The Celtics had plenty of doubters heading into the playoffs, including director of basketball operations Danny Ainge, writes Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. Without injured stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, Ainge thought his team’s chances were “50-50” to get past Milwaukee in the first round.
Boston surprised the Bucks and the Sixers on their way to the conference finals, but Ainge said the season could have been considered successful regardless of the outcome. Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier have given the team a base of young talent to build on next season.
“I don’t really look at where you get to,” Ainge said. “I just think our guys have played well all year — whether they lost to Philly or lost Game 7 to Milwaukee. I mean, obviously those are good things, because they get to keep playing and they keep gaining experience in playoff games. But, I mean, I’ve just seen a lot of good things out of a lot of our guys this year. It’s been fun to see their development.”
There’s more from the Atlantic Division:
- Hayward participated in Saturday’s walk-through, but coach Brad Stevens again squelched any speculation that he might return, relays NBC Sports Boston. Hayward updated his rehab progress Friday, saying he feels “like an athlete again” in a post on his blog. “He was just out here as we walked through some things earlier,” Stevens told reporters. “Got to be a part of the walk-through which was fun, just to have him back out here. He’s getting better too, but we’re going to figure out how to be the best version of ourselves for the rest of the season without those guys [Hayward and Irving].”
- The tough conditions where David Fizdale grew up prepared him for any challenges he might face as coach of the Knicks, writes Howie Kussoy of The New York Post. Fizdale was raised in the South Central section of Los Angeles, where gang activity was common. Former WNBA star Tina Thompson, a childhood friend, said Fizdale had the character to survive his surroundings. “David was always seen as one of the guys who was always gonna be successful,” she said. “It was clear by his focus, how he went about his business. For the many young men in our area, he was different in that respect.”
- Former Raptors coach Dwane Casey penned a letter thanking fans for welcoming him and his family during his time with the organization. “Coaches know that this is an industry built on change, and we willingly accept that reality,” he wrote. “They say that “Home is not a place … it’s a feeling;” so thank you Toronto for making us feel at home here.”