The NBA Playing Career of Danny Ainge

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  • June 28, 2016
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The NBA Playing Career of Danny Ainge

In his first season as a professional athlete, Ainge had the statistics of a .237 batting average with 1 stolen base and 12 walks. He was a utility for the Toronto Blue Jays. He would leave the baseball diamond behind, which was a good move as he become a famous and successful basketball player, coach and executive.

What Ainge brought to the NBA was something he also did for the Blue Jays, versatility. Ainge was a combo-guard who could pass like a point guard or score like a shooting guard. He started, and ended, his career as the first guard off the bench for his team. As a shooter, he was much better than he ever was swinging a bat. Ainge led the NBA in three-pointers made in 1987-88 with 148. He was often among the league leaders for free throw percentage and three-point percentage. He shot 40% from three in his 193 postseason games. His career regular season numbers include 38% on threes and 85% on free throws with averages of 11.5 points and 4 assists.

Ainge was a second round pick of the Boston Celtics in 1981, pick 31. It took a bit of effort to get him away from his baseball contract and after that it took a few guards being traded for Ainge to take his spot in the starting lineup. He was a very good fit, with two seasons shooting over 50% from the field, and with Bird, McHale and Parish was a big part of two championship teams. By the end of the decade the Celtics needed some youth, and Ainge was part of a deal that brought the Celtics some tall depth and landed him in Sacramento. He played more and shot the ball more as a King, 18.5 points and 36.5 minutes per game in 103 games, but the Kings also needed to rebuild and traded him to Portland. Ainge came off the bench behind Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter, he went to the finals again but lost. The Phoenix Suns traded Jeff Hornacek, and other players, for Charles Barkley and needed another guard. Ainge signed with the Suns and came off the bench behind Kevin Johnson and Dan Majerle, and in 1992-93 he went to the finals again but lost. Ainge retired after the 1994-95 season.

For his career he averaged 26.6 minutes a game and played in the 1988 All-Star Game. He started 508 of the 1.042 games he played. Ainge didn’t disappear after his playing days, as Phoenix brought him back to coach. From 1996-97 until he resigned in 1999-00 he coached the Suns and won 60.2% of his games. After some commentating, Ainge returned to Boston as President of Basketball Operations in 2003. His trades for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett got the Celtics the title and he was named the 2008 NBA Executive of the Year.

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