Boston Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge joined Boston’s 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher and Rich show this morning for his first interview since Anthony Davis went public with his trade demand. Ainge indirectly touched on several different subjects regarding NBA trades, and directly spoke about conversations he’s had with Kyrie Irving, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
When asked if he would trade for a player for only one year with no assurance the player would stay in Boston, Ainge said:
“Yes. But it depends on the situation. It depends on the player, the circumstances and the package you have to trade for him. We’ve had a chance to do it and have done it, and we’ve had a chance to do it and have not done it.”
Ainge was asked if there was anyway around the trade restriction preventing the Celtics from trading for Anthony Davis this season and if it was fair:
“(laughter) No. There is no way around it. And it doesn’t matter what I think if it’s fair. I don’t get a vote in it. It is what it is.”
Discussion switched to Kyrie Irving and reports that he’s having second thoughts about re-signing in Boston. When asked if he’s talked to Kyrie, Ainge answered:
“I talk to him (Irving) all the time. I think he likes it in Boston. I can’t talk about specifics. That’s taboo. But I’m optimistic.”
The follow-up question was what Ainge’s thoughts were on the video LeBron James posted where he was seemingly singing to Irving about their relationship:
“I don’t care about that stuff. We need to sell our players and our team that this is the place they want to be. Of course we want to keep Kyrie and time will tell.”
Ainge was then asked if he feels like the Celtics are in a better position than most teams to make a trade:
“I believe in our young players and I think we’re in a great position. Whether that’s a trade or not, who knows? But I’m excited about their future in Boston as well.”
The show then asked Ainge if he has to speak to players who are in trade rumors and if they come to him or he goes to them, with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown as a particular focus of the query:
“Yes I do have to speak to players about rumors. Sometimes they come to me and I tell them the truth. Sometimes I reach out if a guy is in a rumor and I tell them what’s going on.I have reached out to them (Tatum and Brown). I try and educate them on the basketball world. They’re young guys. I try to keep them from getting distracted. Sometimes the NBA is more about the drama off-court than the play on-court.”
Ainge was asked for this thoughts on players saying they won’t sign an extension in the middle of a season and how in his day players didn’t make demands and pick destinations:
“I’m not a fan of it. I wish those things didn’t happen. It’s not what the league is about. But just because you are a star player doesn’t mean you are in the right position to win. I understand where those players are coming from. It’s a different world now.”
The hosts then followed up with another question about trading for a player who says he won’t stay in Boston and how the Celtics go about convincing him and Ainge told a story about trading for Kevin Garnett:
“We initially had a trade together and KG said he wouldn’t come to Boston. He said no. So we pulled the trade offer. Then we traded for Ray Allen and went back to Minnesota and they allowed us to speak to KG and he said yes. He also said he would sign an extension and we did the trade.
We had another opportunity, and I won’t name the player, but that player wouldn’t commit to re-signing, so we didn’t do the deal.
It’s not about selling the player. They want to be themselves and they want to win. It’s about creating an environment where they can reach their goals. That’s usually how you keep players.”
The interview closed with a question about Gordon Hayward’s struggles and an unnamed Golden State Warrior saying Hayward is hurting the team:
“Gordon has had some ups and downs, but I think he played great last night (against the Charlotte Hornets). He’s gone through a lot of things. Not just injuries, but a chance in role. He didn’t have a good game against Golden State, but he has had a lot of good games. I’m optimistic about Gordon and his play.”
Obviously, Ainge can’t get into specifics about players who aren’t on the Celtics, or contract matters that aren’t allowed to be discussed yet. As we’ve seen, the NBA is cracking down on tampering and Ainge isn’t going to cross that line. It was interesting to see that he is willing to go all-in on a trade for a player without an assurance that player will stay in Boston.
The most recent report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski was that the New Orleans Pelicans aren’t interested in trading Davis to the Los Angeles Lakers. In addition, Wojnarowski reported that Boston will put every pick and anyone not named Kyrie Irving on the table for Davis, when they are able to this summer.
Ainge didn’t directly counter that reporting this morning, but he did make it clear that circumstances matter. He’s not going to make an all-in trade for Davis without some level of assurance that Davis will stick around following one year in Boston. That doesn’t mean Ainge won’t trade for Davis, but that the package going back to the Pelicans might be lesser without Davis’ agreeing to a new contract or to re-sign as a free agent.
It was also interesting to hear Ainge talk about how much things can change, as they did with the Garnett trade. As was reported at the time, there was an agreed upon trade around the draft, but Garnett wouldn’t commit to staying in Boston. Ainge backed off and then swung a deal for Allen. Then in July, the Celtics re-engaged the Timberwolves in talks and Garnett agreed to an extension.
Ainge also made it known, without directly saying it, that he hasn’t and won’t talk to Davis. That would be against the rules. He also made it clear that the team hasn’t had direct discussions with Kyrie Irving on re-signing when he’s a free agent this summer. Both sides obviously know that a max offer will be there when the time comes, so this isn’t a surprise.
Finally, it was interesting to see Ainge say he does have to talk to players about trade rumors. It’s a two-way street and probably depends on the player as to who initiates the conversation.
It’s a week from the trade deadline and the likelihood remains that the Boston Celtics won’t be involved in any trades. But that doesn’t mean that they won’t be talked about a lot. If Anthony Davis is traded to a new team, it will spark a whole new round of Kyrie Irving chatter. If Davis isn’t traded at the deadline, it means that the Celtics are very much in the mix to land the superstar big man. So, while no players may come and go by next Thursday, expect there to still be a lot to talk about regarding the Celtics.