Danny Ainge was a recent guest on The Lowe Post podcast with ESPN’s Zach Lowe. The majority of the conversation was about Ainge’s career as a player in the NBA. Of that, the bulk was about Ainge going up against Michael Jordan, in the wake of The Last Dance, which is airing on ESPN.
On more recent history, Lowe said he had to ask when and why Ainge knew he could trade down from the first overall pick to the third overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Ainge was cagey and said “I can’t answer that for a lot of different reasons. We had our eyes set on Jayson Tatum. We were very confident that Philly was going to take Markelle (Fultz) and that Lonzo (Ball) was going to LA. We were very confident in that assessment.”
Ainge followed up by saying the Celtics were confident in part because they couldn’t get Lonzo Ball to come to Boston for a workout. Ainge said “We had the number one pick for most of that process and we couldn’t get him to workout. No one could get him to workout. That was one reason we believed the intel. We had a very strong belief in that.”
Ainge then talked about the recent story about the Phoenix Suns wanting to draft Tatum. He said “Jayson was never going to Phoenix. Even if he didn’t come in for that second workout days before the draft, we were still going to take Jayson Tatum. It’s good that all these stories are coming out about how everyone was going to take him, and we’ve got Jayson Tatum.”
Ainge and Lowe also talked about his days as a Celtics player and how Larry Bird used to push Kevin McHale in hopes of getting the best out of McHale. Lowe then asked him for his best Kevin Garnett story. Ainge laughed “Well, I can’t tell the best one here on your show. We’ll have to do that in private.”
Ainge then related two tales about Garnett. The first was how Doc Rivers liked to test his rookies by telling them to go in and sub Garnett out during scrimmages. Garnett would then proceed to cuss out the unsuspecting rookie and let them know he had no intention of coming out of the game.
The second story was about how Rivers knew he had to start load-managing Garnett. One attempt was to take him off the court more regularly during practice. Ainge said Garnett would fuss about it and hated to come out. One time, Ainge looked down from his office, saw Rivers take Garnett out and Garnett began running wind sprints on the sidelines.
The conversation turned to this year’s Boston Celtics and the NBA season being put on pause. Lowe asked Ainge if any players had expressed a fear about returning to play, if the league does return this season. Ainge answered “I haven’t had anyone express concern. We’re not close at the time. Massachusetts has been on of the slowest at opening back up. It’ll be one player, one coach workouts. No one is afraid of that. If I said we were playing in two to three weeks, I think there might be some. But I think players are really anxious to play.”
Lowe asked Ainge if he would go to the rumored “bubble” if that is the direction teams go. Ainge said “Sure. I don’t know where I’d sit, or if I’d watch on TV. But I’m not really afraid. I’m hoping in the next two months we have things that make it easier and more comfortable. I’m confident we will. I hope we will.”
At that point, Lowe straightforwardly asked Ainge: “Do you want to finish the season? Or have you moved on to the offseason?” Ainge confidently replied “Absolutely. Right now, it’s like we played 60 games and they didn’t mean anything. This is what players play for. I would like to finish the season. I think most, if not all of the plays, would like to finish the season.
From the management standpoint, we need to manage the draft and the offseason and all of that. It’s going to be different and tighter timelines. So, we’re trying to manage that. It’s fun watching The Last Dance and old Celtics games, but I’m way over that right now.”