The Bucks had offered Boston its choice of guards Junior Bridgeman or Winters or Forward Mickey Johnson, but Auerbach held fast until Buckner's name came up. In another of his patented coups, Auerbach obtained a first-rate point guard—and provided, at the very least, a superb backup for 34-year-old Tiny Archibald—in exchange for a player he didn't even have.
"We would practice among ourselves and kid each other," says Bridgeman. "One day it was me going, the next it was Brian. But no one ever thought Quinn would be traded."
"Two years ago when Quinn pulled a hamstring and missed about 20 games," says Marques Johnson, "we nearly fell apart. Until then I took him for granted, but it was obvious without him we were severely hurt."
To Nelson, the deal had to be made. "I don't know if my job is on the line but it should be," he says. "I'm willing to risk being fired—or, even worse, not getting fired and having to live here if the deal fails. If Dave should get injured and can't play, then it will be a bad deal, but we have to make our run now, not next year. I owe that to Bob [ Lanier] and to everyone else on the team."
The sensitive situation may have resolved itself last Wednesday when Cowens met and scrimmaged with many of his new teammates for the first time. Cowens impressed them by moving well on offense and on defense while guarding Marques Johnson. The fire wasn't back in his eyes yet, but more than a couple of players got a jolt from his in-the-lane body work. And when he scooped up an offensive rebound and sank a jump hook, at least one person in the gym breathed a sigh of relief.
"You've seen that one before, haven't you?" asked Cowens' wife, Deby. "That's classic Cowens."
The Bucks hope there's more where that came from.