While Red Auerbach is waving his cigar and taking bows for signing Danny Ainge to a long-term contract, many other NBA general managers are mumbling in their beers.

The obvious question, of course, is how could a highly marketable guard be passed over in the first round of the draft, and still be available when Boston picked for the third time (No. 31 overall).

The answer they all give is that Ainge was under contract at the time to the Toronto Blue Jays, with a clause forbidding him to play basketball. So, while the rest of the league honored the contract, Auerbach gambled. The Celtics lost in court, but when Ainge proved to be a poor baseball prospect (a .187 hitter who didn't remind anybody of Graig Nettles at third base), the Blue Jays were eager to get back their original investment. Now, for the reported price of $400,000 annually for at least three years, the Celtics apparently have the youth insurance they need at guard.

"Danny will play when he's ready," said Coach Bill Fitch, who obviously is delighted in his latest acquisition, particularly with 33-year-old Chris Ford off to a slow start. "He could be in uniform when we play New Jersey Dec. 9.

"It's just a matter of him catching up. Right now he's four weeks behind every other NBA rookie."

With the addition of Ainge and the return shortly from the injured list by M.L. Carr, veteran shooting guard Terry Duerod and second-round draft choice Tracy Jackson are likely to be released. Yes, Duerod could help the point-starved Bullets as a scorer coming off the bench.