Danny Ainge

Northwest Notes: Ainge, Jazz, Hyland, Nowell, Wolves

Jazz owner Ryan Smith pitched Danny Ainge on the idea of taking on a role with the franchise during a recent trip to the Bahamas for Tiger Woods’ Hero World Challenge golf tournament, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Tim MacMahon. The two men had discussions during the trip about the concept of Ainge coming aboard, then worked out a deal when they returned to Utah, resulting in the Jazz hiring Ainge as their CEO and alternate governor.

“I’ve never been ready to talk about this before, but Ryan and I had a chance to spend a lot of time together,” Ainge said, explaining that he took the last six months to spend time with family and decompress. “We hashed it out, and we were both excited about this opportunity. I think it was the timing more than anything.”

Ainge will oversee Utah’s basketball operations and will work closely with general manager Justin Zanik, who will continue to run the day-to-day operations. As Eric Walden and Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune write, the team is enthusiastic about the idea of a “collaborative” approach to the front office and isn’t all that interested in establishing a linear hierarchy in which one person ultimately makes all the decisions.

“If you’re in the league, everyone knows to call Justin right now. I think that’s pretty clear,” Smith said. “(But) I think when it comes to decision-making, we’re the kind of culture where it doesn’t really work that way. … When it comes to that, you want to be right a lot more than you’re wrong, because some decisions aren’t clear. Bringing Danny on board helps increase our chances of getting that right.”

Sources close to Ainge told Tony Jones and Jared Weiss of The Athletic that the veteran executive always wanted a Jerry West-type role that would give him the flexibility to play plenty of golf and spend time with his grandchildren. He’ll work with the Jazz every day, but won’t be putting in the 16- and 18-hour days that he became accustomed to in Boston.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Dan Clayton of Salt City Hoops, writing for The Salt Lake Tribune, provides a trade primer for the Jazz, examining the team’s needs, expendable assets, and possible targets.
  • Nuggets guard Bones Hyland was held out of Wednesday’s game for a violation of team rules, but will be available on Friday in Atlanta, according to reports from Harrison Wind of DNVR Sports and Mike Singer of The Denver Post (Twitter links).
  • Timberwolves guard Jaylen Nowell has been out of the rotation for most of the season, but has appeared in the last there games and logged a season-high 15 minutes last Friday. Nowell is hoping that he can carve out a more regular role, as Chris Hine of The Star Tribune writes. The stakes are particularly high for the 22-year-old, whose 2021/22 salary still isn’t fully guaranteed.
  • Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic takes an in-depth look at the chemistry that’s developing between the Timberwolves‘ two young franchise cornerstones, Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns. “If me and KAT just lock in here with each other, I feel like we will win so many more games,” Edwards said of his star teammate. “… He dominates, man. He can shoot, he can drive, he can pass, he can do everything. So playing with him makes my game a lot easier.”

Jazz Hire Danny Ainge As Alternate Governor, CEO

1:29pm: The Jazz have officially announced Ainge’s hiring, issuing a press release to confirm the news.

Rarely do you get an opportunity to come into a franchise that is this close to being a special team,” Ainge told Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link). “It’s a very unique opportunity.”


12:48pm: The Jazz are hiring Danny Ainge to be the franchise’s alternate governor and CEO, sources tell Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter link). The former Celtics executive will oversee Utah’s basketball operations, with Justin Zanik remaining in the general manager role, per Wojnarowski.

Since Ainge stepped down from his position in Boston earlier this year, Utah has been repeatedly cited as a potential landing spot for him. Ainge played his college ball at BYU and is close with team owner and governor Ryan Smith. Additionally, the Jazz have undergone some front office changes in 2021, having reassigned executive VP of basketball operations Dennis Lindsey to an advisory role, which opened the door to bring in someone new like Ainge.

At the time of Lindsey’s demotion, reports indicated that Zanik had essentially been running the day-to-day operations of the front office since 2019. It seems likely he’ll continue to do so, since Ainge recently suggested he’d prefer to join a new team as a “helper,” rather than as someone who works “18-hour days.”

Ainge’s title indicates he’ll be above Zanik in the front office hierarchy, but Wojnarowski says (via Twitter) the two executives will “work closely.”

Ainge previously served as the president of basketball operations in Boston from 2003-21. The Celtics made the postseason in all but three of his 18 seasons running the front office, taking home a championship in 2008. Ainge’s trades for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen helped lead the Celtics to that title.

The 2013 blockbuster deal that sent an aging Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Nets for a boatload of draft picks 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. However, while the C’s made three Eastern Finals appearances during Ainge’s last few years in Boston, that team could never quite get over the hump, with major additions like Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving not panning out as hoped.

In Utah, Ainge will inherit a roster that appears on the verge of title contention, with Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, Jordan Clarkson, Royce O’Neale, and Rudy Gay all locked up for multiple seasons.

Danny Ainge Open To “Right Role” With New Team

When Danny Ainge stepped down from his position as Boston’s president of basketball operations in June, the Celtics’ official statement indicated that he was “retiring” from his role with the franchise. However, reports at the time suggested Ainge likely wasn’t ready to retire from basketball altogether, and he confirmed as much this week in an interview with Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston.

“I’m not closing the book on other opportunities, but it’d have to be the right situation,” Ainge told Forsberg. “I’d have to be working with the right people in the right role. I don’t want to get back into 18-hour days. I don’t think that’s in anyone’s best interest, for that matter. But I know how much work it takes to be good at the job.

“At the same time, I have 40 years of experience in the NBA and I think I have a lot to offer some team that might see me as a helper to people in the organization. But yeah, just depending on what the role is.”

Ainge’s comments suggest he’s probably not prepared to take on another president of basketball operations job, given the commitment that position requires. And based on his résumé, it’s hard to imagine him taking on an assistant GM-type role. The most likely fit for Ainge might be as a senior advisor to a team’s head of basketball operations.

The Jazz and Trail Blazers have previously been cited as possibilities for Ainge. He’s close with Jazz owner Ryan Smith, and was born and raised in Oregon, having also spent a couple seasons in Portland as a player.

Both Northwest clubs have undergone some front office changes in the last year, with Justin Zanik replacing Dennis Lindsey as the head of basketball operations in Utah, while Neil Olshey was recently let go by the Blazers. However, it’s unclear whether either organization is eyeing Ainge as a candidate to be part of its revamped front office.

Trail Blazers Fire Neil Olshey

The Trail Blazers have fired general manager and president of basketball operations Neil Olshey, the team announced (via Twitter).

Olshey has been under a month-long investigation relating to his actions in the workplace, prompted by accusations of misconduct from at least one team employee. Workers have allegedly been subjected to “intimidation and profanity-laced tirades, among other bullying tactics” from Olshey.

The team addressed the investigation in a release announcing the move, stating that Olshey was terminated “due to violations of the Portland Trail Blazers’ Code of Conduct.”

“Out of respect for those who candidly participated in that privileged investigation, we will not release or discuss it,” the release states. “We are confident that these changes will help build a more positive and respectful working environment.”

Director of player personnel Joe Cronin will take over as interim general manager while the team searches for a permanent replacement, the release adds.

Two candidates who will likely receive consideration for the permanent job are Grizzlies VP of basketball affairs Tayshaun Prince and Spurs VP of basketball operations Brent Barry, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report (Twitter link). Former Celtics executive Danny Ainge may also be in the mix, tweets Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated.

A source tells Jason Quick of The Athletic that Olshey learned of his firing this morning (Twitter link). Olshey got no indication of the move during discussions Thursday night with vice chair Bert Kolde or team owner Jody Allen, Quick adds.

Olshey, 56, had served as Portland’s general manager since 2012, but there have been rumors for some time that his job was in jeopardy. In addition to the workplace investigation, Olshey has been under fire for the team’s string of first-round playoff exits and received criticism for not being more responsive about the hiring of Chauncey Billups as head coach in light of sexual assault allegations against Billups from 1997.

Several pressing issues will face Olshey’s replacement, notes Bobby Marks of ESPN (Twitter link). Damian Lillard has repeatedly expressed a desire to play for a contender, and the Blazers are currently in ninth place in the West at 11-12. The organization will also have to decide whether to hold on to Robert Covington and Jusuf Nurkic, who both have expiring contracts.

Western Notes: Blazers, Ainge, Lillard, Landale, Gay

It’s too early to say whether the Trail Blazersinvestigation into Neil Olshey‘s conduct will lead the franchise to make any major changes at the top of the front office. However, Howard Beck of SI.com said on the latest episode of The Crossover NBA Show that he wouldn’t be surprised if Danny Ainge‘s name is connected to the president of basketball operations role in Portland if the team looks to replace Olshey (hat tip to RealGM).

“I don’t know if Danny would take it, but I would expect Danny Ainge would be in the mix for a vacancy in Portland,” Beck said, admitting that he was putting the horse before the cart. “It’s one of the cities he’s been connected to over the years because of his history there.”

Ainge, who spent a couple seasons with the Blazers as a player, was also born and raised in Oregon, which is the “history” Beck is referring to. Ainge has shifted into a consultant role in Boston after stepping down as the Celtics’ head of basketball operations this summer.

Let’s round up a few more notes from around the Western Conference…

  • The NBA has acknowledged that its referees are still working to find the right balance between instituting the league’s new philosophy on foul calling and continuing to allow freedom of movement. Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard believes there’s still plenty of work to do, as Kurt Helin of NBC Sports relays. “I feel like the way the game is being officiated is unacceptable,” Lillard said on Tuesday night. “I don’t want to go too deep into it so they make a big deal out of it, but the explanations, the s–t that’s getting missed, I mean, come on. I felt like coming in, the rule change wouldn’t affect me, because I don’t do the trick the referees, the trick plays… (but) it’s just unacceptable.”
  • Spurs big man Jock Landale has been placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, according to Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News, who says it’s unclear whether or not Landale tested positive for COVID-19. The rookie is the second Spur to enter the protocols, joining fellow center Jakob Poeltl.
  • Rudy Gay, who signed with the Jazz in the offseason, is inching closer to making his debut for the team, writes Sarah Todd of The Deseret News. The team said on Tuesday that Gay has been taking part in “controlled court work,” and Todd says he’s begun participating in 3-on-3 action. Utah will provide another update on the veteran forward on Monday.

Northwest Notes: McCollum, Lillard, Simmons, Murray

Trade rumors have been swirling around Damian Lillard since the Trail Blazers were knocked out of the playoffs, but backcourt partner CJ McCollum believes Lillard is “all in” for the new season, writes Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian. Appearing on a podcast with ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, McCollum discussed Lillard, new coach Chauncey Billups and several other topics.

“I don’t want to speak for him, but having a close relationship, he and I talk every day, or every other day, from sharing memes to sending videos to each other to serious talks about our season, what it takes to win, what it’s going to takes to win a championship, I have a pretty good sense of where he’s at,” McCollum said of Lillard. “And I think his goal is to win a championship. I think, at the end of the day, that’s what we all want. We want to put ourselves in the best position to win a championship. But I mean, he’s all in. I think at this stage I can say that he’s all in. He just wants to win at the end of the day.”

Lillard held a press conference last month while preparing for the Olympics to deny a report that he was about to ask Portland’s front office for a trade. Although he hasn’t demanded a deal, Lillard has communicated his desire to upgrade the roster to give the Blazers a better chance to compete for a title.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Michael Rand of The Star Tribune examines the latest rumors about the Timberwolves‘ interest in Ben Simmons, concluding that Minnesota would like to acquire Simmons but doesn’t have the assets to make a deal. Rand suggests an offer of D’Angelo Russell, Jaden McDaniels and at least one first-round pick, which he concedes still may not be enough to interest the Sixers. Daryl Morey, Philadelphia’s president of basketball operations, is looking for a star in return, so the Wolves might need to get other teams involved to have a chance at Simmons.
  • March is a “reasonable target date” to expect Nuggets guard Jamal Murray to start playing again, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post. That would be 11 months since his surgery for a torn ACL. Denver targeted a scoring guard in the draft to make up for the loss of Murray, Singer adds, and came away with Bones Hyland.
  • Jazz owner Ryan Smith tells Ben Anderson of KSL Sports that fans shouldn’t read anything into his golf outings with former Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. There have been rumors that Ainge might be considered for a position in Utah’s front office, but Smith says they have been playing together for a long time. “I’ve played golf with Danny Ainge for 20 years,” Smith said. “I know the media likes to write about it like there’s this thing going on with Danny, but Danny has been a mentor and a friend for 20 years.”

And-Ones: Lawson, Tobey, Lin, Ainge, Alkins

Former Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson has signed with Kolossos Rhodes, a team in the Greek League, per a team press release. According to Ennio Terrasi Borghesan of Sportando, Lawson originally signed with the Greek club last January, but was unable to leave China to join the team due to travel complications.

Lawson, who is still only 33 years old, had several seasons of borderline All-Star level play for the Nuggets before off-court issues derailed him. The 5’11” point guard has averaged 26+ PPG and 8.7+ APG the last two seasons in China. This stint marks his first time in the European leagues since he played with BC Zalgiris during the 2011 NBA lockout.

We have more news from around the world of basketball:

  • Mike Tobey, who played in two games for the Hornetsduring the 2016/17 season, had a strong showing for the Slovenian Olympic team alongside Luka Doncic in Tokyo, averaging 13.7 PPG, 10.5 RPG and 2.5 APG while shooting 38% from three. But Marc Stein reports that Tobey has a significant buyout with his current team of Valencia in Spain, making a return to the NBA a complicated proposition, at least in the near future.
  • Former Knick – and NBA champion with the Raptors – Jeremy Lin tested positive for COVID-19 upon landing in Shanghai, tweets Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Lin said he is vaccinated, and is only experiencing minor symptoms.
  • Danny Ainge may not be with the Celtics anymore, but he calls his current status “taking a break,” rather than “retired,” according to an interview with A. Sherrod Blakely. “I’m pretty sure I don’t want to re-enter to the level I was at, for sure,” Ainge said. “I’m enjoying what I’m doing now. I’m in no rush.”
  • Rawle Alkins plans to sign with Ukraine’s Dnipro, according to our JD Shaw (Twitter link). The 23-year-old 6’5 guard from the University of Arizona played 10 games for the Bulls during the 2018/19 season.

Western Notes: Leonard, George, Mavericks, Jazz, Ainge, Suns

Despite Kawhi Leonard having the ability to decline his $36MM player option and enter free agency this summer, the pairing of Leonard and Paul George is likely to continue with the Clippers, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times opines.

Leonard and George remain one of the league’s most formidable duos on both ends of the floor. This season’s run was cut short due to Leonard’s knee injury in round two, with the Clippers subsequently losing 4-2 to the Suns in the Western Conference Finals.

“We’ve made great connections; I think we’ve both grown, myself and Kawhi, together,” George said after the team’s season-ending loss, as relayed by Greif. “I think we really enjoy being teammates, and we see what we can be and what we can do.

“So, I’m happy. I’m happy to be his teammate. I was very excited. Proud of what we accomplished. … I think we’ve got a good foundation.”

There’s more out of the Western Conference tonight:

  • Mavericks CEO Cynt Marshall had an extensive conversation with new head coach Jason Kidd about his 2001 domestic abuse charge before he was hired, Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News writes. Kidd accepted his position with the Mavericks last month. He won a championship with the team in 2011 and most recently served as an assistant coach with the Lakers.
  • Former Celtics president Danny Ainge said that there’s “nothing going on” between him and the Jazz at this point, despite rumors he could join the team as an advisor, per Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe. Ainge recently departed from the Celtics after nearly two decades with the franchise.
  • Mark Faller of The Arizona Republic examines how the Suns went from 19 wins in 2018/19 to the NBA Finals this season, calling it the best turnaround story in sports. Phoenix, led by a star backcourt of Chris Paul and Devin Booker, will play Milwaukee in Game 1 of the Finals on Tuesday.

Northwest Notes: Beasley, Blazers’ Patch, Ainge, Timberwolves

Michael Beasley has agreed to play with the Trail Blazers’ summer league team in Las Vegas next month, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. Beasley didn’t play in the NBA the last two seasons. He was signed as a substitute player with the Nets last summer but the contract was voided after he tested positive for the coronavirus.

The second overall pick in the 2008 draft, Beasley hasn’t played in the NBA since the 2018/19 campaign, when he averaged 7.0 PPG and 2.3 RPG in 26 games (10.7 MPG) for the Lakers. He was traded to the Clippers at the ’19 deadline and subsequently waived.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • The Blazers have entered into a jersey patch agreement with StormX, Casey Holdahl of the team’s website writes. StormX is a company based out of Seattle that features an app which allows users to earn rewards, which are then paid out in cryptocurrency. They are the first NBA team to have a cryptocurrency as their jersey patch partner.
  • Danny Ainge became a BYU legend 40 years ago and perhaps it’s time for him to return to Utah in an executive role with the Jazz, Jeff Call of the Deseret News opines. Ainge stepped down from his post with the Celtics but he still wants to be involved with the game, There have been rumors that Ainge could join the Jazz in an advisory role.
  • The Timberwolves traded away their lottery pick and are pushed up against the luxury tax. ESPN’s Bobby Marks explores Minnesota’s potential offseason moves, noting that the team is limited to the $5.9MM taxpayer midlevel exception if it wants to sign a free agent. The Timberwolves could also choose to move some of their $35MM in expiring contracts, a group that includes Ricky RubioJuan HernangomezJake Layman and Josh Okogie.

Jazz Rumors: Lindsey, Snyder, Azubuike, Wade, Ainge, Battier

Dennis Lindsey‘s transition from his executive VP of basketball operations position with the Jazz into an advisory role was framed as Lindsey’s call, but it was more of an ownership decision, according to Andy Larsen and Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune.

As Larsen and Walden explain in an in-depth story, new Jazz owner Ryan Smith is making some changes to the front office — director of pro player personnel David Fredman was also told this week that his contract isn’t being renewed.

One factor in the decision to reassign Lindsey was a “long-running disconnect” between the executive and head coach Quin Snyder, per the Tribune’s report. According to Larsen and Walden, Lindsey and Snyder had numerous disagreements both on and off the court, including not seeing eye to eye on rotation and roster decisions. Snyder – along with many members of the front office – were frustrated by the selection of Udoka Azubuike in the first round of the 2020 draft, per Larsen and Walden.

Given Utah’s success during the 2020/21 season, Lindsey and Snyder were on better terms during the last year, but several people in the organization still felt that this week’s announcement reflected a feud being settled. “Quin won,” one source told The Tribune.

Here’s more on the Jazz’s front office shakeup:

  • While Lindsey is now an advisor in the Jazz’s front office, there’s an expectation that he’ll seek a job with another team, according to Larsen and Walden.
  • Dwyane Wade has “added his voice” to front office discussions, but isn’t taking a day-to-day role in basketball and roster decisions, per Larsen and Walden.
  • If former Celtics executive Danny Ainge joins the Jazz, it will likely be in an advisory role, says Tony Jones of The Athletic.
  • Jones, Larsen, and Walden all say more front office additions are expected. Multiple reporters, including Jones, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, and Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald suggest that Wade’s former teammate Shane Battier is one candidate to join the basketball operations department. Battier worked in the Heat’s front office from 2017-21, but recently left that position and is now just a consultant for Miami.