By the start of training camp in October, Robert Parish will be 35 and Dennis Johnson will be 34. "I don't think our guys are too old at all," says Danny Ainge.But Ainge knows there's more to the story for the Boston Celtics.
"They're too old to play the type of minutes they've been playing . . . we just need to get nine or 10 guys involved in our team instead of five," said Ainge, during his basketball camp in Orem last week. "We have to do some good changes. I don't think those have to be personnel changes, but I think we have to use more players."
Jim Paxson, Brad Lohaus and Reggie Lewis will play more, the Celtics will try to run more and new coach Jimmy Rodgers may even experiment with Ainge or Kevin McHale coming off the bench. Ainge is more than willing to try that, and he likes the idea of a new approach after Boston failed to reach the NBA Finals for the first time in five years.
Was a coaching change necessary to force the Celtics to adjust, or would K.C. Jones have made changes himself? After all, everybody was saying the same things about the overworked Celtics last summer.
"K.C. realizes that, if he was around this year, he would have had to do that to compete," noted Ainge. "But it's a good time for a change in K.C.'s life, and a good time for our team. A change in coaches might be a big benefit for us - it has nothing to do with K.C., it's just I think change is good sometimes."
Rodgers has already said he'll be willing to sacrifice a few regular-season wins to keep his players ready for the playoffs. No doubt, the Celtics finally wore down against Detroit in the Eastern Conference finals, when Ainge, for instance, made only one of his last 22 shots.
Ainge wants back into the NBA Finals, insisting he's working harder than ever this summer. While he had the best regular season of his career - he shot 49 percent, averaged 15.7 points and made the All-Star team - he struggled uncharacteristically in the playoffs. "I'm not blaming myself for the losses," he says, "but I didn't help our cause at all. That's why I'm motivated this summer; I'm ready to go again."
Detroit and Atlanta will be, too.
*** MOSES SPEAKS: Because they've decided not to re-sign Moses Malone, the Washington Bullets have invited more than 20 centers to rookie-free agent camp Monday. "We could try to trade for a center, but that's just about impossible," says GM Bob Ferry. "They're almost becoming extinct."
Malone, meanwhile, insists the Bullets are giving up on him too soon. "I don't care what people say," noted Malone, who will turn 34 during his 15th pro season. "I have three to five more strong years. I'm still strong and one of the top three centers in the league."
About the Bullets, Malone told the Washington Post, "It's a situation where if they have enough money they should go out and buy themselves a quality center. They have the money. You know they have the money. I don't know what they're doing now; if they're just trying to get a body . . . They have some good players but there are no great players. (The players) don't know how to win the big games and (management) doesn't have the right attitude it takes to win. The name of the game is winning. They need to get some big-time ballplayers."
*** ADD AINGE: Is it seven years already since Ainge was wearing No. 2 for the Toronto Blue Jays? Ainge smiles a little uneasily when the subject of baseball comes up.
"Sometimes, I wish I would have proven I was a good player," says Ainge, who batted .220 in 211 major-league games. "I know if I had quit basketball after two or three years in the NBA, people would have said, `Aw, he never would have made it.' I know if I had stuck with baseball, I would have made it, too. In that respect, it's a little bit disturbing, but I don't miss it - especially when I'm on the golf course in the summer."
*** AT RANDOM: After the Charlotte Hornets ended up with seven guards in the expansion and college drafts, a Charlotte Observer cartoon showed the Seven Dwarfs leaving Snow White to play for the Hornets. When Charlotte drafted Rex Chapman ahead of Rony Seikaly in the first round, former Jazz guard Dell Curry said, "It's hard to take right now. I think a lot of people are shocked. I think there will have to be a trade. Something has to be done." . . .
Miami, meanwhile, stockpiled draft choices and seems to have a more logical plan. But the Heat will likely not be as good as Charlotte in the first season, which will help the Jazz in their quest for 50 wins - Miami will play this season in the Midwest Division . . . With Billy Cunningham staying on as a part-owner in Miami, CBS is reportedly interested in - imagine this - Pat Riley as an analyst . . . Besides Malone, Atlanta is going after Detroit center James Edwards, another unrestricted free agent . . . The Jazz's Scott Roth and Bart Kofoed are scheduled to join Chicago's Brad Sellers and Cleveland's Ron Harper on a team in the California Pro Summer League, starting Friday at Loyola Marymount. The Utah Pro-Am Summer League opens Aug. 16, following the Jazz's rookie-free agent camp . . . Fred Roberts will have to fight for playing time in Milwaukee, now that the Bucks have invested more than $2 million over four years in forward Larry Krystkowiak.
*** QUOTABLE: Jerome Lane Quote of the Week No. 3, on his chances for playing time as a Denver rookie: "(The Nuggets have) some real old players. Maybe I can make room for myself."