Ainge: Towel antic was 'unprofessional'

WALTHAM, Mass. -- Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Wednesday that he regretted tossing a towel into the air to try to distract Cavaliers forward J.J. Hickson as he was attempting a free throw in the Celtics' victory in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinals series Monday.

"I regret that. That was very unprofessional," Ainge said during an interview on Boston sports radio station WEEI. "I was having fun with the hecklers and the crowd that was sitting around me. ... There's just no excuse. It was unprofessional. I regret doing it. The biggest reason I regret it is you guys should be talking about the great play of the Celtics and not talking about a towel incident. I'm shocked that it's become this big a deal."

With 1:53 remaining in the third quarter, Ainge, who was sitting behind the basket, tossed a white towel in the air from the baseline beyond the hoop attempting to distract Hickson as he shot the second of two free throws with Boston on top, 80-57. Hickson made the free throw as Ainge tossed the towel skyward.

On Wednesday, Ainge said he was simply caught up in the moment and was not trying to stir up any animosity.

"The competitiveness in me gets the best of me," Ainge said on WEEI. "That's no excuse, it was unprofessional. Hopefully we can move on past this and focus on the players and the real issues at hand."

While no official punishment has come down from the league yet, the NBA did say it was reviewing the matter. Ainge said he has not heard from anyone about the incident, but expects to.

"Usually when things become public like this you do hear from the league," Ainge said. "I don't think David Stern cares about a towel that was thrown, but because it's become such a public story I'm sure there will be something. I'd like to give my charitable contributions to those of my own choice, but I am confident the league does well with our money."

Earlier Wednesday, Celtics coach Doc Rivers and his players simply laughed off the incident.

"Comical," said Rivers. "I didn't know about it, honestly. I was up in my bedroom doing my work and my cell phone kept ringing, over and over again. ... When I saw it, I got a good laugh and giggle out of it. Danny's going back to his playing days. It's pretty comical."

Ainge did his best to antagonize opponents throughout his 15-year NBA career, which included stops in Boston, Sacramento, Portland, and Phoenix. Atlanta's Tree Rollins once got so mad at Ainge that he bit him. As a coach, Ainge once punted a ball into the crowd after being ejected in 1999, and one of his own players, Robert Horry, once drew a two-game suspension for throwing -- ironically -- a towel at Ainge in 1997.

Boston players genuinely didn't know -- or at least feigned ignorance -- about the situation.

"I just heard it this morning from [Ainge]," said Pierce. "He's just a fan of the game."

Added Rajon Rondo: "I didn't know anything about it. Obviously, [Ainge] has a lot of faith in his team. That's just part of the game. [Dallas Mavericks owner Mark] Cuban does what he does. There's nothing wrong with it."

Pierce did note that he hopes Boston fans follow Ainge's lead and bring the intensity in Game 3, and if that means waving -- or throwing -- towels, that would be fine by him.

"Whatever the fans gotta do to get up, I'm sure they'll be real loud because I know the fans in Cleveland were real loud," said Pierce, who then turned his attention to the TV cameras in front of him. "I expect our crowd -- if you all are watching -- I expect you all to be 10 times as loud as the Cleveland crowd, because it was pretty loud in there."

"That was interesting to see that happen during the flow of the game, from Danny Ainge," Mike Brown told reporters Tuesday in Cleveland. "If it's within the rules, hey, at this time, you do whatever you can to win. As long as it's within the rules."

Chris Forsberg is the Celtics reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.