Danny Ainge was coming off his first and only All-Star season with the Boston Celtics going into the 1988-89 season. Instead of growing into Boston's top option, though, the Celtics traded him to the Sacramento Kings in February 1989.
The Kings had won only 24 games the previous season, but with the trade being spearheaded by Bill Russell, Ainge welcomed the move after winning two championships with the Celtics.
“I think it made a lot of sense and I was excited about it,” Ainge said to the Boston Globe's Gary Washburn. “Bill Russell was my general manager and he had talked with his good friend K.C. Jones about me. I was excited to go to Sacramento and after that first year, there was a lot to look forward to in that franchise.”
Ainge averaged a career-high 20.3 points per game for the Kings in his 28 games after the trade. It looked like he could be the star Sacramento badly needed. And then it all came crashing down.
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The Kings selected center Pervis Ellison with the No. 1 pick in the 1989 NBA Draft. He lasted one season in Sacramento before being traded to the Washington Bullets in June 1990. Kenny Smith averaged 17.3 points per game in '88-'89 and then was traded to the Atlanta Hawks as well in February 1990. And there was tragedy, too.
Sacramento selected guard Ricky Berry with the No. 18 pick in the '89 draft, and he averaged 11.0 points per game as a rookie. But in August 1989, he took his own life.
Ainge had another strong season for the Kings in 1989-90, averaging 17.9 points. Sacramento, however, only won 23 games. The Kings told Ainge they were going to rebuild again after that down season and asked where he desired to go. He wound up on the Portland Trail Blazers and played another five seasons in the NBA -- two with the Blazers, three with the Phoenix Suns -- after his short stint in Sacramento.
The late '80s were riddled with bad luck for the Kings. Ainge, though, believed in Sacramento, and having Bill Russell on your side never hurts as well.