Bulls Once Dreamed Of Landing Danny Ainge, An Idea Favored By Michael Jordan

Some members of the Chicago Bulls were hoping the team would pursue former Boston Celtics guard Danny Ainge to pair with Michael Jordan when Ainge became available after the 1989-90 season, according to NBA insider Sam Smith‘s book The Jordan Rules.Celtics' Danny Ainge defends Bulls' Michael Jordan in 1986.

“He’ll tell Michael to (expletive) off when he starts calling for the ball,” former Bulls assistant coach Johnny Bach said of Ainge at the time. “And sometimes we need that.”

Ainge and Jordan always had a bit of a bond, the two golfing together the day before Jordan’s 63-point playoff eruption vs. Ainge’s Boston Celtics in 1986. (The Celtics won that Game 2 and swept the series, by the way, on their way to the NBA title.)

Ainge was playing for the Sacramento Kings at the time the Bulls wanted to pursue him. After leaving the sides of Larry BirdKevin McHaleRobert Parish and Dennis Johnson, Ainge became the team leader and top scorer with the Kings.

But those Kings were pretty bad and both parties were looking to move on.

Ainge was a relentless player who refused to back down and could bury shots from deep. He played both guard spots, had size (6-foot-5) and occasionally led the league in free-throw percentage. All that, and his pro sports career actually started as a baseball player in the Toronto Blue Jays organization. 

Jordan respected Ainge.

The same could not be said of some of Jordan’s teammates at the time. That included fellow Bulls guard Steve Colter.

“Colter wasn’t strong enough to stand up to Jordan,” Smith wrote. “… The Bulls were looking for a scorer for their second team, but they also needed someone to stand up to Jordan when he routinely ordered his teammates out of the way late in games.”

That man could have been Ainge, but a trade never happened.

Instead, the Kings sent him to the Portland Trail Blazers (for Byron Irvin and draft picks) and Jordan instead went on to pair with the likes of John PaxsonCraig HodgesB.J. ArmstrongSteve Kerr and others in the Bulls’ backcourt.

But it still all worked out OK. Jordan and the Bulls went on to win six NBA championships, and Ainge went on to become the man running the Celtics, and then the Utah Jazz, a position he still holds today.

Along with that, Ainge added two Finals appearances to the four he had already made with the Celtics — reaching in 1992 with the Blazers and ’93 with the Phoenix Suns. Both times, Ainge’s teams lost to Jordan and the Bulls.

So maybe Ainge, too, wishes the Bulls had tried harder to pursue him.

Looking for the latest NBA Insider News & Rumors?

Be sure to follow Hoops Wire on TWITTER and FACEBOOK for breaking NBA News and Rumors for all 30 teams!

Leave a Reply