AND THE BIG WINNERS of a busy NBA trade deadline day was …

The Boston Celtics?


Danny Ainge dealt troubled guard Jabari Bird, who still has miles of court proceedings in front of him, to the Hawks for a second-round draft pick that is heavily protected and not likely to ever show up in Boston.

The East rivals were busy. The 76ers had already traded for scoring machine Tobias Harris. The Raptors were busy. So were the high-flying Bucks. It remains to be seen how all that will work out for those potential contenders (are there enough basketballs in Philly?).

The Celtics traded Jabari Bird — for nothing.

And they’re the big winners?


First of all, removing the Bird deadwood from their roster — exercising their BIRD rights, if you will — opens up a roster spot. That leaves the door open for a player who has been bought out by his former team. Enes Kanter would be a perfect fit, bringing rebounding and toughness to a Boston group that often can’t rebound and is not tough enough at times.

So there’s a potential addition that could help. But the biggest winners?


Because it was all about a trade that WASN’T made Thursday that could pay off down the road for the Celtics, who have all kinds of assets to offer for Anthony Davis come July 1.

Davis has been removed from the highlight reel shown before Pelicans games. He has been injured but hasn’t played even when ready. The Lakers were dangling everything but the Hollywood sign to try to bring him in to join LeBron James. The Celtics couldn’t trade for him before of the Rose Rule. They already had Kyrie Irving via the Rose Rule so the only way they could have dealt for Davis now was if they included Irving in the deal.

That wasn’t going to happen.

On July 1, it can happen. The Pelicans held on to Davis, which puts Boston right in the mix for one of the very best players in the game.

Kanter has had so much trouble seeing the floor for the tanking Knicks that he actually bent down and kissed the Madison Square Garden court when finally entering a game recently.

For the season, Kanter, in the final year of a contract that pays him $18.5 million for this season, is averaging a double-double — 14.0 points and 10.5 rebounds — in just 25.6 minutes per game.

As far as how Kanter or anyone else will help this Eastern contender going forward remains, of course, to be seen. There are people who think Brad Stevens already has too many people to juggle without bringing another veteran into the mix, and that Gordon Hayward’s march back from that dreadful injury is taking too long. But Kanter can help. And he’ll be hungry.

The Bird pick is — get this — top 55 protected. There are only 60 players taken in each draft. And Bird will be waived by the Hawks, completing this paper transaction.


Hey, they’re trying to fix our national pastime.

Baseball, that is.

The players and the owners are working on trying to make the game more appealing, more succinct, if you will. Some of the ideas sound like winners.

Like the universal DH.

Let me start this discussion by telling you I grew up a few miles from Shea Stadium and adopted the Mets — and the National League — at a very young age. The NL was better back then and was still better when the DH was born, splitting the sport into having two sets of rules.

I’ve always preferred the old way. With pitchers hitting. With managers having to make difficult decisions on taking a pitcher out of a close game or letting him hit. But I’m ready to cave.

These pitchers haven’t been bred to hit. Sure, some of them can. Most of them can’t. And they get hurt running the bases (see Steven Wright). It’s time for the NL to add the extra bat to the lineups, which I believe will happen, in 2020.

I’m in favor of a pitch clock, but I do wonder what they will do with runners on. Does the clock reset every time the pitcher throws to first, or second? Limiting mound visits last season helped pick up the pace — some. This would help more. Sorry David Price. Get the ball and throw it back.

They’re talking about a reliever having to face a minimum of three batters, rather than the one now that allows team to stock their bullpens and switch at every batter. This would eliminate the left-handed “specialist” but so what? It would keep the game going.

I’ve long been a proponent of the rosters being at least 26. Add a body and limit each roster to 12 pitchers, rather than the current 25-man teams that often have 13 pitchers.

All for the good of the game.

Speaking of the game, baseball lost one of its greats Thursday with the passing of Frank Robinson. Great player. Great person who became known more for being the first black manager than anything else. But he won a Triple Crown and hit 586 home runs during a Hall of Fame career — and then served the game he loved with class and dignity throughout the remainder of his life. He will be missed.

Tough loss

A back-to-back. Four games in five nights. Both valid excuses for the Bruins blowing a two-goal third-period lead and losing to the Rangers (for the ninth time in 10 games) Wednesday night.

If this was a one-time fatigue thing, that would be fine. But two things here: One, the B’s were flying in the wildly entertaining overtime, looking like anything but an exhausted team; and, two, the failure to hold leads has been all too common with this team.

The Bruins are 3-2-4 in their last nine games. That’s six losses in the last nine, if you’re speaking practically. They have had the lead in ALL six of those losses.

The Bruins are 4-7 in the five-minute overtime period this season, 1-2 in shootouts. Four of those losses are in these last nine games. Their eight extra-time defeats trail only the Blackhawks and Ducks — by one — for the most in the NHL through Wednesday.

The failure to hold leads can also be traced to their inability to score consistently and put teams away. That’s why Don Sweeney remains under the gun to go out and add an offensive player to the mix before the trade deadline. There are too many guys who just don’t score.

Super leftovers

Having Tom Brady mic’d up allowed us to learn the quarterback talked Bill Belichick into kicking that insurance field goal in the 13-3 win.

“Why don’t we just kick the field goal,” Brady told Belichick. “It’s a 40-yarder. The game’s over.”

Hey, the parade was great. But what’s with these morons who insist on throwing cans of beer at their favorite players. Rob Gronkowski revealed on “The Tonight Show” that he was cut when hit in the face with a full can of beer.

“Full beer can right to the face,” said Gronkowski, showing a cut over his left eye. “I was bleeding all over on the parade on the duck boat. Then my dad, he’s blocking all the next shots. You can see him, he’s karate kicking a beer out there.”

Like I said. Morons!

People who are NOT morons can go to Gillette and have their picture taken with the Lombardi Trophy at the Pats’ Hall of Fame during the following hours: today, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m.; Sunday, 10:10 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Admission to The Hall is required and photos are limited to one per person or group.

Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is Follow him on Twitter @mscotshay.