Danny Ainge

Fischer’s Latest: Celtics’ Front Office, Ainge, Billups, Brown, More

As the Celtics transition from the Danny Ainge era to the Brad Stevens (presidential) era, they will have a lot of decisions to make, both in regards to the front office and the coaching staff. Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer suggests that two names to watch in regards to the front office are current assistant general manager Mike Zarren and director of player personnel Dave Lewin. Both are long-time members of the Celtics organization and seem set to move up the organizational hierarchy.

Fischer writes that Zarren has long been the primary voice in trade negotiations, and that there is belief that Stevens will out-rank him as a decision maker more in name than in practice. If Zarren is promoted to general manager, it’s believed that Lewin will be promoted to assistant general manager.

Another name Fischer mentions is Hawks assistant general manager Landry Fields, who has previously been cited as a potential front office candidate for the Celtics.

“All teams are monitoring Landry Fields,” said a Western Conference executive, “because he’s going to get a real shot here to run his own team soon.”

Here’s more from Fischer:

  • While the possibility of Ainge joining the Jazz has been previously reported, Fischer adds that Ainge has also been linked by league sources to the Trail Blazers in some capacity. The Blazers have already fired longtime coach Terry Stotts after the team’s first round exit, and more shake-ups may be on the way.
  • Chauncey Billups may not have experience as a head coach, but Fischer says Billups has been considered the lead candidate among league personnel to replace Stotts as the Trail Blazers‘ head coach for weeks now. The former Pistons point guard – and current Clippers assistant – is considered one of the top head coach candidates on the market.
  • Mike Brown is on the lookout for another head coaching job after five years as an assistant coach with the Warriors, according to Fischer’s sources. Brown is a veteran who has previously been the head coach for the Cavaliers and Lakers, but he hasn’t had a team of his own since the 2013-2014 season.
  • With so many options on the market, it seems unlikely that the Celtics head coach will come from the team’s bench, according to Fischer, who says people around the league don’t expect the Celtics to promote an assistant coach with no prior experience head coaching in the NBA.

Celtics Notes: Allen, Stevens, Lawson/Hammon, Ainge

Current Celtics assistant coach Jerome Allen will interview for the vacancy left by Brad Stevens when the latter opted to step into a front office role with Boston, writes Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Allen has been an assistant on Stevens’ staff for the last six seasons. Stevens will be leading the search for his replacement.

Pompey notes that Allen had an opportunity to become an assistant coach with the Mavericks during the 2020 offseason, but opted to remain in Boston, hoping to one day become the next Celtics head coach.

“For six years, I either sat behind [Stevens] or next to him and watched him not only work, I watched him prepare,” Allen said. “I watched him show-in to other people. Watched how he operated.”

Pompey writes that Allen has developed strong relationships with current Celtics Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Robert Williams, and Marcus Smart. Before transitioning to the NBA, Allen was previously the head coach at the University of Pennsylvania.

There’s more out of Boston:

  • In a new piece, Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe details how Brad Stevens emerged as the replacement for departing Celtics team president Danny Ainge. Ainge officially informed Celtics ownership of his intentions after the March 2021 trade deadline. Upon hearing this, owners Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca approached then-head coach Stevens about transitioning into the team president role.
  • There are several viable female candidates who could become the Celtics’ next head coach, writes Steve Buckley of The Athletic. Buckley examines the potential fits of former Celtics assistant coach Kara Lawson, as well as longtime Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon.
  • Outgoing Celtics team president Ainge has outfitted the team with plenty of promising players, but new president Stevens will need to make some key adjustments to bring Boston back to title contention, writes Jay King of The Athletic“These last two years have been tough,” Ainge acknowledged. “In the [2020 NBA restart] bubble and all the rules and scrutiny and protocols that we had to go through has not made the job as much fun.” King notes that the 62-year-old Ainge may yet join another team’s front office in some capacity. Ainge drafted current Boston All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, but Stevens will need to figure out how to navigate his way around the league’s luxury tax while improving the roster around the Celtics’ two best players, writes King.

Celtics Rumors: Kemba, Fournier, Coaching Search, Ainge, Stevens, More

As he transitions from the sidelines to the front office, new Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens will have some immediate decisions to make on the roster this offseason as he considers how to improve a group that finished seventh in the East in 2020/21.

Trading Kemba Walker is one path the Celtics figure to consider this summer, but the point guard still has two years and nearly $74MM left on his contract and his value is down after an injury-plagued season. While Walker is viewed as a player capable of having a strong comeback season, he’s not considered a positive asset at this point, given his injury history and contract situation, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Tim Bontemps and Jared Weiss of The Athletic.

“They’ve been trying to move Kemba Walker for a year now and no one is touching that,” one NBA executive told Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. “Their best bet would be to move (Marcus) Smart, but I don’t know what his market is. They could trade (Jaylen) Brown to try to fill a different position, but that would be a bad move.”

Evan Fournier‘s unrestricted free agency is another issue looming over the Celtics. One league executive who spoke to Scotto estimated that the veteran wing will be seeking a deal worth $15-20MM annually, though another predicted a cool market for Fournier.

“The issue will be what teams with room are going to target him?” that exec asked. “San Antonio might, but if not, who else will give him north of $10 million? If Fournier can be kept at a price around the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, I think Boston would re-sign him.”

Here are several more Celtics rumors and updates on an eventful day in Boston:

  • The Celtics’ head coaching search will likely start with internal candidates before they move outside the organization, sources tell Chris Mannix of SI.com (Twitter link). Current assistant Jerome Allen is one in-house candidate likely to get an interview, tweets Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. Mannix (via Twitter) adds Nets assistant Ime Udoka to the list of probable external candidates for the Celtics’ head coaching job, while Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link) says Chauncey Billups will likely receive consideration as well.
  • Asked today whether he intends to retire or seek another job, Danny Ainge was noncommittal, telling reporters that he’s not sure what his future holds and he’s focused for now on getting his successor Stevens up to speed (Twitter link via Tim Bontemps of ESPN).
  • Jared Weiss of The Athletic hears that in-season comments by Ainge and team owner Wyc Grousbeck about the Celtics’ shortcomings may have contributed to the club’s chemistry issues. Ainge said in February that he didn’t view the roster as championship-caliber and echoed that point multiple times later in the season.
  • One prominent member of the Celtics organization wanted to fire Stevens as the team’s head coach during the 2020/21 season, but Ainge and others in the organization were against that idea, sources tell Ian Begley of SNY.tv.
  • Speaking to reporters following the Celtics’ elimination from the postseason, Jayson Tatum said he doesn’t feel the need to get involved in the front office’s personnel decisions, per Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe (Twitter link).
  • Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston takes a look at five key roster-related questions facing the Celtics this offseason.

Brad Stevens Named Celtics’ Head Of Basketball Operations, Will Lead Search For New Coach

10:06am: The Celtics have officially announced that Stevens is the new president of basketball operations. Despite at least one report suggesting that Ainge isn’t expected to retire from basketball (as noted below), the club’s statement says the veteran executive is “retiring” from his role as president of basketball ops. Ainge will continue to work with the team through its offseason transition, per the C’s.

“Helping guide this organization has been the thrill of a lifetime, and having worked side-by-side with him since he’s been here, I know we couldn’t be in better hands than with Brad guiding the team going forward,” Ainge said in a statement. “I’m grateful to ownership, all of my Celtics colleagues, and the best fans in basketball for being part of the journey.”

Stevens issued a statement of his own, as follows:

“I’m grateful to ownership and to Danny for trusting me with this opportunity. I’m excited to tackle this new role, starting with a wide ranging and comprehensive search for our next head coach. I love the Celtics, and know the great honor and responsibility that comes with this job. I will give it everything I have to help us be in position to consistently compete for championships.”

9:24am: A major shakeup is taking place in Boston, as Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge will indeed step down from his current role, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Wojnarowski had reported earlier in the morning that Ainge was seriously considering such a move.

The Celtics won’t go outside the organization for Ainge’s replacement, however. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter links), head coach Brad Stevens will be making the move from the sidelines to the front office and will become the club’s new president of basketball operations.

Rather than holding a dual role, Stevens will become a full-time front office executive and is expected to lead the search for the Celtics’ new head coach, Charania reports.

Celtics players were informed of this potential change late on Tuesday night after the team was eliminated from the playoffs, says Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link).

Ainge had been contemplating leaving his job as the Celtics’ president of basketball operations for the last several months, according to Wojnarowski (Twitter link), who adds that Ainge had discussed possible succession plans with ownership.

While Stevens is a surprising choice as Ainge’s successor, Wojnarowski points out that Ainge made a similar move early in his post-playing career, having coached the Suns from 1996-99 before later transitioning into a front office role. According to Woj (Twitter link), Stevens has been described as feeling “worn down” with coaching since last summer and welcome the opportunity to shift into an executive position.

This major basketball operations overhaul comes on the heels of the Celtics’ early exit from the postseason. After making the Eastern Conference Finals in three of the last four years, Boston entered the season with aspirations of competing for a title.

However, due to COVID-19 issues, injuries, and inconsistent play, the team never built any real momentum toward legit contention, finishing seventh in the East. Although the C’s earned a postseason berth via the play-in tournament, they were eliminated swiftly in the first round by the Nets.

Despite the Celtics’ disappointing season, Stevens and Ainge – one of the longest-tenured coach/executive duos in the NBA – weren’t thought to be in any real danger of being fired. It appears Ainge’s exit is of his own volition after he spent the last 18 years calling the shots in the team’s front office.

Even though his time with the Celtics is ending, Ainge isn’t believed to be leaning toward retirement, according to Chris Mannix of SI.com, who tweets that the Jazz have been rumored as a possible landing spot for the veteran exec.

Meanwhile, Lakers assistant Jason Kidd and former Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce are expected to be among the candidates to fill Boston’s newly-created head coaching vacancy, according to Haynes (Twitter link).

In his eight seasons as the Celtics’ head coach, Stevens led the team to a 354-282 (.557) regular season record, with a 38-40 (.487) mark in the playoffs, including those three Eastern Finals appearances. As for Ainge, the C’s made the postseason in all but three of his 18 seasons running the front office, taking home a title in 2008.

Ainge’s trades for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen helped lead the Celtics to a title in 2008. Additionally, the blockbuster deal that sent an aging Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Nets for a boatload of draft picks in 2013 is considered one of the biggest NBA heists of the century, putting Boston in position to land Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown in subsequent drafts.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Danny Ainge Considering Stepping Down From Role With Celtics

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is seriously considering his future with the team and could make the decision to step down from his position in the front office, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link).

Wojnarowski’s report comes on the heels of the Celtics’ exit from the postseason. After making the Eastern Conference Finals in three of the last four years, Boston entered the season with aspirations of competing for a title. However, due to COVID-19 issues, injuries, and inconsistent play, the team never built momentum toward legit contention, finishing seventh in the East. While the C’s earned a postseason berth via the play-in tournament, they were eliminated swiftly in the first round by the Nets.

We’ll have to wait for more details on Ainge’s thinking, but it’s worth noting that the veteran executive has had some health scares in the past. He suffered a mild heart attack in 2009, then another in 2019. Ainge took some time away from the job after that second heart attack two years ago, and later talked about it serving as a wake-up call to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

Still, Chris Mannix of SI.com, who suggested on Tuesday night that he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Ainge leaving the Celtics, hears that the 62-year-old likely wouldn’t retire if he stepped down from his position in Boston. The expectation is that he’d seek another opportunity in that scenario, tweets Mannix.

Ainge is one of the NBA’s longest-tenured presidents of basketball operations, having held the role with the Celtics since 2003. His tenure in that position is exceeded by only Gregg Popovich (Spurs) and Pat Riley (Heat), both of whom have been presidents of basketball operations since the mid-1990s.

During his 18 years in Boston, Ainge has made a series of memorable deals. His trades for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen helped lead the Celtics to a title in 2008. Additionally, the blockbuster deal that sent an aging Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Nets for a boatload of draft picks in 2013 is considered one of the biggest heists of the century, putting Boston in position to land Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown in subsequent drafts.

A handful of Ainge’s moves in recent years haven’t panned out quite as well. The Celtics haven’t had a great hit rate on draft picks besides Tatum and Brown, and their last star trade acquisition (Kyrie Irving) departed after just two up-and-down seasons.

Celtics Notes: Ainge, Fournier, Brown, Tatum

A disappointing season usually leads to changes, and Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge confirmed that’s what the organization has in mind, relays Tom Westerholm of Boston.com. In an appearance Thursday on the Toucher and Rich radio show, Ainge talked about shaking up the team this summer.

“I think that we will definitely be looking to make some changes in the offseason,” Ainge said. “Obviously can’t go into any of those kind of details. But yeah, there will be changes. How significant? I don’t know yet. We’ll see.”

The Celtics are 35-35 and locked into the seventh spot in the East, but coach Brad Stevens’ job remains safe, as Ainge called him a “fantastic” coach who is “getting better, not worse.” Ainge also indicated that the changes he has in mind won’t involve the team’s best players.

There’s more from Boston:

  • The Celtics’ most important decision this offseason will involve free agent guard Evan Fournier, Westerholm adds in the same story. Fournier was acquired from the Magic at the trade deadline and has been productive after overcoming a case of COVID-19. Boston gave up multiple second-round picks, center Daniel Theis and a valuable trade exception to acquire Fournier, so management is expected to make a strong effort to keep him. The Celtics own his Bird rights and can go over the salary cap to re-sign him, but that could create a huge tax bill for next season. Westerholm suggests Marcus Smart or Kemba Walker might be moved if Fournier stays in Boston.
  • Jaylen Brown talked to teammate Jayson Tatum before deciding to undergo season-ending wrist surgery, tweets Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Tatum’s advice was for Brown to make the best decision for his long-term health.
  • In his re-draft grades for 2020, Chad Ford of The NBA’s Big Board gives the Celtics credit for landing Aaron Nesmith and Payton Pritchard in the first round, but says they could have benefited from taking Saddiq Bey, who was still on the board at No. 14.

Atlantic Notes: Aldridge, Celtics, Thibs, Raptors

Speaking to reporters for the first time since signing with the Nets, big man LaMarcus Aldridge discussed his willingness to fulfill whatever role Brooklyn has in mind for him, according to Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post. Aldridge started at center in his Nets debut tonight, a 111-89 victory over the Hornets. He scored 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting from the field, pulled down nine rebounds, and dished out six dimes.

“I’m just trying to bring value, try to bring the things I’m good at, and trying to help this team win,” Aldridge said to reporters following a Nets practice Tuesday. “I’m not worried about being an All-Star anymore.

“If you could start, you’re always going to want to start,” Aldridge added of his potential role with the Nets. “As far as minutes, I think if you go out and you compete and you do everything you can, everything is going to be fine. And we’re all here to win, so it’s not about that.”

Aldridge did draw the start tonight. Nicolas Claxton earned the lion’s share of bench minutes at center, and DeAndre Jordan was a healthy scratch. The team rested oft-injured veteran power forward Blake Griffin given that the game took place on the second night of a back-to-back.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • The Celtics did not acquire their top trade or buyout targets, and rival front office executives believe their days as a top East threat may be over for now, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of Bleacher Report. Boston had to settle for the third-most coveted Orlando trade target in shooting guard Evan Fournier, and was unable to lure big men Andre Drummond or LaMarcus Aldridge on the buyout market. That doesn’t mean the team won’t continue trying to build around All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown in the months ahead, however. “I would be very surprised if [Celtics team president Danny Ainge] doesn’t make a big, bold move this summer,” an Eastern Conference executive opined.
  • Steve Popper of Newsday discusses how Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau used his ill-fated tenure with the Timberwolves to improve his methodology, New York’s recent 102-101 loss to Minnesota notwithstanding. “For me, I loved having the opportunity to step away [after being let go in Minnesota],” Thibodeau had commented during his first press conference as Knicks head coach. “Part of it was just to recharge and get away and relax, and the other part was to learn. Whatever your circumstances are at that particular time, you try to make of those.”
  • Several big Raptors contributors, including Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam, are struggling with the aftereffects of COVID-19 as they try to work themselves back into NBA condition, writes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. “There’s spurts where we play high-level basketball and spurts where we suck, and it’s just fighting uphill,” VanVleet said after the Raptors’ 113-103 loss to the rebuilding Thunder Wednesday night. The club posted a 1-13 record in March, but are currently just two games behind the Bulls for the No. 10 seed and a play-in berth in the East.

Atlantic Notes: Perry, Robinson, Ainge, Powell

During a conversation on the Glue Guys Podcast, do-everything Nets guard Bruce Brown expressed his excitement about rookie power forward Reggie Perry, freshly returned to Brooklyn after logging time in the G League “bubble” for the Long Island Nets. As relayed by Net Income of Nets Daily, Brown raved about Perry.

“The person I hadn’t seen a lot that was killing it in training camp was Reggie Perry,” Brown said. “He looked like he could be in the rotation. He was doing a little bit of everything, hitting threes, jump hooks, killing people, killing (center DeAndre Jordan) low key. He literally was killing training camp.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Though the Knicks have yet to supply a recovery timeline for the fourth metacarpal fracture incurred by center Mitchell Robinson on February 12, a Northwestern University-based orthopedic hand surgeon indicated to Marc Berman of the New York Post that Robinson could be out for a total of six to eight weeks.
  • During a conversation with Brian Robb of Mass Live, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge discussed a variety of topics, including just how active Boston will be in the week leading up to the trade deadline. “I always go into the trading deadline, thinking that there’s something that we can do to help our team,” Ainge said. “I’m not talking about a big talent swing, I’m talking about just incremental positional changes you know one position in place of another, that we could use.”
  • Raptors guard Norman Powell, on a tear of late, has emerged as perhaps Toronto’s top trade asset ahead of the deadline next week, according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports. Powell has an $11.6MM player option for the 2021/22 season.

Atlantic Notes: Sixers, VanVleet, Ainge, KD

As the Sixers head toward the NBA trade deadline, Derek Bodner and Rich Hoffman of The Athletic catalogue just which players Philadelphia’s revamped front office might be willing to move. Unsurprisingly, Bodner and Hoffman do not think the 28-12 Sixers will be willing to trade All-Stars Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons this season.

Conversely, Danny Green, Mike Scott, Terrance Ferguson, and Vincent Poirier are all earmarked as possible trade candidates for salary-matching purposes in hypothetical outgoing deals. Bodner and Hoffman think that the Sixers will be reluctant to move Shake Milton, Tobias Harris and Seth Curry, as those players probably have more value to Philadelphia than they would in a trade.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Yesterday, Celtics team president Danny Ainge claimed that trade chatter around the NBA has been relatively quiet, but that he anticipated talks to heat up next week, tweets Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe. There have already been three trades agreed upon today.
  • Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, who returned to the court for Toronto tonight, detailed his bout with COVID-19, as Doug Smith of the Toronto Star details. VanVleet dealt with a sore back and body, plus a high fever. “I wouldn’t wish it on anybody,” he said. “I’m just happy to be back with the team right now.”
  • Nets head coach Steve Nash says that All-Star forward Kevin Durant remains a few weeks away from a return to game action, according to Malika Andrews of ESPN. Durant continues to recover from a right hamstring strain that has kept him sidelined since February 13. “We’re monitoring it and expect him to make a full recovery,” Nash said. “And hopefully it won’t be too long. But he’s probably got a couple weeks of ramp-up left.”

Atlantic Notes: Celtics, Ainge, A. Rivers, Raptors

After falling two games below .500 last Wednesday, the Celtics have turned things around in the last week. Boston won its third straight game on Tuesday night, as an impressive victory over the Clippers put the team back over .500 and into the No. 4 seed in the East.

Still, an 18-17 record represents an underwhelming first half for a team that was widely viewed as one of the top threats to come out of the East entering the season. In his attempt to determine what’s gone wrong with the Celtics, Tim Bontemps of ESPN spoke to executives who pointed to Kemba Walker‘s slow start as one factor the club has struggled to overcome.

“He can still provide value,” one Western Conference executive said of the Celtics’ point guard. “But is he worth $35 million? Is he worth that number? That’s tough (to build around) if he isn’t.”

The general consensus among Bontemps’ sources is that the Celtics will need to make some sort of trade before the deadline if they want to have a legit chance to make a deep playoff run this spring. President of basketball operations Danny Ainge has been reluctant to make in-season trades in the past, with one Western executive suggesting the C’s will only make a move “if they think they’re going to bury you.” However, given how well Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have played, the time looks right for Boston to try to upgrade its roster and get its rising young stars some help.

“There comes a time where you have to do something to keep your stars placated and show that you’re trying, especially when they’re young and early in their primes,” one East executive told Bontemps. “You have to make that commitment to them.”

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • With Ainge facing some criticism for the Celtics‘ up-and-down season and the team’s lack of depth, Zach Kram of The Ringer takes a closer look at the veteran executive’s résumé to determine whether or not the bad moves have outweighed the good ones over the last decade.
  • Even without Derrick Rose and Elfrid Payton available on Tuesday, veteran guard Austin Rivers couldn’t crack the Knicks‘ rotation, writes Marc Berman of The New York Post. After not being on New York’s bench at all on Saturday, Rivers has been there for the team’s last two contests, but he hasn’t actually gotten onto the court since he played a couple garbage-time minutes on February 13. He’s a candidate to be moved at the trade deadline.
  • While the Raptors‘ greatest need may be at center, the team could very well explore the market for wings and/or forwards this month as well. With that in mind, Blake Murphy of The Athletic considers some possible targets for Toronto, including Thaddeus Young, P.J. Tucker, and James Ennis.