Boston hasn't seen anything like this since the day the Bruins traded away Bobby Orr.

The Beantown's splendid Celtics, those regal old men of professional basketball, have been reduced to a bunch of squabblers. The long-standing NBA dynasty is being torn apart by trade rumors, accusations and dissensions.

Bill Russell and Bob Cousy probably can't believe what is going on.

The cause of all the trouble is a 1-3 start. It is the worst in the club's 32-year history, which also includes 13 championship banners. And that's what hurts Celtic fans the most.

The Celtics just aren't supposed to be involved in such petty difficulties. They were always above the problems of commoners as they went about winning titles in their methodical poised manner.

But now one Boston columnist has said the Celtics "in nine games have taken 21 years of class and tossed it into the incinerator."

The team isn't hustling, its offense has disintegrated, its fast break is nonexistent and everyone is blaming someone else.

Jo Jo White, who walked off the club for a day before returning for last night's game against Atlanta, put it best:

"Something had to be done to give us a jolt. I don't want to cause problems, but I'm embarrassed by the way we've been playing and embarrassed by our record.

"I felt so bad about the booing (Wednesday night in losing to San Antonio) that I asked to taken out with six minutes to go.

"Everyone on the team has to take a good look at themselves. I hope something makes us hustle and dig. Certainly, threats of personnel changes haven't seemed to work."

Things have gotten so desperate that coach Tom Heinsohn took John Havlicek, the pride of the Celtics, out of the starting lineup and replaced him with rookie Cedric (Cornbread) Maxwell. Maxwell's main qualification: he had been one of the few Celtics to hustle in a game.

Heinsohn didn't want to embarrass Havlicek, who appears to have lost his zest for the game, but he said something had to be done "to correct what's going on."

"Our problems are obvious," heinsohn said. "We aren't together as a team and we aren't helping each other out. In the past, everyone took care of each other. When we won, we won as a team; when we lost, we lost as a team."

Celtic pride often has carried Boston to victories in games it should have lost. Red Auerbach, who created that pride and then molded it into the dominant force in the league, is now trying to find out where that characteristic has gone.

He blew up at the club after the San Antonio game, "because they lost their intensity and they didn't have enough pride to come back and work hard at the end of the game.

"It was execution and attitude. They all went to play a lot of minutes, but they are relying on their reputations and there are guys coming in making one-fifth of their salaries who are eating them up."

The club's on-court problems are numerous. The Celtics aren't shooting well (although they rarely do as a team) and their famed ball movement has vanished.

In the second half against San Antonio, they did not make more than three passes on any trip down court.

And their defense is allowing wideopen shots and breakaway baskets, much like they once scored.

But their difficulties run much deeper than Xs and Os.

This is an aging team that has not been restocked with youth. Of Auerbach's most recent No. 1 draft choices - Tom Boswell, Norm Cook, Norm McDonald and Steve Downing - only Boswell remains with the club, and he is a fringe player at best.

As long as Havlicek played as only, well, Havlicek could, the team was able to stay competitive. But now that he is slumping, other weaknesses are popping up.

Center Dave Cowens, who bolted the squad exactly one year ago, never has regained his zest for the game. And this year, he is doing most of the rebounding by himself and rarely is being included in the offense.

White has been troubled since last year by bone spurs in his feet and some observers feel he has been coasting this season. He says he is getting too much of the blame "because I'm the floor leader and they single me out."

The rest of the team's stars - Sidney Wicks, Dave Bing, Curtis Rowe and Charlie Scott - have found putting on a green Celtic uniform does not bring instand happiness.

Wicks especially is struggling. He signed the night before the season opener and is still trying to get in shape. In the process, he has caused internal dissention, contributed little either offensively or defensively and has prompted critics to question how Boston could pay $500,000 to Portland in compensation for his services.

Scott appears to be more concerned with his points than with teamwork - a longtime fault - and Bing is having the same shooting difficulties he had last year with Washington.

"We are thinking of trades," said Auerbach, who has yet to admit that for once his ability to take other team's problem children and blend them into a winner has failed.

"We aren't going to panic. We are trying different things. I don't let my emotions get to the point where I give anyone away."

What he has to give away is debatable. Wicks, Rowe and Scott spell t-r-o-u-b-l-e to many clubs. Havlicek is too old and Cowen, of all the Celtics, is untouchable. The downward trend that started last year appears to have become an avalanche.

"We didn't panic when we were 1-6, but now we have to make some changes," said Heinsohn, who is being treated kindly by the Boston media.

"Just because they make all-pro doesn't mean they are going to be a starter for us. I want to see it, and I don't care who have to sit down."

Auerbach agrees. "The guys who are hurting us are the old pros. They aren't doing it. They are being intimidated by young, scrappy kids. We aren't going down fighting, and I'm not used to that."