Trading Danny Ainge to Sacramento was a sign of the times for the Boston Celtics - they know they have to start rebuilding to keep up with the NBA's improving teams.

"We may well be seeing the death of a dynasty," noted broadcaster Bob Cousy. "They'll be viable as long as Larry Bird and Kevin McHale are around, but viable no longer means talking about championships, but being somewhere in the pack."Cousy, the legendary Celtics point guard, gave up coaching the Kings' franchise in the early 1970s. His reason was frustration with a rebuilding chore that would take a long, long time - just look at Sacramento now. Cousy sees the Celtics having the same trouble ahead.

"Rebuilding today is harder than it's ever been," he said, while in town recently. "It could take 20 years. The more teams they add, it gives you less access. The worst place you can finish in this league is the middle, the way the draft is, and nobody trades good, solid talent today - so where do you go for it?"

What's more, the Celtics find teams hungry to get back at them after all these years. "Staying on top in this society just creates all this jealousy and hostility," notes Cousy, who has written a book on the Celtics' mystique. "When you become vulnerable . . . The Celtics have been arrogant for years."

***** ADD AINGE: As the trading deadline approached, McHale and Robert Parish sounded unhappy with Ainge, and talked about the need for bench help - which Joe Kleine and Ed Pinckney may provide. After a loss to the Lakers last Sunday, Parish said, "Nine years I've been here and it's the same curse, outside shooting. You would think after a while that the light bulb would go on, especially when the shots aren't falling."

Following a loss at Seattle, McHale said, "We're one Larry, one body away from winning a lot of these games and two bodies away from winning a ton of games."

Is that really the best the C's could get for Ainge, though?

***** DRAFT NUMBERS: Now that the Jazz have their probable final roster, we offer the exclusive, early, to-be-updated odds on who they'll expose in the expansion draft. This is risky, considering they protected Bart Kofoed and not Darrell Griffith last June:

Jim Les 2-1, Jim Farmer 3-1, Jose Ortiz 5-1, Mike Brown 10-1, Eric Leckner 20-1.

They can protect eight players, plus Marc Iavaroni, an unrestricted free agent.

***** OLD TIMES: Just think, in the space of 24 hours, the Jazz could have acquired Darryl Dawkins, Rickey Green and Adrian Dantley. Dawkins was waived by Detroit, Green waived by Charlotte and Dantley made available by Dallas before reporting

The release of the 34-year-old Green hurt longtime teammate Darrell Griffith. "I wouldn't like to go out that way," Griffith said. "I think somebody will pick him up. He's got some years left : he's been on ice the last two years."

Green may not be out of a job for long, however. Indiana, which recently showed interest in trading for him, is apparently still interested in making him a Pacer.

***** BRADLEY REUNION: When the Jazz meet the Pacers today in Indianapolis, Les will face his Bradley University coach, Dick Versace. While the Pacers lost a team-record 12-straight games before beating San Antonio Friday, Les figures Versace will turn Indiana around.

"He always believed the game was half physical and half mental," Les noted. "He just had a ton of motivational tools."

Before a big game, Versace once had his team skip practice and play volleyball. His favorite trick was picking on Les, his team captain, ranting and raving at him up close. "The whole time, he'd be winking at me so no one could see him," smiled Les. "Trying to keep a straight face while he was doing that was really hard."

***** AT RANDOM: During the same period that Mike Schuler won 127 regular-season games, Frank Layden and Jerry Sloan won 119. The Jazz's playoff defeat of Portland last spring took a toll on Schuler, and so did the revolt of players like Clyde Drexler, resulting in Schuler's firing. "Definitely, the animals are running the zoo in Portland," said Layden . . . Cousy says of Red Auerbach, "When there were eight teams, it was a lot easier for him to exploit the advantage he had over the other GMs."

According to sources, a lengthy Playboy profile of Karl Malone is a good read . . . Fan polls in the Detroit newspapers ran 20-1 against the Aguirre-Dantley trade . . . Not fazed by the outcome of the All-Star Game, Philadelphia's Charles Barkley said, "They aren't that good in the West. This was just one game. They've got some good teams. But they're still driving Volkswagen bugs and we're the Mercedes-Benzes of the East. The Eastern Conference is far superior." . . . The willingness of the Celtics to trade surprised one general manager, who had said, "Organizationally, you can become paralyzed. Look at the people involved in Boston . . . Do you have any idea how tough it is to get six guys to agree on a deal?" . . . One of the late trades the Jazz reportedly considered would have brought them Charlotte point guard Michael Holton for a 1989 first-round pick.