ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning to talk about the Celtics’ hiring of Brad Stevens  and the team’s rebuilding process.
“I like the hire,” Smith said. “I think he’s a bright, young coach. I think Danny Ainge deserves a lot of credit, did a phenomenal job in plucking him out of the college game. I think when you consider what he brings to the table, not just in terms of his acumen as a coach but his temperament, I think that goes a long way towards helping the Boston Celtics  basically resurrect themselves. Because where they are right now, obviously they’re going to be struggling for quite some time. You’ve got to remember, this is a team that’s been plucked. They’re rebuilding now. [Kevin Garnett ] is gone, Paul Pierce  is gone. You’ve got all of this stuff going on. In my opinion, even though they’re talking about keeping [Rajon] Rondo, I think Rondo should be gone. You’ve just got to start anew.
“In the end, what it comes down to is that this man knows basketball He’s a bright young mind. He’s not the kind of guy like Rick Pitino  — as great as Rick Pitino is as a coach, we all know that he’s the kind of individual that really pushes the envelope to some degree and was screaming and pacing around like a bat out of hell. Trying to do it for 82 games, that kind of stuff wears on professional athletes getting paid millions of dollars. The kind of temperament that Brad Stevens brings to the table I think is incredibly beneficial to the Boston Celtics. And I think they deserve a lot of credit for picking him as their guy to succeed Doc Rivers . I think it’s a tremendous hire.”
Ainge has insisted the team is not tanking, but Smith puts little faith in that statement.
“I think that’s kind of a lie, to be quite honest with you,” Smith said. “Listen, I’m not trying to denigrate Danny Ainge in any way. But the fact of the matter is, you lose KG, you lose Paul Pierce, you go in a different direction even though Rondo is here. You’re clearly in rebuilding mode. There’s no way around this.
“And if you didn’t think you were in rebuilding mode, Brad Stevens would not have gotten a six-year deal. This is a guy you plucked out of college, you gave him a six-year deal worth about $22 million. He’s getting pair nearly 4 million a year. There’s plenty of coaches in this league who have coached in this league, who have a modicum of success, that are not getting paid the salary that Brad Stevens is getting paid. You know why you had to pay him those dollars? It wasn’t just to pluck him away from a mid-major like Butler. It was to ask him to stay the course, because you know this is going to be a long way back to prominence. That’s what this is.
“So, Danny Ainge can tell you what he wants to. I respect the man, I respect what he’s accomplished. And I certainly am not trying to denigrate him in any way. But that’s a damn lie, what he just said right there. I’m sorry.”
Looking at the Rondo situation, Smith said it would be beneficial for both sides if the mercurial point guard was not part of the rebuilding efforts.
“I think Rondo is a winner,” Smith said. “Regardless of what people want to say about him and in terms of his temperament and things of that nature, this dude is as competitive as they come. And I don’t think that he’s somebody that’s really, really interested in ingratiating himself with a losing situation. And so as a result of that, you’re asking a lot from this guy to go from what he has been accustomed to, to settling for losing games.
“Yeah, it’s nice to be the face of the franchise or what have you. But do you want to be the face of a franchise losing 45 or 50 games in a season because you simply don’t have the talent? Rondo’s a champion. He’s one of the elite point guards in this game when healthy, despite his struggles from the perimeter as a shooter. I don’t think he can sit there and take this for so long.
“So, to me, you’re a championship contender — you’ve got teams, for example, that are in desperate need of some kind of point play. Rondo’s your man. And I think that he has tremendous value. And if you’re Danny Ainge, it’s something that you’re going to entertain, because there’s going to be a lot of guys out there that you’re going to be capable of having a shot at getting simply because you have Rondo to swap.”