Thomas admitted he’d listen to extension talks but won’t be upset if the Celtics ultimately use available dollars to better the team. “[An extension] means more money? Yeah, I would love that,” Thomas quipped. “But if it don’t happen, I’m the last person to be bothered by that. I know everything happens for a reason so, when my time comes, I know it will come and God will bless me.”
"We need the best possible player that's gonna help us win, and I'm with that," Thomas said. "Anything Danny and this organization need me to do to help bring even more talent to this city, I'm all for that. I want to win a championship and being so close to getting to the Finals, that makes you want it that much more. "I'm all help if they need it. I'll be around."
Multiple league sources have told CSNNE.com in recent weeks that the Celtics are focused on landing an All-Star caliber talent in the frontcourt. That makes sense when you consider how guard-dominant the Celtics were this season and how that had a negative impact on the team’s rebounding and, to a lesser degree, their defense as a whole.
“I think sometimes teams make false assumptions of their team based on things like that. I think that our team is not that much different than a lot of our competition in the East. I think we had a good year in spite of some injuries, you know, with [Al] Horford going down early and Isaiah [Thomas] missing a short time and Avery [Bradley] missing 22 games there in a stretch. We had to overcome some injuries, and it was good because our depth got a chance to play. Everybody on our roster got a chance to prove their worth. “But I feel like it doesn’t really matter what we’ve accomplished. If we’d lost Game 7 against the Wizards, I don’t feel any different than if we’re where we are today. I know that we’re good. I know that we’re not great. I know that we still have more to do, and, you know, that next step is by far the hardest.”
“Just because you’re one piece away doesn’t mean you can get it. And if you force yourself to get it, and if you force a deal or force yourself to get the second best available or the third or fourth best available player at that position that you need, then it might not make you that much better or make you still not good enough, and you’re stuck. So, yeah, we’re not that far away, but we’re still a ways away. We still know we need to get better. Everybody in our organization knows we need to get better. We need to add.”
Sources told ESPN that the Hawks have conducted interviews with both Sheppard and Schlenk this week and continue to have interest in ESPN television analyst Chauncey Billups as well as Boston Celtics assistant general manager Mike Zarren as they search for a new lead voice for basketball operations.
But Ainge said the Ball family’s wishes will have no impact on how the Celtics will use the top overall pick, which Boston won on Tuesday night at the NBA Draft lottery. The Lakers will pick second. “No, not at all,” Ainge said when asked if Ball’s desire to play for the Lakers would affect the Celtics’ decision. “We understand that he’s from Los Angeles, but we’re going to draft whoever can help the Celtics regardless of where the players want to play.”
Could Lonzo Ball be a Boston Celtic?? It's possible ... because Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck tells TMZ Sports the team is definitely considering drafting the former UCLA stud with the #1 overall pick. Grousbeck was leaving the NBA Draft lottery in NYC Thursday night when he told us he's fired up about securing the top spot -- "It seems like Celtic pride is going crazy right now!"
If there was any doubt, Wyc Grousbeck confirmed Monday morning on Toucher & Rich that we’ll never see another Celtics player don the No. 34 jersey. That will forever belong to Paul Pierce, whose 19-year NBA career came to an end Sunday afternoon when the L.A. Clippers were eliminated from the playoffs. Pierce spent 15 great seasons with the Celtics, leading the team to their 17th NBA Championship in franchise history in 2008, earning NBA Finals MVP honors in Boston’s six-game series win over the L.A. Lakers.
“There have been conversations in general by people close to him,” said Grousbeck. “But we haven’t been allowed to talk directly to Paul while he’s been playing. He’s made it clear he’ll always feel like a Celtic and this is his basketball home. I think he wants to come back. We’re a little busy right now, thank goodness, and we’ll speak to him when the time is right. “I’d like to get Danny [Ainge] and Brad [Stevens’] input on it the this offseason, and see what Paul would like to do. But he’s a finals MVP, and the last player to wear No. 34 for us.”
Most execs watch home games from a nervous perch in the tunnel, in the dark recesses of the video room or in their office, but Mike Zarren attends them with his dad, Celtics pin on his lapel. He flirted with the opening in Philadelphia in 2013 and has received several nibbles from other teams. He'll undoubtedly continue to appear on short lists, but he's likely to be selective in pursuit of his next opportunity.
He’s not too surprised that he won’t be at that bash, but the man who constructed that title team is still disappointed that Allen is getting snubbed by his former teammates. “I was surprised,” Ainge said during his weekly interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich on Thursday. “Ray was such a big part of that, it would defeat the purpose. He was a huge, huge part of that championship run.”
Ainge said he’s had a few conversations with Allen since he departed, but he’s never asked why he chose Miami. “I think I know; I lived that with him and went through that,” Ainge said. “I think there were a lot of contributing factors and not just one thing. It was a difficult decision for Ray and I wish he hadn’t done it. But he did. … I’m a fan of Ray and grateful for what he brought to the Boston Celtics. He’s a great guy.”
"I was very pleased with the way he played," said Austin Ainge, the Celtics' director of player personnel, who traveled to China last December to watch Yabusele play. "I think Guerschon's strengths right now are his size and ability to play multiple positions, either 4 or 5. His 3-point shooting and passing are wonderful for a big guy."
Said Yabusele: "All I am saying is, in every league, you can find people who play defense and people who don't. I think the CBA is a good league. People say they don't play defense and things like that, but think about it -- if you have some players who can accomplish a lot in this league, they can also do it elsewhere. They are just good. It's like when you are guarding Kobe Bryant and he's killing everybody, it doesn't mean the defense is bad. I really think a lot of players here can do the same thing in other leagues where there's definitely defense."
“I’ve been here for, I don’t know how many years, 12, 13, and I haven’t made a deal with Danny Ainge yet,” Bird said. “That should tell you something. I’ve always been closer with Danny, because I played with him for all them years, than Earvin. “Talked to Danny about a lot of trades, but never did one. I just feel it’s gotta be a fair deal for both sides and we never got there. Maybe he thought it was fair, but I didn’t think so.”
A. Sherrod Blakely: Paul Pierce said he would "definitely" consider a job with the @Celtics after he's done playing. #Celticstalk
Ainge also said he has not talked to Isaiah Thomas or Avery Bradley about possible contract extensions. Both will be eligible for extensions this summer if the Celtics remain under the cap, but they have made it clear they would like to chase top free agents. "Those are things that can't happen until the summer time anyway. Isaiah knows that we love him. He loves playing in Boston and he knows that we love him as well. And same with Avery Bradley," Ainge said. "I think they're a good combination. Both of those guys know how much we appreciate them as players and all they've done, and what they're becoming. So yeah, there's going to be a time when we'll sit down and have conversations with all of our guys. But in the meantime we're trying to build a championship-caliber team."
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge will have plenty of options. During a radio interview Thursday morning, he said opposing teams have begun to call about the Nets pick but "nothing's close or imminent." "Yeah there are people calling," Ainge said on 98.5 The Sports Hub's Toucher & Rich show. "It's a valuable pick so we're going to explore that."
Brian Robb: Ainge on trade talks: "Yes they have [started]. Nothing is close or imminent, but there are people calling [about the Brooklyn pick]."
The Celtics soon shifted half of Morey’s responsibilities to the basketball-operations side, and Morey hired an intern by the name of Mike Zarren. Together, they did forward-thinking statistical research about the game. Morey said working with Zarren was “unbelievable” and that he “for sure should be a GM somewhere. … He’s sort of a hidden gem up there.”
The duo found the league was undervaluing the 3. But this wasn’t like baseball, where the analytics guys came in claiming everything was wrong. In the NBA, Morey said, many of the traditional ideas about the game were already right, so it was easier to make suggestions on what could be done better. “A lot of the great coaches, of the 10 decisions they were making on how to build their team, they were making eight of them right,” Morey said. “A lot of what we’ve done is taken what a lot of great coaches have done and said, ‘OK, but there’s still these two areas we can push the envelope even farther.”
Neither Morey or Zarren worked full-time in basketball operations with the Celtics. Morey split his time with the business side, and Zarren still worked a full-time gig as a law clerk for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The league was about to change, though.
Carmelo Anthony told the Herald he doesn’t think a change has taken place. “I think it’s always been that,” the Knicks star said of the Celtics’ lure. “I mean, when you think about basketball, Boston is one of the top places that you think of. “I think it’s always been that; it was just a matter of who was a free agent and if they had the money and the (cap) space here to pay them.”
In 2007, he and then-head coach Doc Rivers had to weather public calls for their jobs. “Danny had done the best he could with the draft picks. Doc had coached the best he could with a team that wasn’t ready to win games,” Grousbeck said. “We couldn’t ask any more of those guys.”
As a general manager, Ainge has instigated with purpose, taking aggressive steps to achieve the team’s goals. Only three years ago, after trading Pierce and Garnett, the future was murky. Today, it’s clear: a contender in the East with arguably the most assets in the league. I asked Grousbeck if he would have believed me had I, back in 2013, told him the Celtics would be where they are today. He laughed. “I don’t believe it today.”
When the focus turned to free agents and the club’s ability to attract them, Thomas was very direct. “You know what? Boston recruits itself,” the Hall of Famer said. “I mean, it’s a city and a place that you want to play in and want to be there. Even though we had battles with the Celtics, I get mad love whenever I come to Boston, and whenever I’m around the city and in the restaurants and whatever, it’s . . . you know, they root like hell against you, but they respect a competitor and talent and the game that you brought.
So Isiah obviously thinks Ainge was smart to see how Isaiah could blossom, and he believes similar prescience will guide the Celtics in the proper direction. “Hey, Danny’s good, man,” said Thomas. “People have great respect for Danny. Looking at the draft and trades and free agent possibilities, he is bullish on the Celtics’ future,” Thomas said of Ainge. “You know, if he doesn’t hit a home run and he hits a double, you best believe that Boston from this point on is going to be in a position where they’re always going to either do great things or have the potential to do great things. That’s a credit to Danny.”
He said the Celtics’ decisions to extend the contracts of head coach Brad Stevens and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge sent a “great message” to current and prospective players. “I think it starts with knowing your foundation is set, and you’ve got to go from there,” Thomas said. “Hopefully, even with the free agents and things like that, players looking into coming to Boston see they’re committed to Danny and Brad and the future.”
One of the reasons Doc Rivers left Boston for the Los Angeles Clippers in 2013 was to have a bigger say in personnel matters, with the ex-Celtics coach doubling as the Clippers’ head coach as well as their president of basketball operations. Current Celtics coach Brad Stevens does provide input to the team’s front office, but Stevens – for now at least – has shown no inclination of having a louder voice when it comes to roster decisions even with a contract extension. “My voice is plenty loud,” quipped Stevens. “I’m not worried about that.”
The trust that Stevens has in the Celtics’ front office extends to his staff as well. “Those guys have a lot of responsibility to help, grow and enhance young players,” Stevens said. “We all have a role to play.” Stevens added, “Certainly my opinion is asked but I’m not involved in the day to day. It’s good. We all just try to play our role as well as we can. We have great ownership that allows us to do that.”
The Boston Celtics announced Wednesday that they have extended the contracts of president of basketball operations, Danny Ainge, and head coach, Brad Stevens. The terms, per team policy, have not been disclosed. Managing partner, governor and CEO Wyc Grousbeck told Celtics.com that based on Stevens’ and Ainge’s success in their respective roles, the decision to extend their contracts was made without hesitation.
“A major job of ownership is to find the right people to run the basketball side,” Grousbeck said. “We believe we have found them in Danny and Brad.” “Once you find your people,” he continued, “you need to support them in their efforts and create a work environment that enables them and the team to succeed. If all of that is in place, the topic of extending contracts becomes an easy one, because everybody wants to keep moving forward together.”
September 25, 2022 | 7:41 pm EDT Update
Russell Westbrook was wearing a bucket hat, flip-flops and a smile inside the conference room in his Avenue of the Stars offices. Trade talks stalled, training camp on the cusp and Westbrook hardly had to consider the question: Do you feel wanted by the Los Angeles Lakers? “I don’t need to,” Westbrook told ESPN recently. “I need to just do my job. Whether I’m wanted or not doesn’t really matter. I think the most important thing is that I show up for work and I do the job like I’ve always done it: Be professional and go out and play my ass off and compete.”
Westbrook spoke of getting back to work in the gym sooner in the past offseason than he has ever done in his career, about a summer full of conversations with Lakers coach Darvin Ham, about a “connection” and “trust” with Ham’s vision to utilize him in a way that impacts winning on these Lakers. Maybe that’s as a starter or maybe it’s off the bench. “I’m all-in on whatever it takes for this team to win,” Westbrook said. “I’m prepared for whatever comes my way.”
He sure isn’t here to tell you that his and the Lakers’ debacle of a season caused him to have to fight to keep his confidence. “No, I didn’t have to fight that,” Westbrook said. “I had to fight my response on how it affects the people close to me. To me, that was the important part. Confidence is not something I lack. Yes, there were times last season that I wanted to play better — that I should’ve played better — but my confidence never wavers. Having bad games is part of the NBA, and I understand that. The only thing it affected for me was the impact that it had on the people closest to me — my mom, dad, wife, brother, close friends. We’ve never had to deal with that as a family. That was the most difficult thing — being booed in the arena and having my kids there.”
Shams Charania: Sources: The Lakers plan to sign G/F Matt Ryan on a non-guaranteed deal. Four-year NBA veteran Dwayne Bacon is also working toward training camp deal with the Lakers. Ryan was with the Celtics on a two-way last season.