Heisler: Celtics to Clippers and vice versa? Hey, it happened before

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Doc_RiversAnd now, the Clippers and Celtics in the deal that can’t happen, has to happen and/or has already happened before.

Just in case, Doc Rivers actually winds up coaching Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and the rest of the Clippers, it will mean one thing….

No, not that the Leprechaun will be the next Celtic departing the TD Garden for Staples Center.

No, not that the Clippers will put down a parquet floor in Staples to a) make the former Celtics feel welcome, and b) make the Lakers sick.

It will mean that what goes around really goes come around… even if it takes 35 years!

In 1978 the Celtics rebuilt their ruined dynasty on the bones of the Clippers, looting what remained of the financially-pressed Buffalo Braves who were about to move to San Diego, setting up for their famously-bedraggled destiny.

The current teams are now at an impasse in a multi-level deal that would free Rivers and trade KG, who has reportedly said he’d go with Doc.

The Celtics asked for Eric Bledsoe, DeAndre Jordan and two No. 1s.

The Clippers rejected it, threatening to turn away and hire one of their interviewees—Lionel Hollins, I’m told.

Not that it’s over with the Celtics yet to demonstrate they can put this imp back in the bottle.

With Rivers having already indicated his interest in another team, what if he next threatens to retire?

What will GM Danny Ainge do if he’s looking at taking less—say Bledsoe, Jordan and no picks—or losing Doc, keeping him from coaching until 2016, but getting nothing for him.

Suggesting a level of interest on both sides, this started in February with the Clippers in Boston when the teams talked about KG and Bledsoe.

If it was Coach Vinny Del Negro who asked, he had been a driving force in the Clippers’ GM-by-committee last summer after Portland stole Neil Olshey.

Kevin GarnettAinge took the proposal seriously enough to ask KG, who went ballistic.

With egg in everyone’s face, Rivers explained it away as only he could, laughing at reports that he had dinner with Garnett and Chauncey Billups, KG’s pal and lead Clipper recruiter.

It’s true, Doc wasn’t there—but KG and Chauncey were.

Nor were the talks welcome news in the Clipper front office, where it was seen as Del Negro trying to shore up his own position as his contract ran out.

Vinny, of course, is now history, at least in Clipper Nation, amid reports he could surface as coach of… the Celtics?

Forget trading coaches. In 1978, these teams swapped franchises–after Irv Levin, the San Diego owner who would get the Celtics, traded the Clippers’ All-Star backcourt of Nate Archibald and Billy Knight on ahead to Boston.

Then, in a deal that was only possible in a more innocent time, they then swapped the corporation known as “Boston Celtics” for the one known as “San Diego Clippers.”

As our Peter May wrote in a 2012 retrospective for the New York Times, the rosters were traded—and immediately swapped back.
Otherwise, the Clippers would have gotten the rights to Indiana State junior Larry Bird, whom Red Auerbach had just purloined with a No. 8 pick in a nothing draft, with Bird’s original class now eligible.

Levin thus dumped what remained of the Braves, post-Bob McAdoo, for the NBA’s greatest dynasty, even if it had just gone from its 1976 title to a 32-50 finish in 1977-78.

It’s not like Levin wouldn’t have to pay his dues in Boston… for one season… before the Celtics won their 14th title in four successive decades in his second, led, of course, by Bird.

So, not everything that goes around comes around.

Not that it’s easy to imagine Doc and KG, who are now as identifiable as Celtics as Red and Larry Legend, as… Clippers?

Actually, that’s what KG reportedly said when Ainge asked about waiving his no-trade clause:

“I’m no Clipper!”

Well, not yet, anyway.

Hall of Fame writer Mark Heisler is a regular contributor to SheridanHoops and LakersNation. His power rankings appear every Wednesday during the regular season, and his columns and video reports appear regularly here. Follow him on Twitter.

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