A Tribute to Thunder, Part 2

Dan and Danny, Together Again

Posted: April 8, 2002

In the second segment of KTAR's tribute to Dan Majerle, the Suns' swingman was surprised by his former teammate and golf partner, Danny Ainge...

Cesmat: We are continuing with Dan Majerle. He is not dying. He is not dead. Heís merely retiring next Wednesday. It will be his final game. Now on board is Danny Ainge.

Majerle: Oh, no.

Cesmat: What do you mean ďOh, no?Ē

Majerle: Why have you been dodging me? What is going on?

Ainge: What is going on with you?

Majerle: Why arenít you returning any of my phone calls? Iím only a scratch. I know you are better than I am on the golf course.

Ainge: Dan, you forget. I coached and so I feel guilty to call you to play, especially with all those minutes you have been getting lately. Iíve got to wait another week until the season is over.

Majerle: Okay, thatís a deal.

Cesmat: The relationship between Danny Ainge and Dan Majerle started when, Danny?

Ainge: I first met Dan when we played against each other. Man, did I hate playing against that guy.

Majerle: Let me tell you a story about Danny. When I played against him when he was in Portland, he would try to distract me about his golf swing. Iíd be guarding him and heíd be telling me about his swing and how he took a lesson. While he was talking to me, he would break open for a three-pointer and nail it on me and just start laughing. This guy was a dirty guy, but I loved playing with him. He was probably one of favorite teammates ever to play with.

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Cesmat: Why?

Majerle: Because he would do anything to win the game. He was a great guy in the locker room, a great guy on the floor. As everyone knows he was a fantastic coach and thatís the way he was on the floor too. He knew what was going on. He helped all the younger guys and then in the clutch he was one of the best around. He was one of my favorite guys to play with.

Ainge: Thatís nice and I feel likewise about Dan. As a matter of fact, Charles Barkley named us the Ritz Twins.

Majerle: Like the Ritz crackers.

Ainge: I was always grateful because we were no ordinary crackers like the rest of the white guys in the league (laughs). That was Charlesí little title that he always gave us, but I always thought it was great to be put in with Dan. I remember playing against Dan. Man, he was so strong. Even before he started lifting some more weights. I couldnít even move. Thatís why I had to talk to him about golf, just so I didnít have his hand in my jersey.

Majerle: Iím serious. This guy would distract you any way he could and then score on you and laugh all the way down the floor. He really had fun with the game. It was great playing with him. I canít say it was great playing against him because he always killed us. I remember the game, I think it was the game that closed down Memorial Coliseum. It was double-overtime in (Phoenix), where it was so loud and Danny was there when he beat us. That was one of the better games we had played in, but it was just a great experience playing against him and with him.

Cesmat: What about the Finals? Take me back to the Finals. What sticks out about the Finals?

Majerle: Go ahead Danny.

Ainge: Oh my gosh, Brad, why do you have to do that? Itís a tribute to Majerle. I saw that Game 6 on ESPN Classic and I got sick all over again. I thought I had finally gotten over that, but that was torture. First of all, losing our first two at home was really bad. I think thatís where we dug ourselves a hole. The Bulls reminded me of the Boston Celtics teams I had played on. They kind of let you back in, but when they really had to turn it on they did. The only thing I remember about that series was every single game came down to five or six minutes left in the game and we couldnít score. We had a tough time. Dan and I didnít get a lot of shots. They were trying to double down on Charles and take him out of the game, and they would pick one player on a team and try to make outside shots. They were very successful with it. We just struggled scoring baskets and, of course, leaving (John) Paxson open for the three and all that kind of stuff. That was a nightmare. It was one of the most painful and frustrating summers of my life. I thought we had a chance.

Cesmat: What about you, Dan?

Majerle: It was painful because, at least in my career, I didnít really know. I thought there would be a chance Iíd get back. Danny is right. There is not a time I havenít seen it on ESPN Classic and think about it and Paxson shooting it. I thought if it went to a Game 7 we would have won that game and we would have been World Champions. At that time, I was ďOkay, we came so close, and weíll be back.Ē Then the next year we lose to Houston after being up 2-0 and lose the 7th game. The year after we did the same thing and lose Game 7, and Houston goes on to win a championship in both years. You always think there is a chance you will get back and unfortunately it never happened for me, so itís painful knowing I came so close to winning a championship, but never got back to it. Thatís the one thing Iíll always regret Ė I wasnít able to get back to a championship series and do that again.

Ainge: Hey, Dan. My perspective of us was we would have had a ďchanceĒ to win Game 7. We just had such a hard time trying to score in the fourth quarter when Chicago was making that run. Iím not sure we were the better team. I felt we had a chance, but I felt we were definitely the best team in basketball the two years we lost to Houston.

Majerle: I did too. We went into Houston and beat them two games in Houston and then they came back to beat us again, and then the next one we had them up 2-0. Youíre right. I think we did have the best team in basketball, but we just didnít get it done. Thatís the most frustrating thing because we were so close for three years. To me, to break up the team, trading me, Danny decided to retire. I thought breaking up that team was a mistake because we came so close for three years.

Cesmat: Who is the better golfer?

Majerle: Danny is more consistent. Heís got all this time to play now. Heís more consistent right now. Definitely when Iím over Iím going to be playing against Danny a lot. Weíll have a pretty good match.

Ainge: Yeah, I feel right now, today, I could beat him just because heís been playing basketball, but I got a feeling in a month or so, Iím going to be in some serious trouble.

Cesmat: Is it going to be where TNT is going to have Majerle and Ainge alongside Kevin Harlan? Could that happen?

Ainge: That would be awesome! I would love working with Dan. Heíd be great at it and it would be a great job. Dan would be great at something like that. If I were the Suns I would be grabbing him as fast as I could to get him working in my organization. Heís a local hero. Everyone loved Dan even when he was traded and played for Miami and Cleveland. Heís one of the all-time favorite players that has ever put on a Suns uniform. I think it would be a big mistake if the Suns didnít try to do anything they could do to tie him up and work in some capacity in organization.

Cesmat: Thatís your agent working for you.

Majerle: Yeah, thanks Danny. That was great.

Cesmat: Danny, thanks a bunch.

Majerle: Alright Danny, Iíll be calling you.

Ainge: Iíve been waiting. Iíve been getting your calls. Iím ready for you and Vinny (Del Negro). I know we can haves some fun, fun matches.

Click here for part three of the Tribute to Thunder, featuring Miami Heat coach and former Sun Pat Riley.



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