|Irish Coffee: What next for Danny Ainge’s Celtics?||07.02.13 at 8:05 am ET|
Strap in, because this may take a while. The previous rebuilding phase lasted 22 years, and Kris Humphries is involved this time around. A locker room shared by the former Mr. Kardashian and Rajon Rondo might just ignite enough toxicity to blow these Celtics up from the inside out. That’s one option, I guess.
At least C’s president of basketball operations Danny Ainge acquired a handful of building blocks, adding an additional first-round draft pick in four of the next five seasons and clearing cap space in 2014. Whatever else he accomplishes over the next couple months, it will all be done with an eye toward next summer.
As a result, don’t expect a Josh Smith to join the Celtics during the NBA’s free-agency period that began on Monday. Ainge admitted as much when introducing “not star” rookie 7-footers Kelly Olynyk and Colton Iverson.
Sure, the Celtics could chase a sign-and-trade deal for Smith, ink Rondo’s high school roommate to double-digit millions and let a handful of wildly entertaining sixth-seeded seasons commence, but that wouldn’t get them much closer to the only thing that matters around here: An 18th banner. As Ainge said, “This is the Boston Celtics.”
Of course, Ainge also said, “We are not tanking. That’s ridiculous.” So, what exactly is he doing?
|Danny Ainge talks Dwight Howard, NBA free agency||07.01.13 at 9:56 pm ET|
While Danny Ainge told reporters in Mattapan that “free agency right now is not a priority for us,” the Celtics president of basketball operations inquired about free agent Lakers center Dwight Howard.
Ainge reportedly put a call in to gauge Howard’s interest in a sign-and-trade involving the C’s bitter rivals, but Howard’s representatives said, “No,” according to The Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn.
During a press conference introducing 7-foot rookies Kelly Olynyk and Colton Iverson, Ainge announced he is more interested in “cleaning up” the roster than lobbying a list of free agents that includes Howard, Josh Smith, Tyreke Evans and Monta Ellis.
Still, Ainge reiterated his stance on Rajon Rondo: The three-time All-Star point guard is a centerpiece worth building around, and the Celtics aren’t actively seeking a trade for him. That’s not to say they won’t pick up the phone when other teams inquire about Rondo, Brandon Bass, Jeff Green, Courtney Lee, Jared Sullinger and everybody else, including Olynyk — just as Howard’s agents answered Ainge’s call.
“Maybe the assumption is that we’ll give away any of our players,” Ainge told reporters from the Boston Center for Youth & Families Mildred Avenue Community Center. “There has been calls for all those guys, and maybe the assumption is we’re just changing everybody, but we’re not. We’re starting to get younger.”
Considering the departure of coach Doc Rivers and the pending trade of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to the Nets on July 12, the Celtics appear to be sinking deeper and deeper toward the 2014 NBA draft lottery, but Ainge assured Washburn, “We are not tanking. That’s ridiculous. This is the Boston Celtics.”
|Fact or fiction: Doc Rivers’ odd call to Boston media||06.26.13 at 8:41 pm ET|
So much for Doc Rivers not disputing Danny Ainge‘s take on the former Celtics coach’s departure to the Clippers. Two hours after telling the media in Los Angeles the only reason he’s coaching “is to win titles,” Rivers spun around in circles on a lengthy teleconference with reporters in Boston.
While Rivers should be lauded for his willingness to discuss his professional life and a decision he had every right to make — even interrupting the Clippers public relations staff when they tried to stop the call with “two more questions” — the 27-minute interview can only be described as confusing after Ainge and Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck shared similar opinions the last 24 hours about how it all went down.
So, let’s try to separate fact from fiction one quote at a time (thoughts in italics).
|Doc Rivers: Winning titles is ‘only reason I’m coaching’||at 3:39 pm ET|
As the Clippers introduced new vice president of basketball operations and coach Doc Rivers, he sat stone-faced for most of the press conference, offering no objection to former Celtics colleague Danny Ainge‘s version of events the past two weeks.
“Quite honestly,” said Rivers from L.A., “at this point in my life, that’s the only reason I’m coaching — is to try and win titles.”
After watching him coach in Boston for nine seasons, it was strange hearing Rivers using “we” and “us” when referencing the Clippers, but clearly he’s moved on from a team he no longer believed to be a contender. As C’s owner Wyc Grousbeck said Wednesday morning, “I don’t think he wanted to rebuild with us; I think he wanted to make his win-loss record better.”
Over the past 24 hours, Ainge and Grousbeck both stated their desire for Rivers to fulfill the three years remaining on his coaching contract in Boston, and Rivers never actually disputed their claims, although he deflected a bit.
“After the year, I had no plans of leaving and didn’t give it a lot of thought, honestly,” said Rivers. “After every year — and Danny knows me as well as anyone — I put everything I can into a season, and then, if you ask me immediately after the season, I’m not coming back. I’m going home. I’m just burnt out. I’m tired.
“This lasted a little longer, and so when Danny and I talked, I told him I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, and we just basically sat around as a team and talked about what’s the best way at that time to improve the Celtics, and we went into talking about different scenarios. A couple other teams came up, and Danny talked about assets — me and Kevin Garnett at the time — and then the name Clippers came up, and I thought, ‘Well, that’s interesting,’ and you’d be amazed how — from that point on — I really kind of stepped back. Danny kind of did the talking and would report back to me. I didn’t talk to you or anybody, so I was kind of left out. It was really interesting.
“One thing I would like to make clear: There were never any threats. ‘If you don’t get me here, I’m not doing this.’ ‘I’m not coming back.’ There was never any of that. It was just kind of a negotiation with Danny and [Clippers president] Andy Roeser, and if it all worked out, then I would consider it. That’s basically where it went to, and the closer we got to this thing actually happening is the more I got interested in it.”
Still, both Rivers and Ainge believed they would continue working together until early this week.
|Wyc Grousbeck on D&C: ‘We’re all square’ with Doc Rivers, although ‘it was not our idea’ for him to leave||at 9:37 am ET|
Danny Ainge said at a Tuesday press conference that it was Rivers’ idea to leave, dismissing reports that the Celtics initiated the change. Grousbeck concurred and said he’s sorry to see Rivers go.
“I would say a little disappointment,” Grousbeck said. “I’m where Danny was, and he clearly expressed it, which is we thought we’d be here for this five-year term with Doc. He was, as Danny said, he talked to Doc about staying and having longevity. And nine years is a long time, there’s no question. But 12 years is longer. So, we were planning for the long term with Doc because we think he’s one of those foundational guys.
“It was a good run, a couple of [NBA] Finals appearances. But it was not our idea.”
Grousbeck said Rivers’ decision was not shocking, as the parties have been talking for “three or four weeks,” but it was difficult to accept.
“It’s not a bolt out of the blue, it’s an ongoing discussion,” he said. “And it finally got to the point where he said, ‘Maybe it’s time.’ And we, over a period of time, ended up agreeing with him.”
Grousbeck insisted he has no animosity toward Rivers for wanting a different challenge at this stage.
“I talked to Doc the other day. I said, ‘Look, we’re all square. You’ve given us your heart and soul for nine years; we’ve given you a lot of support. I feel great about it. And I took some of your money on the golf course, buddy. So, we’re all good.’
“But I don’t feel he owes us more. I don’t feel he owes us the next three years. I think he’s entitled to take a look at the next three years. And he left in a way and on terms that got us some benefit back. So, I don’t feel misused or that we’re not even. I think we’re even. I just would have been willing to go forward with Doc. And now that we’re not — actually, it’s energized Danny. He’s got a list of coaching candidates — which we’re not going to discuss today. But he’s got a list of guys. He’s got a new spring in his step. And it’s energized Danny to rebuild, which is what’s necessary.”
Added Grousbeck: “I think Doc and we are even. I think those nine years, if you had told me this is how the nine years were going to go when we signed him, I would have been thrilled. I’m very happy with how it went. And we’re even.”
|Danny Ainge tells his side of the Doc Rivers saga||at 12:39 am ET|
WALTHAM — While he wouldn’t go so far as to say Doc Rivers “quit” on the Celtics, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge expressed his disappointment in the coach’s decision to accept a job with the Clippers.
“Doc is one of the top coaches in the league, so that will be a difficult challenge,” Ainge said in Tuesday’s press conference. “My feelings are: I had planned on Doc being our coach all along. We had discussions about him being a Gregg Popovich, a Jerry Sloan, a Red Auerbach — breaking Red Auerbach’s all-time win record as a Celtic and being here for a long time — so I had never really thought about this day until May 8.”
Ainge scripted a clear timeline of what led to The Indecision this past week, when discussion with the Clippers about compensation for allowing Rivers to walk from the three years and $21 million left on his contract heated and cooled several times. Ultimately, Ainge landed an unprotected 2015 first-round pick for Rivers.
- May 3: The Celtics lost to the Knicks, and to Ainge’s surprise Rivers expressed concern about returning.
- May 8: Ainge approached a still hesitant Rivers, who asked what his options might be moving forward.
- May 9: The Celtics sent Rivers a letter alerting the coach they expected him to fulfill his contract.
- “In subsequent weeks”: A still uncertain Rivers expressed to Ainge his interest in the Clippers’ opening.
“And even then, it was so early after the season, I didn’t think it was really going to happen until [Monday],” said Ainge. “We really never were close to a deal with the Clippers in spite of the reports, so I think that this is part of the business. I don’t want to get too emotional. Doc’s going to a great situation — a place he chose to go and a place he wants to be. It’s not a place that I chose for him to go or a place that I want him to be.”
Ainge thanked his former coach for nine years of service to the Celtics and admitted, “We don’t have a championship without Doc Rivers in 2008,” but also made it clear that this was very much not his preference.
|Danny Ainge: ‘We don’t feel any urgency’ to find the next coach as part of busy offseason||06.25.13 at 11:10 pm ET|
But deep down the president of basketball operations of the Celtics knows that next month will be a challenging one for him and his staff as they try to juggle finding the right coach with the NBA draft on Thursday with free agency, the Paul Pierce question, the Kevin Garnett dilemma and the Rajon Rondo factor.
That’s a lot for general manager who hasn’t had to search for a head coach in nine seasons.
‘I do watch coaches often as I travel around and scout NBA games and college games and so forth, so I do have some people in mind,’ Ainge told reporters Tuesday. ‘But because I haven’t had any contact or really had any consulting with my staff on all of this, I’m not really prepared at this time to address any of those questions.
‘The only wrinkle [to our off-season] now is that we need to get a new coaching staff, and we don’t feel any urgency with that. We don’t need a coach before the draft, we don’t need a coach before summer league. We don’t need that to happen fast, so we’ll take our time and look, unless our No. 1 choice makes a quick choice.’
Ainge needs to decide by next Monday if he is going to try and trade Pierce, buy out his $5 million option or have him stay.
Ainge is also reportedly busy consummating a sign-and-trade for Atlanta’s talented but sometimes inconsistent forward Josh Smith.
There’s the question of what to do with Garnett and Rondo. Does Garnett want to even be around in Boston without Rivers and with the franchise facing a rebuild? How will Rondo work out with the next head coach? Are they really pieces Ainge wants to build the future of the team around?
So many questions to be answered in the next several weeks.
One thing Ainge has going for him is a growing supply of picks. The trade of Doc Rivers to the Clippers gives the Celtics an unprotected first-round pick in 2015.
‘It’s an unprotected pick. You never know what can happen,’ Ainge told the media. ‘There’s been all sorts of circumstances that have happened in our league. To get an unprotected pick is very difficult to get in our league.’ ‘It’s an unprotected pick. You never know what can happen,’ Ainge told the media. ‘There’s been all sorts of circumstances that have happened in our league. To get an unprotected pick is very difficult to get in our league.’
The Celtics now have eight former first-round draft picks under contract for next season who are all under the age of 28.
And with the Clippers’ first-round pick in the 2015 draft, Boston now has 13 picks over the next five NBA drafts. Six of those picks (their own five, plus L.A.’s) will be in the first round. The C’s also possess two second-round picks in the 2014, 2015 and 2017 NBA Drafts, as well as one second-rounder in 2016. All in all, the Celtics, according to NetsDaily.com, are one of seven NBA teams to own all of their first-round picks in the next six drafts.
So, Ainge has plenty of reason to be grateful to Rivers, one NBA title, another Eastern Conference championship, an appearance in the Eastern finals in 2012 and now an unprotected first-round pick.
Rivers leaves as the third-winningest coach in Celtics history, with 416 regular-season victories. Only Red Auerbach (910-450) and Tommy Heinsohn (427-263) have more wins. Rivers also compiled a 58-46 record in the playoffs.
‘We don’t have a championship without Doc Rivers coaching,’ said Ainge. ‘He did an unbelievable job. He has a long history of success with us in the last nine years, and we wish him the best in Los Angeles.
‘I don’t think there should be resentment,’ Ainge proclaimed. ‘I know how Boston fans are and all that, but I really don’t feel like there should be resentment. This may be good for everybody. This may be a win-win. Time will tell.’