This afternoon, it was reported that Danny Ainge would be stepping down after eighteen years as President of Basketball Operations, and Brad Stevens is stepping down as Head Coach but will be the new President of Basketball Operations. It is a new era for the Boston Celtics but wasn’t Ainge and Stevens going to change the NBA landscape with NBA reporters, wondering who would they rather pick in an expansion team; a player or Brad Stevens? Seven years later, Stevens got burned out.
Ainge had all these picks from the famous Brooklyn trade and no finals appearance later. So, how did we get here?
The Boston media for years has told us how good Ainge and Stevens are and were going to be with Stevens being called the next genius in Boston, with Ainge having the cabinet filled with trade assets for the next decade. Even though I am a part of #Heattwitter, I will say that I do like Stevens as a head coach, but the past three seasons for him have been rough. Kyrie Irving’s last year was rough for everyone in Boston, and Stevens had a hard time controlling the locker room with a lot of personalities. But to be fair, what coach could of handle Irving last season in Boston?
Then, the Gordan Hayward thing in Boston never worked out the way everyone thought it would be. Hayward had that nasty ankle injury, and when he got injured, young guys like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown got more touches, and the following year, that’s where the problems happen. With Hayward and Irving missing the whole year, Brown and Tatum made it by making it to a Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals.
The next year is where chemistry took a hit. It didn’t help that Stevens has known Hayward since he was in high school and coached him in college. With that being said, the next year, when Hayward was back in the lineup, Hayward came out struggling, and his teammates were not happy with Stevens giving Hayward chance after chance. It rubbed a lot of players wrong in that locker room.
The whole year was filled with Irving drama and that whole year was a mess., leading Boston to lose in the second round to the Milwaukee Bucks in an ugly fashion. The following year, Boston had a way better year, but like everyone in the world, the world paused due to Covid. Boston did a fair job in the bubble but lost to the Miami Heat where Stevens got out-coached bad by Erik Spoelstra.
After an up and down year this year, Stevens had enough of being a head coach and got tried. After a while, hearing the same voice over and over again gets old. Stevens’s time in Boston was filled with the media crowing him because it’s Boston, and to be fair, Stevens did go far in the playoffs when he had Isiah Thomas on his team. Stevens got all the shine, but when his team had expectations, he fell short.
The Danny Ainge era is over. If I had to guess, Boston fans are properly happy that Ainge is moving on, even though Ainge landed a championship in 2008, landing Kevin Garnett from his friend Kevin Mchale, who was heavily involved in helping out his buddy Ainge. But, to be fair, Ainge did acquire Ray Allen, and solid role players in James Posey, Eddie House, and P.J Brown. Also, keeping Rajon Rondo in the Garnett trade. With already having Paul Pierce, Boston was set for a title run, with winning in their first-year title.
After that, Boston made it to one more finals but lost in seven, then Boston has not been back in the finals. After a couple of years of making the playoffs, Ainge decided to clean the roster, and trade Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry to the Brooklyn Nets for Brooklyn’s 2014, 2016, and 2018 first-round picks with the rights to pick swaps for 2017. It one of the best trades in NBA history, which Ainge does get a ton of respect for making that trade. With Boston struggling for a couple of years, Boston had some nice draft picks in Kelly Olynyk, Marcus Smart, and Terry Rozier. Ainge shocked a lot of people drafting Jaylen Brown third overall in the 2016 draft.
I think Ainge’s best move was getting the first pick in the 2017 draft, and trading down to number three to select Jayson Tatum, who Ainge was going to pick number one anyways. Back to back really nice moves for Ainge. But, Ainge’s move later that summer really made players not want to go to Boston. On August 22, 2017, Ainge made another blockbuster deal, trading fan favorite Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, and Ante Zizic for Kyrie Irving. Thomas was coming off an All-star year, and a bad hip, and losing his sister in a devastating car crash. Thomas meant so much to the city of Boston, and lost a big contract playing on a bad hip, only to get traded a couple of months later. That did not go over well with other players around the league, and that matters.
Yes, you do that trade every day of the week, but it just rubbed players in the league the wrong way. Ainge, again, got Irving for nothing, so people were thinking that Irving in Boston would be on the brink of another title run. Well, let’s just say Irving’s time in Boston is the reason why I am writing this today. It went awful with Irving’s up and down attitude; it just didn’t work from the jump.
Do we remember when Irving said to the crowd that he would be back if they allow him? Can’t blame Ainge for that trade not working out because like I said before, Ainge got Irving for nothing. Where it does mess up Boston’s plan is not being on good terms with Irving, which made it easier for Anthony Davis and Klutch Sports stating that if Boston were to trade for Davis, then he would not be resigning. Davis’s father even spoke out and said he didn’t want his son going to Boston after the Thomas trade. The moment Davis signed with Klutch, everyone knew he would be playing for the Los Angles Lakers. That really hurt Ainge plans on making a super team.
Where Ainge gets a bad rap in the media is him always saying that he ” almost” made a trade for a star player. For example, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Kevin Love. Ainge would always tell the media how close he was trading for a star player. What front office person always goes to the media and tells them he almost did something? Every GM in the league has almost made a big-time trade, but you don’t hear a word from them.
You would think with all of Ainge’s draft picks, he would trade some picks to take a chance, but that is not the case, Since the Tatum draft, Ainge has swung and missed on a lot of draft picks with Robert Williams only being a nice pick. The 2019 draft was a big swing-and-miss for Ainge, especially with drafting Matisse Thybulle, only to trade him on draft night.
Even in free agency, Ainge has had a rough few years, but that is the name of the game. Letting Al Horford go was properly the right move, but Boston lost a veteran leader in the locker room, and never found a replacement. The Hayward signing was just bad luck. The Kemba Walker signing fit a need after Irving leaving, but Walker, who has had knee issues over the past couple of years, is coming back to hurt Boston with Walker missing time due to his knee. Walker’s contract is more untradeable.
The Ainge era was filled with up and downs, but personally, I always thought the media overhyped him at times, and Ainge gave the media lot of his time, so the media would not attack him as much as they should of. Ainge made a lot of good deals over the years, but we are in what have you done for me lately era in sports, and lately, Ainge hasn’t lived up to his name. Stevens has his hands full with improving the roster and finding the next head coach.