BOSTON, JUNE 9 -- Boston Celtics star Larry Bird says if Len Bias had been an habitual drug user, his presence on the team might have greatly damaged it.

Bird's initial reaction to the June 19, 1986, death of the Celtics' first-round draft choice was, "That's the cruelest thing I ever heard."

But since it was announced that Bias' death was the result of cocaine intoxication, Bird has been blunt about his feelings concerning the incident.

"I don't think anyone is happy that he did it, but you know you've got to pay the price," said Bird. "I'm not glad he's gone, but I would hate for him to come into this situation {with the Celtics} if he were on {cocaine}, because then that might have been the biggest blow that we couldn't overcome.

"He was drafted by the Celtics but he was never a Celtic, so I never really got to know him. But guys using cocaine -- I don't believe in that. You do that and you pay the consequences. A guy like that could have come here and destroyed our team if he was on cocaine."

Bird has frequently expressed his support for a mandatory drug-testing program in the NBA.