I will go to my grave saying there isn’t any doubt in my mind that, as good as the Lakers were in ’87, if the Celtics had Bias. . . . I mean, they took them to six games without Bias! With McHale’s broken foot and the battered guys and all the minutes they were playing and they didn’t have any extra oomph and the bench consisted of guys like Darren Daye and Fred Roberts. Are you shittin’ me? If they had Len Bias? C’mon. It would’ve changed everything.--- Bob Ryan
Eventually the Celtics had to get a guy to fill Bias' spot on the team and the hope was to get someone who played similarly. (TB Tangent: Wishful-thinking picking up someone off the scrapheap to emulate Len's skills. Reminds me of when the Bulls filled in for Michael Jordan with Pete Myers when MJ retired in 1993).
Although there was talk about them petitioning the league for restitution in the form of an extra first round draft pick in the following year's draft, it doesn't look like the Celtics ever formally did. With all the success the Celtics and Red Auerbach had in winning 16 titles in 30 years you could bet there was enough ill-will from rival general managers in the league to stick it to the Celtics when they could. And there was nothing officially in the rule books to accommodate a request such as that according to former NBA general counsel Gary Bettman at the time, who said the league Board of Governors would have to meet and approve something.
Enter Fred Roberts. The Celtics, based on information from Danny Ainge and Greg Kite about the the former BYU player, made a play for Roberts, and eventually inked him in a bizarre deal that included the Celtics agreeing to appear in two extra preseason games in Utah.
Larry was stoked to play with Len. Fred Roberts? Not so much
Roberts was just painful to watch on the Celtics. Inconsistent minutes during his tenure didn't help but his lack of productivity when he played and being unable to be counted on in big spots always bugged me.
He was certainly in a tough spot going in but he just never fit in. The best way I could sum it up is how Mike Hamel described it in Pride and Passion:
The fact that the utterly non-athletic-looking Fred Roberts took the spot on the roster that should have belonged to the dynamic Bias made the latter’s death even more painful for Celtics fans.
And that was really it in a nutshell.
Roberts said it himself:
What's happened (signing with the Celtics) certainly wouldn't have happened if Len Bias didn't die. They had a spot for him and I'm sure he would've filled it.
11 Seasons Before: 1975-76, Celtics win NBA championship
11 Seasons After: 1996-97, Celtics fail to qualify for the playoffs