Celtics Executive or Towel Boy?

In his playing days, Danny Ainge was the grit that backed up the showy play of stars Larry Bird, Robert Parish, company. He was never the fastest, strongest, or most skilled, but he used energy and intensity to leave his mark on the game. A couple current players in the league who fill this role for their respective teams are Anderson Varejao of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls. The two of them have had no problem publicly calling out the likes of LeBron James and Kevin Garnett, two premier players in the NBA. That trait is especially reminiscent of Ainge's playing days. Danny feared no one, not even Michael Jordan, arguably the best player in the history of the game. In the 1993 Suns-Bulls NBA Finals, Danny got in MJ's face and started a scuffle.

Fans remember Danny Ainge as a competitor. He was just an "in your face" kind of guy every game. On the defensive end, he would talk trash, bump and nudge his man, and was quick to instigate confrontations. Ainge was a loyal player that all Celtics fans loved, but all other fans loathed. Some would say he took it too far, there were definitely many instances in which he walked that line. Danny once got into a fight with Tree Rollins, a 7' 1'' tower from the Atlanta Hawks. After being infuriated by the pestering guard all game, Rollins lost his temper and elbowed Ainge. Of course Danny retaliated by tackling him, and in the madness, Rollins ended up biting Ainge. It is now remembered as the day when the tree bit the man.

Close to two decades since Ainge's incidents with Rollins and Jordan, Danny is now the President of Basketball Operations for the Celtics. Rather than waiting around to rebuild the Celts, Danny did some draft day trading a few years ago to bring in superstars Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, knowing that the window for success would be only a few years. At 51 years, he still has the same fiery attitude and competitive nature that he had throughout his playing career. However, there are certain things you can do as a basketball player that are deemed acceptable, that are not permitted in the front office. Monday night, in Game 2 of the Celtics-Cavaliers Eastern Conference Semifinals series, Ainge was sitting a couple rows behind the Cleveland basket. Cavs forward JJ Hickson was at the free throw line, with Boston was up 23 and 1:53 minutes left in the 3rd quarter. On Hickson's second attempt, Danny threw up a white towel to in an attempt to distract the shooter (video below).

It was a questionable move at best for Ainge. As a high level Celtics executive, that is certainly not appropriate behavior. After the game, Danny had this to say oh the towel toss, "I regret that. That was very unprofessional. I was having fun with the hecklers and the crowd that was sitting around me. ... There's just no excuse. It was unprofessional. I regret doing it. The biggest reason I regret it is you guys should be talking about the great play of the Celtics and not talking about a towel incident. I'm shocked that it's become this big a deal." I do believe that his apology is sincere, but putting some blame on those around him seems very unprofessional. C's coach Doc Rivers didn't think it was a big deal. When asked about the incident, Rivers said, "Danny's going back to his playing days. It's pretty comical." The real irony of the situation is that in 1997, while coaching for the Suns, his own player, Robert Horry, threw a towel at Ainge, earning himself a two game suspension.

Danny was definitely right in the latter part of his statement. All this nonsense has taken attention away from a very impressive Celtics win, but on the up side it has also taken attention away from LeBrick's elbow. The incident did manage to provide some entertainment for the extended break between games two and three of the series, but I'm ready to watch basketball again. I really hope there won't be any towels flying when Game 3 tips at 7:00 PM Friday night in Boston,