Danny Ainge

Central Notes: Cavs, Bulls, Pistons, Bogdanovic

While the Cavaliers could still land an impact player with the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick (No. 8 overall), the on-court results from the Kyrie Irving trade have been extremely underwhelming to date. Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder were ineffective in Cleveland and were flipped at the deadline for players like Jordan Clarkson, Rodney Hood, and Larry Nance, who haven’t made an impact in the postseason.

As Jason Lloyd of The Athletic writes, at least one Cavaliers player was ready to call the Irving blockbuster a net negative for Cleveland several months ago. After one bad loss during the winter, the unnamed player turned to Lloyd and said, Danny Ainge is a f***ing thief.” Given the results of the Eastern Conference Finals so far, with the Irving-less Celtics up 2-0 on the Cavs, that player probably isn’t alone in his view.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • While Bulls executive John Paxson acknowledged that versatile wings are more important than ever in today’s NBA, that doesn’t mean the club is zeroed in on acquiring such a player with the No. 7 pick. As Mark Strotman of NBC Sports Chicago writes, Paxson said the Bulls intend to take the best available player. Paxson added that the club won’t rule out the possibility of trading up, though he admitted that’s “hard to do.”
  • In a separate article for NBC Sports Chicago, Strotman lays out a case for why the Bulls should use the No. 7 pick to select Missouri prospect Michael Porter Jr., who is recovering from back surgery.
  • The Pistons no longer have their 2018 first-round pick, but they’ll be on the lookout for second-round options at this week’s combine. Vince Ellis of The Detroit Free Press identifies five names to watch, while Keith Langlois of Pistons.com details why the club could draft a player at any position.
  • Speaking of the Pistons, they don’t yet have a new head of basketball operations in place, so GM Jeff Bower continues to run the front office — despite the fact that his contract is set to expire on June 30. Writing for The Detroit Free Press, Ellis has the story on Bower’s unusual situation.
  • Count Pacers forward Bojan Bogdanovic among the players who intends to represent his country during this summer’s 2019 World Cup qualifiers. As he tells FIBA.basketball, Bogdanovic will look to turn things around for Croatia after the squad went 1-3 in the first two sets of qualifiers.

Atlantic Notes: Ainge, Hayward, Fizdale, Casey

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.”

Celtics Notes: Smart, Rozier, Ainge, Youth, Brown

There was a point this year when it seemed that injuries and an off-the-court family issue could end Marcus Smarts season. However, he’s back now and helping the Celtics as they try to get past the Sixers and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. ESPN’s Chris Forsberg writes that Smart’s ability to help Boston in multiple facets of the game has been a help to their case.

“I think it all starts with his competitiveness,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said. “He has the ability to make plays that nobody else makes. Like, whether it’s ripping the ball out of somebody’s hands, or the [offensive rebound] he made against [Joel] Embiid where he laid it in and got fouled [in Game 1]. We have a number of clips over the years of him rebounding over the top in traffic where no guard can get that ball. He brings a contagious element to our team that you can try all you want to quantify it, but other than winning and losing, you can’t quantify it.”

Smart’s defense on Ben Simmons in Game 1 is specifically highlighted as one of the ways Smart helped Boston. Forsberg’s story also covers Smart’s mother battling cancer and how she still supports him back home in Texas.

Check out more Celtics notes below:

  • In a separate story, Forsberg writes that the Celtics’ youngsters have been playing like veterans, which has enabled the team to play well in the face of multiple injuries.
  • Entering the offseason, Terry Rozier envisioned himself as the Celtics’ starting point guard leading the team to the playoffs. However, the acquisition of Kyrie Irving put that vision on hold. Then, Irving went under the knife and Rozier found himself leading the Celtics through the postseason, Yaron Weitzman of Bleacher Report details.
  • The Celtics’ roster has withstood massive injuries to Gordon Hayward, Irving, Smart, and others. Taylor C. Snow of NBA.com writes that president and general manager, Danny Ainge, deserves the credit for the Celtics’ depth and resilience.
  • Jaylen Brown, who seemed doubtful for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals with a right hamstring strain, was upgraded to probable on Thursday, the Celtics announced. Brown did not start Game 2, but did play in the game.

Atlantic Notes: Mudiay, Ntilikina, Bruno, Ainge

The Knicks were interested in both Emmanuel Mudiay and Elfrid Payton as minutes winded down to the trade deadline and the team ultimately decided to swing a deal for Mudiay. Both former lottery pick point guards have been disappointments but Mudiay may have been the more sensible target for the Knicks, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes.

While Mudiay and Payton both come with some downside, they are also both still young and possess talent. Berman quotes two executives who believe Mudiay — who is still under contract for one additional season beyond 2017/18 — is a better fit for the Knicks. The Knicks also gave up Doug McDermott, who was not in New York’s future plans, Berman notes.

In 42 games this season, Mudiay has averaged 8.5 PPG and 2.9 APG.

Check out other Knicks news below:

  • While adding another young point guard could be interpreted as the Knicks losing faith in Frank Ntilikina, he is not worried about the acquisition, Newsday’s Al Iannazzone writes. Ntilikina views the addition of Mudiay as a positive that will benefit both sides.  We’re not competing against each other,” Ntilikina said. “We’re going to bring each other to the top to make the Knicks a competitive team. We can both play with the ball, we can both play off the ball, so it might be great for us.”
  • The Raptors‘ trade of Bruno Caboclo to the Kings for Malachi Richardson may not be a major deal on a blockbuster deadline day but it has salary cap implications, Josh Lewenberg of TSN writes. Trading Caboclo sheds nearly $1MM in salary, which gives Toronto flexibility to fill its 15th roster spot without going over the tax line.
  • Despite numerous rumors entering the deadline, the Celtics ultimately kept Marcus Smart. Greg Monroe‘s deal with Boston also became official and the chase for Eastern Conference supremacy continues. Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe spoke to general manager Danny Ainge about the deadline, Smart staying in Boston, and the team’s future — including plans to explore the buyout market.

Celtics Notes: Ainge, Draft Picks, Zeller

Of all the moves that Celtics general manager Danny Ainge has made at the helm of the Celtics organization, hiring head coach Brad Stevens could be his best, Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald writes. When Stevens was hired, he had no prior NBA head coaching experience but Ainge said that his communication and work ethic made him a natural fit.

“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,” Ainge said to Bulpett. “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.”

The Celtics currently own the best record in the Eastern Conference at 30-10, three games ahead of the Cavaliers. While the roster has changed a lot since Stevens took over for Doc Rivers, Stevens’ ability to manage and guide the team to winning has not changed.

Check out other Celtics news below:

  • As the Nets win more games, the Celtics could not be happier as it reduces the chance that the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick — which was sent from Boston to Cleveland as part of the Kyrie Irving trade — being first overall, A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston writes. It’s the last remnant of the lopsided 2013 trade that sent future Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn for a series of first-round picks.
  • Former Celtics center and current Net Tyler Zeller recently spoke to Jared Weiss of Celtics Wire to discuss his three-year stint in Beantown. Zeller discussed how he accepted a constantly changing role in Boston as he went from playing 82 games (59 starts) in 2014/15 to an occasional reserve last year.

Celtics Rumors: Thomas, All-Star Game, Irving, Schedule

Celtics GM Danny Ainge is baffled by Isaiah Thomas recent criticism of the team’s former medical staff, he said in a weekly radio interview that was relayed by Ben Rohrbach of Yahoo Sports. Thomas called out the Celtics in an ESPN interview, saying he would have sat out last postseason if he knew he’d have a long-term recovery from his hip injury. Speaking on 98.5 FM The Sports Hub, Ainge said he was blindsided by the comment. “As you remember, he had a pretty special playoff run, including a 53-point game, but I really don’t remember what he’s referring to,” Ainge said. The Celtics did not retain their trainer and strength coach but Ainge declared it had nothing to do with their handling of Thomas’ injury.

In other news regarding the Celtics:

  • The team hasn’t hosted an All-Star Game since 1964 but owner Wyc Grousbeck is hoping to change that, Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe reports. The team has been reluctant to apply for hosting the annual event because of the way the league distributes tickets but Grousbeck is willing to accept its terms. “We can’t get all of our fans into the game, all of our season ticket-holders,” Grousbeck said. “We have a season ticket-holder wait list and relatively few of our season ticket-holders would be able to come to a game that we host. But nonetheless, we’re going to get a (application) package and see if we can work something out.” The earliest that could happen is 2022 because the league has already booked other venues prior to that year.
  • Coach Brad Stevens has managed Kyrie Irving‘s minutes and the star point guard is fine with that approach, according to A. Sherrod Blakely of NBCSports.com. Irving is averaging 32.2 MPG, compared to 35.1 MPG in his last season with the Cavaliers. “Whatever is needed, I’m willing to do for the team,” Irving told the assembled media. “And I know Brad will echo the same things, so I trust what he’s got going on.”
  • Fatigue is a factor in the Celtics’ inconsistent play of late, Chris Forsberg of ESPN notes. Boston has endured a front-loaded schedule  in which it plays half of its games in 79 days, Forsberg points out. The Celtics will play their final 41 games over a 97-day stretch.

Celtics Planned To Use Hayward As No. 2 Playmaker

The Celtics planned to run a Warriors-style offense this season prior to Gordon Hayward‘s serious leg injury on opening night, Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated reports. The coaching staff wanted to utilize Hayward as a second ballhandler with Kyrie Irving running the attack. Many of Boston’s sets centered around Irving and Hayward playing a two-man game in the mold of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson with the Boston duo making plays off weakside screens and pindowns, Jenkins continues. Forward Al Horford would have also had a playmaking role, much like the Warriors’ Draymond Green, spacing the floor and distributing the ball to cutters. Without Hayward, Irving has been relied upon more as a scorer and Horford’s playmaking duties have been expanded, Jenkins adds.

Other nuggets from the SI piece on Hayward include:

  • GM Danny Ainge sees a healthy Hayward as the missing piece to a championship team. “What do we need? A versatile 6’8” defender who can switch one through four, handle the ball, create offense for others and make shots,” Ainge told Jenkins. “That’s what we need. That’s Gordon Hayward.”
  • It’s not out of the question Hayward could return this season if the Celtics make a deep playoff run. Hayward is trying to be realistic about his situation, so that he doesn’t set himself up for disappointment. “Wishing to be on the court, trying to be on the court, those are the thoughts that kept me up at night,” he told Jenkins.
  • Hayward’s predicament led to deeper bond among his teammates. That helped the Celtics get off to a strong start without him. “I think Gordon’s injury made us closer,” guard Terry Rozier told Jenkins.

Atlantic Notes: Nets, Ujiri, Porzingis

There’s no denying that the Nets were in a pickle when Sean Marks took over from Billy King as general manager of the franchise. In the time since, Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer writes, the former Spurs‘ staffer has changed the culture of the franchise by consistently and patiently strategizing ways to improve.

Another transformative figure within the Nets organization is head coach Kenny Atkinson. O’Connor details Atkinson’s hands-on approach and willingness to get in the foxhole with his players.

The results speak for themselves. While the Nets don’t exactly strike fear in their opponents yet, they’ve managed to amass a solid cache of promising young players despite the previous regime having unloaded a bounty of picks in one of the worst trades in sports history.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Ex-Celtics big man and current Heat forward Jordan Mickey gives his former boss the benefit of the doubt regarding his release from the team. Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe tweets that Mickey was surprised about being waived in the summer but that he trusts that Danny Ainge knows what he’s doing.
  • Give Masai Ujiri more credit for his work with the Raptors, Tom Ziller of SB Nation writes. The Raps’ president of basketball operations has turned a fledgling squad into a consistent playoff team and now a potential contender, all without bottoming out.
  • Desperate to build enough strength to avoid injuries, Knicks forward Kristaps Porzingis has been working with famous personal trainer Carlon Colker, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News writes. The doctor and former MMA fighter has worked previously with Shaquille O’Neal and, uh, Justin Bieber.

Atlantic Notes: Celtics, Hollis-Jefferson, Ntilikina

The Celtics had a historically busy offseason, Chris Forsberg of ESPN writes, involved in so many major transactions that it’s hard to pinpoint just one single deal to to summarize the commotion. In early July it was announced that the C’s had agreed to a deal with Gordon Hayward, the only thing they lacked was cap room.

Given that it was a known fact around the league that the Celtics would need to shed salary, Boston executives were swamped with calls from teams looking to facilitate their Hayward signing by helping the club clear space. The eventual deal that was agreed upon – the one that would send Avery Bradley – to the Pistons – was struck at the last minute.

News of the deal was initially kept quiet while the Celtics and Pistons set out to inform the respective players involved but Detroit managed to get in contact with Marcus Morris well before the C’s were able to reach out to Bradley. Bradley, it’s said, had to find out that he was traded through Google.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Entering his third season with the Nets, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has yielded praise from head coach Kenny Atkinson, Greg Joyce of the New York Post writes. “I’ve really been kind of thrilled with his performance and that’s from the first day of training camp,” Atkinson said. “He’s matured. I think he’s more level, even-keeled, I think he’s more consistent. It’ll be huge if he can continue that type of demeanor, that type of approach.
  • In response to comments that Isaiah Thomas would, possibly, never talk to Danny Ainge ever again, the Celtics‘ general manager said the guard would forever be a part of franchise history. ESPN’s Chris Forsberg posted a transcript of Ainge’s exact comments on Twitter.
  • The Knicks have been impressed with Frank Ntilikina‘s eye for Xs and Os, Zach Braziller of the New York Post writes. The guard apparently picked up on new plays that Jeff Hornacek added to the rotation while watching a preseason game from home as he nursed a knee injury.

Celtics Notes: Ainge, Thomas, Rozier, Pierce

Celtics president Danny Ainge says the decision to include Isaiah Thomas in a package to get Kyrie Irving from Cleveland was “the toughest call I ever had to make,” relays Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Thomas shared his thoughts on the deal in an article this week for The Players Tribune, which Ainge called a “fabulous job.” As a former player, Ainge said he empathizes with the feelings of being sent from one organization to another.

Ainge refused to explain his motivation for the deal, but explained that he is always trying to improve the team. “It’s in everybody’s best interest that I don’t share all the reasons [for the trade],” he said. “But the bottom line is obviously I felt like it was the right thing for our franchise to do. But it’s a deep and complicated process. It’s not as simple as people think it is. … It’s not easy for these office people that become great friends with the players. There’s a reality that I see and that’s what makes any sort of trade challenging. But it’s just part of the world that we live in, but it’s got to be done. You’ve got to do what’s best for the franchise. The franchise is bigger than all of us. Bigger than one individual.”

There’s more out of Boston:

  • Terry Rozier wasn’t worried about being traded over the offseason, he told Adam Kaufman of 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston. Entering his third season with the Celtics, Rozier is among the most tenured players on the team following this summer’s roster shakeup. He said he concentrates on producing on the court and leaves the personnel decisions to the front office. “The guys up top, their job is to get the team together and our job is to play,” Rozier said. “I’m pretty sure Danny and all our organization who make the decisions will have us ready, put us in the right spot.”
  • Paul Pierce is ready to end his feud with Ray Allen, according to Adam Reisinger of ESPN. Pierce posted a photo on social media of himself and Allen, who are both serving as coaches for a celebrity basketball game in Shanghai, with a caption that read, “Time to get the band back together.” Allen has been an outcast with many of his former teammates since leaving Boston to sign with the Heat in 2012.