Smart’s feelings were admittedly hurt when the Celtics didn’t immediately reach out to him at the start of free agency on July 1, after offering him only a qualifying offer to retain matching rights once he entered the restricted free agent market place. That all apparently changed the day Smart signed his new contract. “There’s no bad feeling between me and the organization,” said Smart. “I knew coming in this was a business. You have to overlook the business side to build a relationship personally with certain people, certain organizations, certain teams.
“At at the same time, it’s a business,” he said. “They were just doing their business part just like I was and we came to an agreement and I’m back. Like I’ve said, I love Boston and Boston loves me.”
Boston's front office inner circle -- Ainge, Zarren, director of player personnel Austin Ainge and director of scouting Dave Lewin, with heavy input from coach Brad Stevens -- was in agreement that Irving was the sort of player the team absolutely had to pursue. "I feel like there's opportunities that you have to look at and explore, and Kyrie was one of those opportunities that, unanimously, internally it was something that we all felt like we should do," Danny Ainge said. "Everybody, unanimously, wanted to do it."
The deal, exciting as it was, still left Boston brass with mixed emotions, particularly because of what Thomas had given to the team during a mesmerizing 2016-17 season in which he finished fifth in MVP voting and gave up his body to help Boston get to the conference finals, all while dealing with the tragic loss of his younger sister. As the Celtics and Cavaliers prepped for a trade call on Aug. 22, Ainge made the heart-wrenching call to alert Thomas of the impending deal. Zarren said he isn't sure he could have made that call; neither is Stevens. "The range of emotions were really wild because you would have no thought that Isaiah Thomas would ever be a part of a trade," Stevens said. "I thought, with Isaiah, that was really hard. I've talked about the emotional investment that you have as a coach and a player, and working together every day, and that's why I've said that I don't think I could do the front office because those hard decisions -- I do not envy those. The only way you would even consider doing that is for a person of Kyrie's caliber. But that doesn't make it any easier."
The addition of Irving, during a summer when the team added Hayward and drafted Tatum, also morphed Boston from spunky overachiever to legitimate title contender. It's why the Celtics couldn't pass up the opportunity to pursue Irving last summer -- no matter the obstacles it took to get him. "I thought Kyrie was going to be a great fit and obviously I still feel that way," Danny Ainge said. "At the same time, [the trade] was a challenge, as was moving Isaiah and Jae, and there's always a part of that when you're in the middle of acquiring a player. That's the hard part of it. "The price and the timing, it was all critical. I think there's risk in every deal we do, but with a player like Kyrie, I think we were all willing to take that risk. And we're glad we did."
The Celtics selected Tatum with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. But he could have gone No. 1. Boston originally had the first pick and famously made a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers to move down to No. 3, where it knew it could still land its top choice. Celtics president Danny Ainge has openly spoken since about how the team would have taken Tatum first had it kept the pick. "I joke with Danny all the time, he should've just took me No. 1," Tatum said while guesting on The Bill Simmons Podcast at The Ringer. "I could've kept a few dollars of my paycheck. Tell (Ainge), 'You owe me some money.'"
Doc Rivers didn’t want to rebuild, so he left Boston for the Clippers. Now he’s watching summer league games and facing a reconstruction project in Los Angeles as the Celtics seek to clear the final hurdle with new faces. The Celts had hopes of making The Finals this past season, but injuries to Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward got in the way — though it still took a Game 7 stinker against Cleveland to knock them off the flight to the title series. Most teams have five-year plans, but rarely does one make it from tear-down to contendership in that frame. “That’s Danny (Ainge) and Brad (Stevens) and those guys — and, I mean, obviously the players, too,” Rivers told the Herald. “But they’ve done it as well as it’s ever been done, because all these other teams, including us now, everybody has a plan, but the plan has to work. And if it doesn’t work, then you have to start over again with another plan. And Danny and them have been able to run their plan.
This is one kind of scenario the Houston Rockets envisioned in April, when they proposed before the NBA's competition committee that the league should start free agency at least a week -- and likely more -- before the draft. The Rockets are not the first team to contemplate that notion; Mike Zarren, Boston's assistant general manager, used his very first tweet as a plea to flip the order of the draft and free agency. (The concept is popular across Boston's brain trust; Zarren noted in his tweet that Austin Ainge, Boston's director of player personnel, sold him on the idea.) Other leagues, including the National Football League, schedule free agency first.
Chris Forsberg: Danny Ainge on Boston’s summer: "I like this group of guys. We’re not looking to make changes other than just small tweaks here and there to our roster. We really do like this core group of guys that we’ve had all year."
The Celtics didn’t get Durant, but they got the next best prizes available in successive years. And Ainge’s biggest, boldest acquisition, of course, was getting Brad Stevens out of Butler and watching him blossom into one of the NBA’s top three or four coaches seemingly overnight. “Boston having lottery picks without bottoming out and selecting the right players and having a high performing culture driving veteran with Horford has been critical to their success,” the Western Conference executive said. “The Brooklyn trade is the gift that keeps giving. The fact that Boston is winning with such young players in high pressure situations gives young teams hope.”
Jared Weiss: Brad Stevens praises Ainge and ownership’s vision to rebuild and how it has come to fruition. “There’s been a little bit of luck to it, but [Ainge] has been measured every step of the way.”
Marc D Amico: Ty Lue said today of Danny Ainge: "You want him on your side. He always gets the best deals. He always makes the right moves." Do what you wish with that...
Pagliuca said Stevens voiced his love for the team and its extensive basketball history, as well as his confidence that he could make a difference for the organization. But there was also a specific stipulation should he accept the job. “The one thing he wouldn’t do going forward was try to lose a game, or you know, ‘tank,'” Pagliuca said. “So if we were going to have a strategy, maybe like ‘The Process,’ he was not going to participate in that.”
Adam Kaufman: Asked who he'll keep between Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier, Danny Ainge laughed and said, "Keep 'em both!" How? "Very good question. I like both those guys. They're both so different and bring different things to the table." #Celtics (via @985TheSportsHub)
Reports of Gordon Hayward's setback may have been greatly exaggerated. This according to the self-confessed exaggerator, who says now he was mistaken in his choice of words. [...] The comment was big news, but Ainge told the Herald it was a little specious, if not fake.
"You know what? Sometimes I talk too much," said Ainge. "'Setback' wasn't the right word, so let me rephrase that because it's not exactly true to say it -- or say it that way. What happened is he went on the AlterG [anti-gravity treadmill] the first day and he felt some soreness. It was the first day he tried the AlterG, a long time ago. He just wasn't ready for it at that point. That's all it was. So I think 'setback' is the wrong way to put it. I mis-phrased that."
"I'm not sure what the right word is, but he wasn't ready for that. So we waited a couple of weeks before we started that again, and since we started that again it's been great and he's progressed along on the AlterG. That's all. It wasn't like he had an accident or anything like that. I used the word 'setback,' and it became a headline. Like, 'Oh, setback.' It got blown out of proportion. It's my fault. I'm not blaming anybody. 'Setback' was probably too strong of a word."
“But Danny’s done a nice job back there. Are they good enough? They had a terrible break with a very good player (Gordon Hayward), and are they good enough now? At the end of a couple of years, they’re going to be judged by that, by how they’re doing then — not by now. They’ve got some good young players. They’ve got a terrific coach. They’ve got a lot of positive things going, that’s for sure.”
As the Thursday trade deadline approaches, Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens suggested his organization should be careful not to disrupt the current roster's success. At 39-15, the Celtics lead the Eastern Conference despite losing All-Star Gordon Hayward to a bad ankle injury five minutes into the season opener. "I think the biggest thing we have to be really cognizant of is if we do add anything it's somebody that really complements who we have," Stevens said before a team shootaround Tuesday morning. "Because we have a lot of guys that have played a really good role in helping us be successful. And we value that up and down the roster."
The Boston Celtics will be making a hard run at Monroe and can offer more money than any other team in the market for him. Boston has an $8.4 million Disabled Player Exception (DPE) from Gordon Hayward’s injury, enough money to outbid the other playoff teams vying for his services. Danny Ainge went on 98.5 the Sports Hub’s Toucher and Rich Thursday morning to confirm the DPE is a thing and he can use it.
“I think we will use that exception,” said Danny Ainge. “I’m pretty sure. Or at least a portion of it in a trade or a buyout situation before the deadline’s passed. But I’m not sure who that’s going to be yet.” But he made an important distinction. Stevens has talked about her need for more shooting and playmaking, but Ainge is not acting positionally focused at the deadline. “I think it’s more important on the player than the position right now.”
Benas Matkevicius could stroll unnoticed through the streets of Boston if he wished, but he is one of the most essential parts of the Celtics operation. His task is simple, yet also massive and almost inconceivable. He just has to identify, keep track of, and evaluate basketball prospects on an entire continent from his one-man traveling European office. “It is not easy,” Matkevicius said, chuckling. “At first I was pretty flabbergasted by the whole situation. It took a while to organize myself and figure out the ins and outs of where to start.”
Over the past two years, the Celtics have been busy in Europe. In 2016, they drafted French forward Guerschon Yabusele and Croatian center Ante Zizic. Then last summer they signed German forward Daniel Theis and veteran point guard Shane Larkin, who spent last season playing in Spain. With so much focus on college basketball, and for obvious logistical reasons, the Celtics’ small and diligent Boston-based scouting staff cannot have a constant presence overseas. So that is what Matkevicius is tasked with, and the Celtics’ lone full-time staffer and scout in Europe played a key role in all of the recent additions. “Benas has an amazing work ethic,” Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said. “He just seems tireless.”
In the summer of 2012, Matkevicius was sitting in the stands scouting an under-18 tournament in Poland when Celtics director of player personnel Austin Ainge walked over and introduced himself. The two traded scouting stories and stayed in touch afterward. Ainge was impressed by Matkevicius’s knowledge and thoroughness, and when the Celtics had an opening for a European scout in 2014, the choice was obvious. “The hardest thing is when you’re working in a one-man office,” Austin Ainge said. “It gets lonely. Benas is so diligent and detail-oriented. He just works and works and works, and that can be hard to stay motivated by yourself on the road all the time. He’s amazing. He never tires, and he watches video constantly in all his travels. He’s a huge asset.”
Is it possible that Danny Ainge’s best acquisition will never score a point for the Celtics? As the club piled up a few losses in the last couple of weeks and people came to the conclusion that, no, the Celts are not the best team on the planet, a few scouts and others said greater light is being shed on what coach Brad Stevens has done since he arrived to get more out of the C’s than the sum of their parts. “Best move Danny ever made,” one NBA executive said. “No question.”
The Celtics were trying hard to keep Doc Rivers in 2013, but Brad Stevens has worked out better than even Doc might have with a constantly changing roster. “Well, listen, when I hired Brad, I believed he would be a very good NBA coach,” Danny Ainge said. “I certainly didn’t know it, because he had never coached in the NBA, but I knew he was a great person, and I knew he was smart, and I knew he had a great work ethic. And that’s a great place to start, and that often times leads to success. “You know, Brad was an outstanding move, yeah. He’s a joy to work with. I think that not only is he fun for me to work with, he’s fun for everybody to work with. I think he’s someone that respects every person in the organization, from the lowest-level people all the way up to Wyc and Pags (part-owners Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca). I think he has relationships with everybody in the entire organization. And that makes my job easier, because so much of my job is managing people, and when there’s conflict, it just makes my job harder. So having a guy like Brad around makes my job easier, and I can focus on more important things.”
Plus-minus has become a popular stat in the past few years. As analysts have greater access to advanced analytics — which Celtics assistant GM Mike Zarren constantly calls a BS phrase — this simplified number finds its way into game analyses, tweets and so forth on a nightly basis. So when Ainge appeared on 98.5 The Sports Hub Thursday morning, he made a point to note that on a game-by-game basis, it’s not worth anything.
Now with the Bucks, playing at TD Garden on Monday, Terry has an appreciation for the changes president Danny Ainge, who signed Terry in 2012, has made with the 20-4 Celtics, the best team in the league. That begins with coach Brad Stevens, hired out of Butler after the Nets trade. Terry was with the Hawks when, in his second NBA season, Atlanta brought in coach Lon Kruger from the college ranks at Illinois. Kruger went 69-122 in two-plus seasons with the Hawks, so Terry is aware of the difficulties a college coach can have in the NBA. "The first thing I was impressed with was the coaching," Terry said. "When you get a guy who comes from college, it doesn’t, in our league, usually take effect very well. When you get a guy coming from college, one, he has to have respect in the locker room. Two, he has to implement a system that can carry over. For him, he has done an outstanding job with the personnel he has been given."
"That was the big thing," Terry said. "Coming back again last summer, trading Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas, two guys that got them to the Eastern Conference finals, that took a lot of guts. But Danny knows what he is doing, he has been around this league a long time, not only as a player, but as a coach and in the front office now. He has had so much success, because he has an eye for talent. "Now you have him putting the right pieces together within a great system, with a good coach, with this fan base — you are going to have a great Celtics team here."
David Aldridge: The Celtics decided to blow up last year’s team, even though it was successful. Is there any part of you that wonders why? Avery Bradley: There’s a lot of what ifs. But like I said, it’s a business, and that’s not our decisions to make -- it’s Danny (Ainge) and the guys up there in the front office. All you can do is respect that and move on. One thing I understand about this league is you have to do what’s best for you, as players and as organizations. So I respect every decision they made.
Gordon Hayward’s horrific and saddening injury not only robbed the Celtics of a standout player and fresh face of the franchise, it has also put the organization in a roster quandary and perhaps changed season expectations. “When KG went down in ’09, we weren’t sure that he was done,” Danny Ainge said. “We were sort of thinking that he might come back, he’s not too far away, and that made that a challenging year. We weren’t sure what to do because we were trying to buy time, and in Gordon’s case, he’s most likely out for the year. So that’s a different scenario."
Ainge said he will be patient in making roster moves and he doesn’t necessarily feel there’s immediate pressure on the organization to react to such adversity. “Right now there’s no deal we’re doing right this second,” Ainge said. “It’s next man up, opportunities for the guys that [were not] going to get these opportunities all of a sudden play with no Marcus Morris and no Gordon Hayward. That’s 65 minutes a game right there. Until we find a deal that we like, we’ll do all we can to be patient.”
“A lot of our players and coaches had planned on Gordon being a big, big part of our season, our planning, end-of-the-game situations. Yeah, you’re losing a key guy, the most versatile of all of them, play four positions and play with all sorts of different lineups, could lead our second unit of young guys and a guy that could be on the court and finish the game with Kyrie [Irving] and Al [Horford], so yeah, there’s a lot of adjusting on the fly. Brad [Stevens] has a very difficult job ahead of[ him and so do our players. But like I said, I believe there’s a lot of good that could still happen this year for us.”
But it’s a long drive to get there. He has the keys in hand, ready to start the trip. “I would say when you have to satisfy a want for more, it’s an interesting conversation you have to have with yourself,” Irving said. “How much more do you want out of what you’re in right now? And that was an answer that led to me going to take the bold move of wanting to get traded -- especially with two years left on my contract. It’s unheard of. But to have that understanding and know what I got myself into -- I’m taking a leap of faith. With the confidence I have in myself, it was pretty easy. Like I said, I got pretty fortunate to have a situation like this to come across, for Danny to take a chance like that.”
“We’ll see what minutes [Tatum] will earn. I’m not worried about how they will play when the lights go on. It will be unlikely that Jayson is Rookie of the Year because it will probably come from a team that starts their rookies and plays them 35 minutes per night.”
As Celtics training camp approaches, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge appears at ease with the major overhaul to the roster over the summer. In the coming weeks and months, the Celtics will have to find their locker room leader and spiritual leader because the incumbents — Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder — were traded to the Cavaliers. The Celtics’ brass essentially have no idea one week before camp who will assume these roles. Nothing at this point is certain, and Ainge is OK with that. “So when we acquired Isaiah, nobody knew he was going to be this Isaiah,” Ainge said. “Going into it nobody knew he was going to be the player that he was last year. When we got Jae Crowder in the trade for [Rajon] Rondo, nobody knew who Jae Crowder was. They just knew he didn’t play very much in Dallas.
The Celtics will enter training camp with potentially 11 new players, including four new starters — Irving, Hayward, Marcus Morris, and perhaps Jaylen Brown to join Al Horford. Ainge also added Aron Baynes, Daniel Theis, and Shane Larkin, while taking Jayson Tatum and Semi Ojeleye in the draft. “This isn’t any sort of plan like we wanted to make a whole bunch of changes — part of it is just managing payroll and getting guys to fit on the court, just building a team,” Ainge said. “It’s not about getting rid of somebody or bringing new faces in, but in the world we live in today you have a salary cap and a luxury tax and there are short contracts that are attached. When I played, I signed a six-year contract. Now, most contracts are four years [at the longest]. It’s just the nature of our business and it’s not ideal not to have continuity. But there are rewards for a freshness. What really matters is how well they play and as I said, time is our judge.”
“I’m excited, no question, as I said, you can feel it,” Ainge said. “You can feel the energy here at our practice facility, you can see it in guys that are trying out for the [G-League], guys that are going to play major roles on our team this year, young and old, you can just see the energy that exists around here and it’s good. It’s exciting. I’m excited to get the season started and see how it all works. “I think Terry [Rozier] and Marcus [Smart] are really ready to step up,” Danny Ainge said. “And Jayson and Jaylen we can be a little bit more patient with, but they are going to play an important role.”
Isaiah Thomas said the Boston Celtics he left behind were as shocked as he was when he was traded to the Cavaliers. “After all you did, that’s how they do you,” Thomas said to cleveland.com. “That was everybody’s text message. … I can’t control that and my teammates know what I meant to that team and the organization knows and that’s what matters the most. The people I was around each and every day. “But I think not just myself, everybody was surprised. Everybody.”
Isaiah Thomas: And then somewhere in there, it was just like … it was barely anything. This little pause in the conversation. And that’s when Danny Ainge told me. “I just traded you.” Simple as that. No big words, no big speech. Though I guess when it comes to shit like that, there’s not much more to say. “To where.” That’s all I could manage. “To the Cavaliers, for Kyrie.” You ever been on the phone, and someone says something … and then all of a sudden, all you can think about after is, I don’t want to be on the phone anymore? Not even in a rude way. Just, like, your willpower to have a conversation shuts down. That’s what it was like for me in that moment. Danny started going on about everything I’ve done for the city of Boston, and for the Celtics organization, both on and off the court. About what a great player I am, and how I’m going to be great in Cleveland. You know, telling me that type of stuff. And it was just like … at that point in time? I definitely didn’t want to hear none of that.
Isaiah Thomas: It’s not that I don’t understand it. Of course I get it: This is a business. Danny is a businessman, and he made a business move. I don’t agree with it, just personally, and I don’t think the Boston Celtics got better by making this trade. But that’s not my job. That’s Danny’s. And it’s a tough job, and he’s been really good at it. But at the end of the day, these deals just come down to one thing: business. So it’s no hard feelings on that end. I’m a grown man, and I know what I got into when I joined this league — and so far it’s been more blessings than curses. I’m not sitting here, writing this, because I feel I was wronged. I wasn’t wronged. It was Boston’s right to trade me.
“I’ll leave it to your own imaginations to realize how difficult that conversation might have been—for me and Isaiah,” Ainge said after the trade. “Isaiah had just an amazing season this year and entertained us all—the whole city of Boston, and everybody fell in love with him. You know, he’s such an underdog because of his size and his heart and his spirit in which he plays. It was very challenging to make this decision.” An agent texted me that “Danny would trade his son Austin if he had to.”
But the talk Ainge had to have with Isaiah Thomas about being traded to Cleveland, stands out from all the rest. “It was one of the most difficult conversations I ever had,” Ainge told CSN following the introductory press conference for Irving and Gordon Hayward on Friday. “I.T., everybody in Boston is grateful for I.T. and all that he’s done.”
The Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers this evening jointly announced the following: In conjunction with finalizing the trade involving Kyrie Irving, Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and a 2018 1st round pick the Celtics acquired via Brooklyn, the Celtics and Cavaliers have agreed to modify the terms of the trade such that Boston will also send Miami’s 2020 2nd round pick to Cleveland.
Robb: You're a Duke guy and Kyrie Irving is coming in. How exciting is that for you? Steve Pagliuca: It's very exciting. He's a great player. We lost a couple of great players as well. As Danny (Ainge) said, it was an emotional day for us yesterday because Isaiah is a great player and Crowder is a great player. We love those guys, but Kyrie is a very special athlete and a great person. I know him personally from Duke.
“(The Celtics are), of course, a little ahead of us,” he said. “Danny (Ainge)’s done a great job, when you think about drafting and (Gordon) Hayward, who is . . . the guy just knows how to play, you know? And you put him in with (Isaiah) Thomas. You put him in with all the rest of the great players that they have. And then I think you’ve got one of the best young coaches in all of basketball in Brad (Stevens), and we feel like we have a great young coach (Luke Walton). “So we got young talent; they have young talent. They’ve got a little bit more with (Al) Horford and Hayward, the veterans who are stars, especially Hayward. And then hopefully next summer we can add something to our roster. So I think it’s going to come together.
Chris Forsberg: Avery Bradley on Boston's interesting summer: "[The front office does] a great job of getting the right guys in here." pic.twitter.com/dEhbWIffqs
Vincent Goodwill: Hearing Boston is lurking with #3 and Phoenix is “doing due diligence”, per league sources twitter.com/WojVerticalNBA…
Don’t be surprised if Ainge makes more moves this week. Two front-office sources I’ve spoken to said the Celtics have already explored the possibility of moving down again in the draft. As of now, there’s nothing on the table, but Boston is open to the possibility if the deal is right.
The Boston Celtics announced today that they have acquired the third overall selection of the 2017 NBA Draft and the favorably-protected rights to a future first round pick from the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for the first overall pick in this year’s draft.
Chris Forsberg: Celtics with potential for seven first-round picks in next three drafts. Updated glance at pick surplus: pic.twitter.com/Mw8Fd2Qv31
"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."
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."
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.”
August 10, 2022 | 4:20 am EDT Update
Furthermore, the first-year head coach said one wrinkle he will implement and stick with is having the offense run through Anthony Davis, and James concurred, sources said. The team has been encouraged with Davis’ offseason progression and believe he’ll be in optimum shape to avoid serious injuries and carry a heavier load.
James is finalizing a destination to host the team’s annual minicamp prior to training camp, with San Diego being the likely landing space over Las Vegas, sources said. He’s hoping to build a better rapport with teammates before entering the 2022-23 season. The meeting was deemed productive and informative. Pelinka made his feelings clear that he wants James to retire as a Laker and promised to provide him with every resource possible to compete for a championship each year he’s with the organization, sources said.
And while contract dialogue was broached, the majority of the hour-long meeting was about expressing concerns, and hearing out strategies and opinions to assure there wouldn’t be a repeat of last season’s epic failure, league sources told Yahoo Sports. James, sources said, drilled home the importance of consistent competitiveness and cohesion, noting that last season’s team didn’t give themselves a chance on many nights. The focus for the future Hall of Famer is competing every night in order to give themselves a chance to compete for a championship.
As for roster tinkering, Pelinka explained patience will be key in any potential moves the team makes, sources said. In a collaborative effort, all parties appear to be aligned on a common vision of seeing how the roster plays out before any drastic moves are sought.
Do you get the sense that the Lakers are trying to make two separate trades using the firsts? One with Westbrook and one with Horton-Tucker/Nunn/etc.? — @crownroyalpapi_ Jovan Buha: Yes, insofar as I think the ultimate price to trade Westbrook will include attaching two first-round picks. If the Lakers can finagle an alternate outcome — be it a pick swap or two second-round picks — that’s a win for them, in my opinion. That seems unlikely, though, which is why there’s a possibility Westbrook isn’t traded. Between the two trades mentioned, the Lakers would prefer the Irving option. I think that’s a deal they’d eventually be willing to include two first-round picks for. I don’t think they’d be willing to do so in the Indiana deal.
Nets star Kyrie Irving wants to make it clear he does not hate coach Steve Nash or general manager Sean Marks despite what a source told The Post about his feelings Monday. “I am not sure where this narrative is coming from but Kyrie does not hate Steve nor Sean. That’s not a part of his being nor how he represents himself in the world. He’s about peace, love and acceptance,” his agent and stepmother Shetallia Riley Irving told The Post.
Durant, among other things, was not consulted on the Nets’ firing of assistant coach and director of player development Adam Harrington when the season ended, the source believes. “There are simple things that erode a relationship. You fired someone he was close to and didn’t have a conversation about it,” the source said.