The latest chapter in the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers conflict has revolved around a viral video of Laker Danny Ainge being hit in the face by Celtic Tree Rollins, resulting in an on-court scrum. In his recent interview with ESPN’s Bill Simmons, Hall of Famer Bill Walton discussed what caused the incident to happen.
The “tree rollins” is the story of Danny Ainge, a member of the Boston Celtics, and Tree Rollins, a member of the Golden State Warriors. In an attempt to avoid being called for traveling by Ainge, Rollins bit Ainge’s middle finger. The fallout from this event led to some interesting moments in NBA history.
While most older NBA fans remember Atlanta Hawks player Tree Rollins biting Boston Celtics guard Danny Ainge’s finger, they are probably unaware that the feud didn’t stop there. Bill Walton, a member of the Celtics’ 1986 championship squad, remembers the two fighting again during the finals that year.
In May 1986, it occurred during the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Rollins’ fury got the better of him again in the third quarter, when the Celtics outscored the Hawks 36-6. Although the Celtics’ charge helped them win the game and the series, Walton said the part he remembers most about it is Rollins losing his cool with Ainge once again.
Prior to the 1985-86 season, Bill Walton joined the Boston Celtics.
Bill Walton and Danny Ainge, members of the Boston Celtics’ 1986 championship team, are recognized at halftime of a game between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat at TD Garden on April 13, 2016, in Boston, Massachusetts. | Getty Images/Mike Lawrie .
Walton was not there when the Ainge/Rollins conflict began. In a transaction involving Cedric Maxwell, the big man and first overall choice in the 1974 NBA Draft came to Boston from the Los Angeles Clippers. The arrival of Walton, according to Larry Bird, was crucial to Boston’s third title in a decade.
The Celtics and Hawks played in the first round of the 1983 playoffs three seasons before Walton arrived. A brawl broke out in the decisive game of their best-of-three series, and that’s when Atlanta’s 7-foot-1 center, Rollins, lost his cool. Rollins and Ainge had been trading pleasantries throughout the game, according to The Boston Herald. After scoring, Rollins delivered an elbow to Ainge’s head, resulting in a bench-clearing fight.
In the year 2020, Ainge pondered about the event with the Herald.
“I just remember it being a very hot, violent game,” he added. “We thought Tree’s screen-setting was a touch too tactile for us. Quinn Buckner had been knocked out. Quinn went in and knocked me out for a second while I was on the bench.
“When I returned, he grabbed me again, and the referees aren’t interested in hearing about it.” So he was going to bump me and I was going to bump him when we crossed paths in the open court. We kind of bumped into each other. After that, he looked at me as if he wanted to fight, and I had two options: flee or go for the legs.
“Everyone fell to the ground, and I was at the bottom of the heap, my finger in his mouth.”
Rollins went after Ainge again in 1986, according to Bill Walton.
The Celtics and Hawks squared off in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 1986, giving Walton his first up-close look at the Rollins/Ainge feud. Walton was a guest on the Goodman & Ryan Podcast in August 2020. Longtime Boston Globe reporter Bob Ryan asked Walton about the 36-6 third-quarter run that gave Boston a 102-61 lead after three quarters.
Ryan inquired about his dunk, which concluded a 24-0 run. Walton said he had no recollection of the dunk. He did recollect a previous altercation between Rollins and Ainge.
“Did I dunk?” Walton enquired of Ryan. “Danny Ainge is what comes to mind when I think of that run.” Tree Rollins once became so enraged that he grabbed the ball in disgust after the Celtics hit yet another basket in their 36-6, 24-0 run because he despised Danny Ainge. So Tree simply takes the ball out of bounds and winds up and throws it as hard as he can straight towards Danny Ainge’s head, rather than throwing it to Dominique or Doc Rivers or Reggie Theus or whomever was on the team at the time, Kevin Willis.
“Everyone agreed that they needed to call something.” You can’t simply let it happen, can you? They didn’t even make a phone call. Everyone came to a halt and stood still. The throng is deliriously delighted and enthusiastic, jubilant and elated. Remove the thesaurus from the equation.
“The ball rolls down the other side of the court.” Danny recognizes that the officials aren’t going to call anything, so he rushes down the court to the other end, scoops up the ball, and dribbles up the court. Danny comes up and makes another three-pointer as everyone is still waiting for the officials to break up this expected brawl.”
The nicest aspect of Ainge’s first encounter with Rollins, he recalled, was his tackle.
Tree Rollins’ account of the event is amusing…
“Then Danny [Ainge] came at me and all hell broke loose. In the pile, somebody stuck their finger in my eye and I didn’t know it was Danny but I bit his finger.’’https://t.co/IowehHgSCs pic.twitter.com/tIYVt6JSjV
— Andy Bailey (@AndrewDBailey) April 21, 2020
Ainge didn’t appear too enthusiastic about discussing the finger-biting incident during his 2020 interview with The Boston Herald, but he did. What he was most proud of, he added, was his tackling skills.
“My tackle was the greatest part of it,” he remarked. “It was enjoyable. I’m shocked that (Patriots head coach Bill) Belichick hasn’t brought me in to teach their defensive backs how to make tackles after seeing me tackle Tree.”
Rollins was fined $5,000 and banned for four games by the league. Five sutures were required for Ainge.
Ainge said, “They have to patch a human bite extremely delicately.” “I kept tinkering with it.” It was on the middle finger of my shooting hand.
“I needed to receive rabies and tetanus shots.” To avoid infection, they had to let the bite drain. So they unstitched it to allow it to drain.”
Rollins has never apologized to Ainge, which he accepts.
“Listen,” he said, “I simply believe they are things that happen in the heat of battle.” “Hell, I used to get into fights with my siblings while playing basketball when I knew I had no chance of winning.” That is a natural occurrence. I’ve seen a number of brawls. I haven’t been in many fights since my fighting record isn’t great.”
Was Larry Bird Ever Scoreless With The Boston Celtics? RELATED: Was Larry Bird Ever Scoreless With The Boston Celtics?
- danny ainge