Boston Celtics

Ainge on his critics: 'It's fair, but I don't agree with them'

Ainge on his critics: 'It's fair, but I don't agree with them'

CHICAGO – If the Celtics continue to struggle and ultimately lose their first-round playoff series to Chicago, Boston would then have the dubious distinction of being the rare top seed that doesn’t get out of the first round.
 
That’ll only intensify the critics of Danny Ainge who thought he should have addressed the team’s biggest weakness – rebounding – by adding a frontcourt player at the trade deadline.
 
And while coach Brad Stevens has done well in his three-plus seasons in Boston, bowing out in the first round as the top seed will certainly raise questions about whether he is as good as advertised.
 
Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, said he’s okay with those being the two dominant storylines.
 
“It’s fair, but I don’t agree with them,” Ainge said on his weekly call-in to 98.5 the Sports Hub’s "Toucher & Rich" show. “But I haven’t written this series off yet, either.”
 
While Ainge acknowledges that the Celtics have not played their best basketball in this series, he doesn’t believe Stevens’ coaching is the problem, despite the fourth-year coach having a 2-10 postseason record.
 
“There’s reasons for that,” Ainge said. “You can go down the list.”
 
While this is the third season in a row that Stevens has led the Celtics to the postseason, it’s the first postseason in which Boston has been the higher seed.
 
“The coaching isn’t the issue,” Ainge said. “I think he’s a fantastic coach.”
 
This postseason run began with some unusual, heartbreaking circumstances as well.

Early Saturday morning, Chyna J. Thomas, the 22-year-old sister of Celtics All-Star Isaiah Thomas, was killed in a one-car accident in Federal Way, Washington.
 
Understandably, her death was a huge emotional blow to Thomas, as well as his teammates. Although Thomas has been able to play well through the pain in the first two games of this series, the Celtics as a team have struggled to the point where they are now down 2-0 to the Bulls with the series shifting to Chicago for Games 3 and 4 at the United Center on Friday and Sunday.
 
Thomas left for Tacoma, Washington to be with his family after the 111-97 Game 2 loss on Tuesday, and is expected to be with the team in Chicago for practice later this afternoon.
 
The biggest problems for the Celtics in this series has been the Chicago bigs; specifically, Robin Lopez.
 
His dominance of this series has really been the trigger-point for the success the Bulls have had this postseason.
 
In the first two games, he has averaged 16.0 points and 9.5 rebounds while shooting 67 percent (14-for-21) from the field – all above his season average.
 
When asked about whether it’s fair that the team be criticized for not getting a rebounder at the trade deadline, Ainge said he “definitely thinks those are fair criticisms.”
 
 
He added, “I don’t agree but it’s fair to have that opinion.”
 
The Bulls came into the playoffs fourth this season in rebounding percentage while the Celtics were just 27th.
 
In the first two games, it has been decisively lopsided in Chicago’s favor as the Bulls have out-rebounded Boston, 96-74.
 
 
“There’s a lot of factors,” Ainge said. “That’s a conversation to have when it’s over, but I’d like to continue the conversation on how the Celtics are going to come back in this series.”
 
Okay.
 
I’ll bite.
 
How’s that gonna happen Danny?
 
“Listen, you have to give them credit,” Ainge said. “They’ve answered every run we’ve had; we haven’t been dominated. Every time we’d make a run, they made shots. Bobby Portis made all his shots in Game 1, Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler and [Paul] Zipser, Lopez, they all made shots. We haven’t caught that fire yet. We can make shots too. And they can miss some shots.
 
Ainge added, “We need to play our best basketball. We need to play like the basketball we were playing in the middle of March. And I still think we have that in us.”

Hayward opens up about disappointment of losing Isaiah Thomas

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Hayward opens up about disappointment of losing Isaiah Thomas

Gordon Hayward wanted to go to Boston to play with Isaiah Thomas.

Of course, that's not going to happen. The Celtics traded Thomas to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a package for Kyrie Irving. Hayward explained what it was like for him to learn he and Thomas would not get the chance to hit the court together in Celtics' green.

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"My first reaction was to text I.T., and wish him the best," Hayward wrote in a blog post which he published Thursday. "That was a really strange moment because I’d really been looking forward to playing with him. He didn’t just help recruit me to Boston—he was a big piece of that recruitment. He had talked a lot about city and how it was different to be a Celtic. He talked about the intensity of playing in the Eastern Conference Finals, playing at the Garden in the playoffs, and how much fun it was, and how much fun he had playing in Boston.

"All of that ultimately helped win me over. And by the time of the trade, I had already started to build a little bit of a relationship with him.

"But that is just how the business works. I have spent enough years in the NBA to realize that things can change like that, in an instant. Still, even though we didn’t necessarily get to be teammates, I’m definitely going to be watching him as a fan. In this league, I think we are all rooting for each other in some way or another—just to try to stay healthy, to try to be the best we can be."

Hayward may be genuine about rooting for Thomas -- except perhaps when he faces off against the Cavaliers in the season-opener on Oct. 17 at Quicken Loans Arena. Thomas is uncertain to play due to a hip injury. But the two teams are expected to see each other in the Eastern Conference Finals again after the 2017-18 season. This preview will be an opportunity for Thomas and Irving to get their first shot at revenge against their previous team.

The trade wasn't all bad for Hayward, he explained. He was pleased at the prospect of playing with Irving. Hayward cited Irving's abilities in 1-on-1 situations and clutch moments. He appreciated Irving's scoring ability, because Hayward knows the point guard will open up space for Hayward to knock down open shots. Above all, Hayward seemed to value Irving's unique experience.

"And then getting a chance to play with LeBron James, and going to the Finals three straight years—those are experiences that are invaluable and that you really can’t teach," Hayward wrote. "Having that experience of playing in those big moments, dealing with the circus of the media, dealing with expectations, those are all things that I think he can help us with. Because most of us, myself especially, have never been through that."

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