1981 NBA Finals: Boston 4, Houston 2
Celtics Return to Glory
The loss to Philadelphia in the 1980 playoffs had taught the Boston Celtics one clear lesson: They had to get bigger.
So Red Auerbach went shopping in the spring of 1980. In 1979, Auerbach had been eager to get rid of Bob McAdoo, the prolific scorer who hadn't fit into the Celtics' system. Detroit's Dick Vitale was just as eager to get such a player, so the Pistons agreed to make a deal.
Earlier, the Celtics had signed Detroit's M.L. Carr as a restricted free agent, and as a result they owed the Pistons compensation. Accordingly, Auerbach offered to "give up" McAdoo for Detroit's two first-round draft picks in 1980. Detroit agreed.
Then the Pistons sweetened the deal by finishing last in the NBA for the 1979-80 season, meaning the Celtics had the top pick to go with the 13th selection. Auerbach wanted Kevin McHale, a smooth power forward out of the University of Minnesota, but he and coach Bill Fitch also wanted veteran center Robert Parish, whom the Golden State Warriors were shopping around the league.
The Warriors, who picked third, wanted to draft Joe Barry Carroll out of Purdue and figured they would need the top pick to get him. So Auerbach traded Boston's two picks to Golden State for Parish and the third pick in the draft. As a result, Auerbach and Fitch got the frontcourt of the '80s: Parish at center and McHale at power forward, joining Larry Bird at the other forward spot.
The Warriors, meanwhile, drafted Carroll first and Rickey Brown 13th. The deal was branded the most lopsided trade ever by 19 NBA general managers in a 1989 poll conducted by The Sporting News.
Fitch decided to start backup point guard Gerald Henderson, a minor league refugee, and Carr in the backcourt to open the season. The starting guards from the previous year, Nate Archibald and Chris Ford, came off the bench. This helped build Henderson's confidence, but the arrangement only lasted a few games. Wit...