Danny Ainge

Celtics Notes: Ainge, Mazzulla, Smart

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is back to work after suffering a second heart attack, and while he’s apparently no worse for the wear, the experience seems to have reawakened him to how precious life can be and how lucky he is, writes Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald.

“You just move on,” says Ainge. “I just had some chest pains and went to the hospital and, you know, had a heart attack and had a stent put in… it’s just… it’s just a wake-up call… I’m at the stage in my life where I’m attending way too many funerals, so I’m just happy to be here and excited for our upcoming season. I love my job. I love the people I work with. I love the players. They keep me young. They’re a lot of fun to be around, as you can see by the four guys we just drafted.”

Ainge says he wasn’t scared when the incident happened, but he now realizes that he needs to treat himself better moving forward.

“I’m scared enough to the point where I want to eat better and I want to be healthier, and I’m listening to my doctors a little more diligently and taking better care of myself. So, yeah, I wouldn’t say that I was unhealthy, but I would say that I didn’t do what I needed to be doing, and I should have shown from having an episode 10 years ago. So, you know, you get really motivated for six months and then you sort of feel great again. I feel great now. I feel as healthy as I’ve felt.”

Ainge also spoke on the topic of whether the stress of being the head of an NBA team’s basketball operations department factored into his health issues.

“You wonder how much of it is work and stress and those things but, you know, everybody has to manage challenges, health challenges and stress challenges. I would say that there are stressful days, but the job overall is not high stress, in my opinion. There are stressful moments, (but) coaching is much harder. I’ve done that job. But my job is more to keep people in a good frame of mind, keep people positive through the adversity of a season. And just my nature, I’m more positive and see the bright side in things, and I think that eliminates a lot of stress.”

There’s more news out of Boston tonight:

  • Per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Celtics are hiring Fairmont (WV) State coach Joe Mazzulla as an assistant coach. Mazzulla, who made a strong impression with the Celtics G League staff a few years back, played for new Cavs’ head coach John Beilein at West Virginia.
  • Despite the fact that the Celtics are likely losing both point guard Kyrie Irving and big man Al Horford to free agency, incumbent guard Marcus Smart is optimistic about the team’s prospects for the 2019/20 season, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “Hey, the thing is, the Raptors just won the championship, right? But they’ve got to start back over from the beginning just like we do… so everybody’s starting over, regardless if they have the same team or not, they’ve all got to start from the beginning. That’s how we take it. We take it as we come in, and we have an opportunity to do something special, and we get another chance to do it.”
  • In another story for ESPN, Bontemps adds that with free agency right around the corner, Ainge finds himself with holes at point guard and center and with a roster that features 11 players who are 25 or younger, just one season after being a team that seemed destined to compete for championships right away.

Celtics Notes: Ainge, Adams, Dudley, Horford

It’s been a rough few weeks for the Celtics since their playoff run ended, but president of basketball operations Danny Ainge insists he’s excited about the team’s new direction, relays Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. Kyrie Irving appears certain to leave Boston and Al Horford is gone as well. The Celtics missed out on Anthony Davis and traded Aron Baynes to the Suns. There’s also uncertainty over the future of free agents Terry Rozier and Marcus Morris. The benefit of all that movement is that the organization could have up to $34MM in cap room when free agency begins.

“We have a very attractive franchise to play for, and there’s a lot of people who would be dying to come play here,” Ainge said.

The Celtics’ first step into the future came at Thursday’s draft, where they picked up Romeo Langford and Grant Williams in the first round and Carsen Edwards and Tremont Waters in the second round. Forsberg notes that Ainge pointed frequently to the character of his draft class.

“Good people. Actually all four of (the picks).” Ainge said. “Very good guys. That played a very big part into why we selected them. Who they are, not just what they are capable of doing on the court. Very excited about their personalities and their character and I think they have the will to become great.”

There’s more this morning out of Boston:

  • Steven Adams could be a possibility if the Celtics want to solve their center issue through trade rather than free agency, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. The Thunder are looking to trim salary to reduce their league-high luxury tax bill and may be willing to part with Adams, who will make $25.8MM next season and $27.5MM in 2020/21. Adams is among the league’s best defenders and rebounds and has a career shooting percentage of .588. Blakely lists Nikola Vucevic, Dewayne Dedmon, Ed Davis and Noah Vonleh as other possible targets.
  • Free agent Jared Dudley had good things to say about Celtics coach Brad Stevens in a tweet on Friday. Dudley responded to a question about Stevens by posting, “One of the best X and O’s in the game.. players coach but not afraid to try all types of lineups… Rewards playing time by playing smart but Hard.. heard only good things.” Dudley has expressed interest in joining the Celtics, notes Michael DePrisco of NBC Sports Boston.
  • Celtics legend and ESPN analyst Paul Pierce supports Horford’s decision to leave the team. “A lot of these guys when they get in their late 20’s or early 30’s and they know there’s light at the end of the tunnel, they try to maximize their dollars,” Pierce said in an interview with John Karalis of MassLive. “So if there’s an opportunity for Al Horford to get more money, I’m sure that’s something you have to look into.”

Atlantic Notes: Celtics, Wade, Raptors, Workouts

The Celtics own three of the first 22 selections in the NBA draft and we reported last month that the team was expected to shop at least one of those picks. It appears that Boston has begun making calls with Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders connecting Houston as a potential trade partner for the franchise.

Boston has interest in Clint Capela, though the big man is not the organization’s top priority. As we wait to see if Capela is shipped to Boston or if Danny Ainge‘s squad unloads a first-rounder elsewhere, let’s take a look at some draft notes from the Atlantic Division:

Celtics Rumors: Horford, Ainge, Kyrie, Rozier, Herro

If Al Horford opts out of his contract this month, he’s probably unlikely to top his $30MM+ player-option salary on the open market, but he should be able to top that total figure on a multiyear deal. That’s a scenario that intrigues the Celtics.

Speaking today to reporters, including Mark Murphy of The Boston Herald, C’s president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said that restructuring Horford’s contract into a longer, more cap-friendly deal is a “priority” for the club this summer.

NBA rules don’t technically allow teams to restructure contracts to reduce cap hits in the same way that NFL franchises can. But if Horford turns down his player option, he and the Celtics could essentially start from scratch on a new deal — it wouldn’t be a restructuring so much as a brand new contract. If the C’s are able to negotiate a starting salary in the range of, say, $20-25MM, it would create some added cap flexibility for the coming offseason.

Here’s more on the Celtics:

  • Despite suffering a mild heart attack last month, Ainge said he’s feeling good and will continue to lead the Celtics going forward, writes Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. “My role is not going to change,” Ainge said.
  • We passed along some of Ainge’s comments on Kyrie Irving in an earlier story, but Boston’s president of basketball operations offered a few more observations on the All-Star point guard. As Himmelsbach relays, Ainge said he had no regrets about the risk the Celtics took when they acquired Irving in 2017, and dismissed the idea that Kyrie was largely to blame for the club’s struggles in 2018/19. “We had a lot of reasons the team did not succeed this year,” Ainge said. “Kyrie deserves his share of the blame, but not any more than anybody else. There’s a lot of guys that didn’t handle things the right way and didn’t make the sacrifices that needed to be done for the benefit of the team. So I think that they’re all going to learn from it, including Kyrie.”
  • Ainge praised restricted-free-agent-to-be Terry Rozier, despite the fact that Rozier has publicly griped about the role he had with the Celtics this season. “I think that if Terry was in the right circumstance and the right role, I think he would love playing in Boston,” Ainge said, per Himmelsbach.
  • Ainge also acknowledged that the Celtics will consider draft-pick trades and told reporters that Brad Stevens continues to meet with candidates to replace assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry, according to Murphy and Himmelsbach.
  • Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston tweets that the Celtics worked out Kevin Porter Jr. (USC), Luguentz Dort (Arizona State), Tyler Herro (Kentucky), Talen Horton-Tucker (Iowa State), Nickeil Alexander-Walker (VA Tech), and Skyler Flatten (South Dakota State) on Tuesday. Herro made a strong impression, per Aaron Torres of FOX Sports (Twitter link).

Celtics Rumors: Ainge, Irving, Bickerstaff

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge isn’t in attendance this week at the draft combine in Chicago, but he’s recovering well after suffering a mild heart attack earlier this month, his son Austin Ainge tells Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe.

“He’s back at it,” said the younger Ainge, who is also the team’s director of player personnel. “He’s doing great. He’s been texting me 100 times a day. He loves his job, and he wants to continue doing it.”

It’s unclear when Danny might start traveling again, and Austin acknowledges that there was some discussion about whether his father should step back from his role for health reasons. However, according to Austin, doctors have said that the Celtics’ longtime head of basketball operations is “healthy and doing great” after the scare.

“He’s doing well and he’s very motivated,” Austin said. “Pretty much life back to normal. It didn’t take him long to turn into 60-year-old Dennis the Menace again.”

Here’s more on the Celtics:

  • Several NBA executives, team officials, and scouts spoke to A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston, weighing in with their opinions on what Kyrie Irving will do as a free agent this summer. Blakeley relays a number of comments from those sources, noting that they run the gamut. One Eastern Conference GM who believes Irving will leave the Celtics said that Kyrie “could care less about” the money he’d be giving up by joining a new team. Conversely, a Western Conference front-office official argues that Kyrie is “playing all of you guys right now” and that he’ll end up re-signing with Boston.
  • Unlike those execs, Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck didn’t have much to say about Irving this week. As Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports Boston relays, Grousbeck essentially declined comment when asked about Kyrie’s future during an appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston.
  • Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston takes a deep dive into what the Celtics’ offseason might look like if Irving heads elsewhere.
  • After interviewing for the Cavaliers’ and Lakers’ head coaching jobs, J.B. Bickerstaff met with Celtics head coach Brad Stevens at the draft combine in Chicago, reports Marc Berman of The New York Post (via Twitter). Boston appears to be eyeing Bickerstaff as a potential assistant after losing Micah Shrewsberry to Purdue.

Atlantic Notes: Smart, McHale, Nets, Knicks

Marcus Smart is expected to join his Celtics teammates for practice tomorrow, according to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. It will be Smart’s first on-court action since suffering an oblique tear last month.

Although Smart will be a full participant, the session won’t include contact as coach Brad Stevens plans to give the team a break ahead of Monday’s Game 4 against the Bucks.

“I’m going to talk to our training staff [on Saturday], and then, [Sunday], all indication is he will go through our practice,” Stevens said. “I’m writing up our practice plan now, and I don’t have any live drills on it, so if he does [contact work], it’ll probably be before or after practice, if that’s his next step.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Former teammate Kevin McHale reached out to Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge after he suffered a mild heart attack this week, relays Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald. McHale, who has previous front office experience with the Timberwolves, can relate to the pressure of running a team. “It’s a stressful job, but I would say Danny has probably got the best perspective of anyone in the league on that job and what’s going on,” McHale said. “… I think having Austin [his son is the Celtics’ director of player personnel] working there with him, I can just tell how much he enjoys it and how well they work together.”
  • Gianluca Pascucci, who serves as director of global scouting for the Nets, is being considered for an executive position with AC Milano in Italy, but the organization may try to hold on to him, tweets NetsDaily. Pascucci could be a candidate for assistant GM in Brooklyn if Trajan Langdon leaves. Langdon was considered for front office positions with the Timberwolves and Pelicans and is rumored to be a candidate with the Wizards.
  • Las Vegas oddsmakers are expecting a huge summer for the Knicks, writes David Purdum of ESPN. The SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas has given New York 16-1 odds to win next season’s title, trailing just the Bucks, Celtics and Sixers in the East. Jeff Sherman, who oversees the Superbook’s NBA odds, told Purdum they are based on the Knicks being the favorites to land Kevin Durant in free agency. He adds that New York would be about a 300-1 shot without Durant.

Danny Ainge Suffers Mild Heart Attack; Full Recovery Anticipated

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge suffered a mild heart attack on Tuesday night in Milwaukee, the team announced today (via Twitter).

Ainge received immediate medical attention and is expected to make a full recovery, according to the team. The Celtics, who noted that additional updates will be provided as appropriate, said that Ainge will return soon to Boston, where the C’s are set to host Games 3 and 4 of the Eastern Semifinals vs. the Bucks.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter), Ainge is expected to return home this evening. Sources tell Charania that he’s walking around and “feeling much better.”

Given the positive early reports, it doesn’t appear that Ainge’s health scare will prevent him from performing his usual work for Boston this summer. It will be a big offseason for the 60-year-old executive and the Celtics, who are expected to engage the Pelicans in trade talks for Anthony Davis in addition to attempting to re-sign Kyrie Irving.

We at Hoops Rumors send our best wishes to Ainge during his recovery.

Celtics Notes: Tatum, Irving, Grousbeck, Baynes, Horford

Former Celtic Paul Pierce believes Jayson Tatum would reach his All-Star potential if he drove to the basket more often, as he told Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald.

“For a guy with his athleticism, his skill set and his ball-handling, his height, he should be a guy that gets to the line at least six times a night and makes five out of six,” Pierce said. “That’ll take him from a 16-point scorer to a 20-point scorer, and he’ll be in the conversation for All-Star every year on a winning team.”

Pierce also believes Tatum won’t fully blossom until he’s relied upon as a primary scorer.

“Look at James Harden,” he said. “We didn’t know James Harden was going to be this until he went to Houston. He was the sixth man on OKC. Now he’s a perennial MVP and arguably the best player in the league.”

We have more on the Celtics:

  • Kyrie Irving’s decision in free agency could be decided by how the postseason plays out, Bulpett speculates in the same article. While events during the season have seemingly tilted the odds in favor of Irving signing elsewhere, that could change if the team makes a deep run, Bulpett adds.
  • Danny Ainge attributed a seemingly critical comment by Irving against the coaching staff as frustration after a loss. Charlotte’s Kemba Walker scored 36 points against Boston in a recent loss and Irving said they should have trapped Walker more often. Ainge’s response came on a radio interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher & Rich” and was relayed by Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports Boston“I did hear (Irving’s comments). It’s not that uncommon,” the GM said. “Guys get frustrated, and maybe that was the first thing that came to his mind is, ‘We should have done something different with Kemba.'”
  • Owner Wyc Grousbeck believes the team can flip the switch during the postseason, he told Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe. Grousbeck admits the team has underachieved but still believes better days are ahead. “We have not played at an elite level this year,” Grousbeck said. “We have to admit that at the moment. We’re in fifth place in the East. It’d be great to take that step now, or we’ll try to take it next year if we have to. But what I’m seeing, with the playoffs around the corner, I’m going to go into the playoffs with good energy and optimism and seeing what happens.”
  • Pairing Al Horford and Aron Baynes can give the Celtics more toughness inside but it would only work against certain lineups, as coach Brad Stevens explains to NBC Sports Boston’s Chris Forsberg“With their size and length, I think we have a different impact at the rim. But when you’re playing a team that’s super small and spread out, that’s tough to guard when you have a more traditional lineup.”

Woj: Davis May Only Sign Extension With Lakers

League sources expect Anthony Davis and his agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, to inform the rest of the league that he only plans to sign an extension with the Lakers, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

That means Davis would be just a short-term rental for anyone else who tries to acquire him. He has a $28.75MM player option for the 2020/21 season and can become a free agent next summer.

The Pelicans won’t rush into a deal, Wojnarowski adds, writing that it will take an “overwhelming” offer to get Davis out of New Orleans before the February 7 trade deadline. The Lakers plan to try to reach that standard, with trade talks between the two teams expected to begin soon. L.A. is in position to offer a max contract in free agency this summer, but sources say the team would give that up to acquire Davis. The Lakers are willing to part with draft picks and some combination of young players Kyle KuzmaBrandon IngramJosh Hart and Lonzo Ball in their trade proposal.

The Celtics, who have been collecting assets in hopes of making a deal for a star, are reportedly among the teams willing to take the risk of trading for Davis without a guarantee of a long-term arrangement. Sources tell Wojnarowski that president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has been calling the Pelicans for more than a year to let them know of his interest in Davis. There is also a tight bond between Davis and Kyrie Irving, who would be virtually assured of re-signing in Boston if Davis becomes part of the team.

Although he doesn’t identify them, Wojnarowski adds that several other teams are considering a deal for Davis, even if it’s only for the rest of the season. They could use him to make a run at the title, then flip him for other assets this summer.

Eastern Notes: Pistons, Morris, Wood, Sixers

The Pistons’ top brass is expected to meet in Los Angeles today to discuss ways to improve the team, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press reports. Owner Tom Gores, coach Dwane Casey, senior adviser Ed Stefanski and vice chairman Arn Tellem will discuss how to revive the playoff hopes of the floundering team and provide star forward Blake Griffin with a better supporting cast. Detroit got off to a 13-7 start but has lost 16 of its last 20 games.  A point guard and a wing player capable of creating offense top the wish list but the team’s cap situation makes it difficult to swing a deal, Ellis continues. The roster is littered with bad contracts and injury-prone players and the team is just under the luxury tax line, Ellis adds.

We have more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • Tempers flared between Celtics players Marcus Morris and Jaylen Brown during a second-quarter timeout on Thursday but GM Danny Ainge is downplaying the incident. The duo exchanged words and Morris, who apparently told Brown to play harder, shoved the swingman before Marcus Smart separated them, according to Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston. Ainge told Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe the altercation was no big deal. “It’s two good kids that are competitive,” he said. “They both want the same thing. Emotions happen in games, and I’m not worried about it.”
  • Bucks big man Christian Wood is relieved that the team guaranteed his salary for the remainder of the season, Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. His $1,512,601 salary became guaranteed on Thursday. He has a $1,645,357 non-guaranteed salary for next season. The 6’10” Wood has appeared in six games with Milwaukee while biding most of his time in the G League. “It’s real nice,” Wood said. “I talked to (GM) Jon (Horst) before the deadline passed and he said my time is going to come, I’ve just got to keep working, keep staying with the program and keep doing everything I’m supposed to do. He thinks I’m a good fit for this team.”
  • The 76ers named Annelie Schmittel as the team’s VP of player development, according to a team press release. She will be responsible for creating, managing and overseeing the holistic development and implementation of programs that support professional and personal growth of players, staff and families. She spent the last three seasons with the NFL’s Oakland Raiders.