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Danny Ainge on Doc’ Departure and What’s Next for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and the Next Playcaller

 

Doc Rivers wasn’t the only guy to speak today.  General Manager Danny Ainge addressed reporters in Waltham, discussing a variety of topics including how the Rivers/Clippers deal went down, potential coaching candidates, and the future of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.  Brian Robb was on hand to capture the audio but good friend Chris Forsberg provided the heavy lifting by transcribing his over at ESPN Boston:

On Doc’s Departure:

“On May 3rd, our season ended [with a first-round playoff exit against the New York Knicks]. And there was some uncertainty as to whether Doc would return to the Celtics or not at that time — I wasn’t aware of it then, but [the media] made me aware of it… I had every reason to believe that he would come back, but coaching is hard, and it’s draining, and what people say at the end of a long season, you don’t take to heart.

“On May 8th, Doc and I had a conversation about his future and I was curious about which way he was leaning and why… He was uncertain still at that time, but wondered what his options were.

“On May 9th, we sent him a letter saying that we expected him to be our coach, and he was under contract to be our coach for three more years. That was our intention all along and that’s what we hoped he would do. And then in subsequent weeks, conversations started as he still had uncertainty as to what he would do.

“[Soon after], we had a conversation, him and I, as friends and partners over the last nine years, and a guy that I really trust, we had a conversation that we discussed the possibility of him trying to get the Clippers job. There were other teams that were interested in hiring Doc, [but] we didn’t allow any of them to talk to Doc that had inquired. But the Clippers was one that intrigued him a little bit. I’m sure their great mix of talent had a lot to do with that, and his friends Skip and Al — his golfing buddies out in Bel-Air — had a lot to do with that. But with the idea that, if it wasn’t going to be a win-win-win situation, if it wasn’t good for the Celtics — which is what my job is: Do what’s best for the Celtics — and if it wasn’t good for him, it wasn’t good for the Clippers, we just wouldn’t do a deal. And he’d come back and coach [the Celtics].

“That’s the way it was from that point on, all the way until today when the deal was finalized. So today a deal was finalized, we were compensated a first-round pick in 2015 from the Los Angeles Clippers, Doc was let out of contract and reached an agreement with the Los Angeles Clippers. And we will move forward, and find a very good coach who can lead us into the next phase.”

CH’s Take:  If you have been following the story, you knew all of what Ainge said already.  The part I find most interesting is the concept of “win-win-win.”  Is that purely political so that other teams will want to keep doing business with this front office?  Because, let’s be real, Danny Ainge could care less about whether or not the Clippers, or any other team on the opposite end of the negotiation table, got a good deal.  Ainge also says he wouldn’t do a deal unless it was good for all involved, but at the same time he didn’t exactly celebrate the Celtics compensation.  Is this because the first rounder is likely still going to be a late first rounder?  Is it because he felt like he could have gotten more?  One of the best parts about this whole situation is that the notion of, “Doc and I had a conversation about his future and I was curious about which way he was leaning and why… He was uncertain still at that time, but wondered what his options were,” will just not be applicable to the next coach.  It will likely be someone who’s happy to have a job in the league.  Even though Doc’s status was up in the air after every season, you never think your coach is going to leave…UNTIL HE DOES.

On Coaching Candidates: 

“I have not talked to one coaching candidate yet,” said Ainge. “I have thought, in anticipation that this could happen, [about potential replacements.] I do watch coaches often as I travel around… I do have some people in mind.”

Ainge said there is no hurry to install a coach (though he did zing Rivers a bit while noting, “We would have liked to have a coaching staff last month, that would have been nice.”)

Said Ainge: “We’re in no hurry. We’re just going to try to find the best available coach.”

He added, “We don’t need a coach for the draft; we don’t need a coach for summer league. We don’t need that to happen fast, so we’ll take our time, unless our No. 1 choice makes a quick decision.”

Asked if he might throw his own name in the hat, Ainge ended that speculation.

“No,” he exclaimed. “I’ve tried that; I’m done with that.”

CH’s Take:  With Brian Shaw off the market, there are really only a few hot names left – George Karl, Lionel Hollins – and none of them are likely interested in inheriting a rebuilding team with a roster in this state of flux.  The Celtics are likely looking at a first time coach or a coach who would take any job.  Neither option is ideal but they both come with their upsides: they’re easy to fire, easy to replace.  If they are terrible, the C’s could be in the hunt for a fantastic player in next years’ draft.  If they are awesome, then the C’s have the hot new coach on the cheap.  As it pertains to Ainge’s comments, I love that he’s not tipping his hand.  I would rather the Celtics secure the guy they want than whip up a bunch of analysis on the front runner that could potentially scare him off or increase interest from other job openings.

On the futures of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce:

“I’m anxious to go through the [rebuilding] process,” Ainge admitted. “We don’t know when that’s going to happen, if that’s going to happen this summer or if that’s going to happen next summer. We’ve been ready, we’ve been gearing up for that possibility.

“I love Paul and KG and we haven’t made that decision yet,” Ainge said when asked if he wanted to bring both players back. “KG’s under contract, and Paul we have an option on in five days from now, and those are very big decisions for us. But those decisions, I’m not certain about either one of those.”

“From my perspective, none of the decisions have anything to do with the other,” Ainge said.

CH’s Take:  I can smell the malarkey from my computer desk. None of the decisions have anything to do with the other. Right.  Because Kevin Garnett hasn’t made it perfectly clear he only wants to play for Doc Rivers.  And Paul Pierce’s contract isn’t a ton of money to dedicate to one, aging star on a non-contending team.  Garnett won’t get a chance to play for Rivers’ this season but there have been no indications, other than “I bleed green,” that he wants to play for Boston.  Not to mention that quote from Garnett came well before Rivers started house shopping in LA. If both of these players are on the roster for game one, then I expect them to be gone by the trade deadline unless the Celtics are winning and both of them get along swimmingly with the new head coach; neither seem plausible right now.

  • Mark

    I get the feeling the Celtics were blindsided by Doc wavering about his future. It seems clear they had no issue paying him his contract knowing full well this is headed for a rebuild.

    Sidebar for a second: Why did the media and fans care how much Rivers was being paid anyways for a rebuild or not? There is no salary cap implications.

    Danny and Doc can spin this all they want but the fact is Doc did quit on the team the moment he said to Ainge he wanted to explore other opportunities. When that conversation happened Doc had a foot out the door. It’s telling that Danny seems to imply that Doc was playing the team by saying he would be here for a rebuild so he could get a big payday. No doubt had everything been out in the open two years ago Doc wasn’t getting that rich of a contract.

    What’s done is done. Doc has moved on to, IMO, not so greener pastures and Danny can now jump head first into the rebuild he’s been dying to start for three years now. Hopefully Doc will work his 2006-07 magic and net us a top three pick in 2015. Jahlil Okafor here we come!

    • Danny

      Never understood that myself. People keep talking about hiring a cheap coach like it helps the team or they're writing the checks to Doc themselves.

  • someguyinsac

    The implosion of the team on the way to rebuilding it, is more imminent that some may think. :(

    All I can hope for is that PP is rewarded for all his years of loyalty to the C's and that he doesn't end up on a team that's in the same position.

  • MIke

    Been a Celtic fan since mid 60's from Mobile Alabama and forever will be. Hope we can put together a 10 man rotation that meshes like the Celtics of old.

  • Mike

    Coorection mid 50's

  • jpbl1976

    Here's why I'd keep Pierce and Garnett. At the minimum, keep one of them (preferably Pierce since KG will probably want to retire):

    1. Celtic Pride. There are only 2 teams in the league with long tradition and history: Boston and the Lakers. Whatever Red may have said to Danny, I doubt Red himself would treat KG and Pierce the way that Ainge is obviously trying to treat them: as trade fodder. It means something to fans to have those guys around (if they want to stay) because they bring more than just memories with them: they enforce a level of professionalism, pride and character that's missing in a lot of the other franchises. We Celtics fans keep harping about loyalty — first to Ray and then to Doc — but how much loyalty are we showing Paul Pierce, our one true franchise guy, when we we're entertaining offers of 2 second rounders for him?

    2. Veteran Mentors. Assuming we have a bad year/tank and we wind up with Wiggins — and let's assume he's as good as they say he is. I always felt that Lebron didn't have the Veteran presence he probably needed during his early Cleveland years to show him the right way to play the game, which is why he struggled until 2011 — i.e. dealing with the pressure/expectations/etc froze him up during important games. With Rondo still a bit of an enigma (though I heard he's popular with the younger guys like Green/Avery/Sully), wouldn't it be better to surround any future star we draft with a Hall of Famer of Pierce and Garnett's character?

    3. Assets? What Assets? While I get that you can probably only expect a pick for a coach, players are different and here's where Ainge is ignoring what Red said. When Red was listening to offers for McHale, the offer he got was Perkins and Schrempf. I've said this before: DeAndre Jordan isn't either of those guys. KG is not some broken-down hobo and Pierce still played at an elite level after Rondo went down. If you can't get more for them, you're doing it wrong.

    All those people saying stockpile assets and cap space. When has that worked out? It didn't work out for Morey: the only reason he lucked into Harden was because Presti overthought their cap situation when he didn't need to — not because those picks and his were really all that valuable. Besides, it wasn't like he gave away just picks for Harden. He traded Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb on top of the 3 picks. Also, after all of that, what has Houston become? A first-round team just like Boston was last season. So basically, Houston got lucky and all that did was make them a first-round playoff team. As for picks: is the best Ainge can get for Pierce REALLY just two second rounders from Cleveland?!

    As for Cap Space? After everything Danny has done and without a popular coach like Doc, whom are we going to sell on Boston? All these young athletes look up to guys like Lebron, Kobe and Carmelo. They like warm weather and parties, they aren't coming to the chilly Northeast to follow in Bill Russell or Bird's footsteps — especially today when people don't even remember that Bird in his prime was a better player than Lebron is.

    • Sham-bala

      I couldn't agree with you more about the need for a veteran presence in the locker room. We need KG and PP there to pass the torch and preach Celtic Pride to the new Celtic stars. The Celtics have always been team oriented and I think that is what resonates with the fans. We want stars that play like grunts and grunts that play like stars. KG and PP are true Celtics. They have value beyond what they would bring in a trade. Perhaps I am from a dying era, but I want players that want to wear the Celtic uniform and that are proud of the Celtic history. I want players that worry about letting down the Celtic legacy; not players that run down the court pointing to themselves because they worry that their last shot is under-appreciated.

      I agree that the Celtics organization needs to extend the loyalty to PP that they have expected from him for years. I realize that the NBA and the Celtics are at their core a business, but profitable businesses know the importance of keeping their customer's happy. Personally, I would rather lose with the character of KG and PP than win with LeBron or Kobe. We may be headed for a rebuild, but I don't count out the team as it stands now..

      I agree that Boston doesn't have the draw that Miami or LA or even NY has, so players may not choose Boston for the climate, but they will choose Boston if that is where they will win Championships.

      I enjoyed reading your comments and I hope Danny shares our intelligent views

    • elroz

      I would keep KG and Pierce one more year. They will help bring up the rest of the players and retire as Celtics (ok, Pierce might not want to retire, but his contract will be finished).

      Rondo, Bradley, Sullinger, Bass, Green – is that on old team? Do something with Fab Melo – either play him or send him out with a Terry or Lee (keep one of them).
      16th pick is not at all bad either.

      As for coaching, well, is there ANY way to intrigue Larry Bird to come in? Unlike Phil Jackson who always looks for a comfy situation, perhaps Larry would be interested in a complex situation?

      I agree Larry in his prime was better all around than Lebron (better shooter from all lines, better rebounder; equal as a passer), but I don't know if he was better than Lebron all together. It is not pleasant or fun to watch LeBron, I'll agree. Larry, Magic, Jordan were not only great, but they were just a marvel to watch – their skills, etc. it is not fun to watch LeBron. We all know his numbers (better at Cleveland, by the way), but I get bored watching him. I'd rather watch Charles Barkley.

  • GymRat

    Malarkey indeed. The entire response is full of spin and just goes to show Doc and Ainge have not been on the same page for some time now.

    So Danny and Doc sit down and Doc doesn't once ask what Ainge's future plans are for the team? Of course he did. But Danny excludes that part of the conversation, making it sound like Doc came in ready to bolt for the Clippers and didn't care what happened to the current roster.

    Danny says "we don't know" when the rebuilding process will happen. More bullshit. He's clearly trying, and has been trying the past two season, to do it now. But "we don't know" when he'll finally get a deal done for KG and PP that the fans of Boston won't lynch him for. If they both play this season it's only because Ainge couldn't get enough back yet or find a deal that KG will waive his no-trade clause for. He's doing everything he can to ship them off, trust me.

    The more I look back at last season the more I can see that there was lots of silent posturing. Was Doc unhappy with Danny's moves and intentionally not playing guys like Shav? Was his benching of Lee late in the season really a message to Ainge that this is not the guy he wanted anyway? Was Doc pissed that his HOF'ers all had to be feeling completely unsafe and like they could be traded at any minute. Constant fear in the locker room and a complete lack of loyalty is not how you build a winning culture and team chemistry.

    It's no secret part of the reason Ray left was he was sick of being part of trade rumors. Ainge created a toxic environment by refusing to commit to one direction or another. He claims he went full on for a win-now…but then we draft Fab Melo (a long term project) and an injury riddled potential starter (who was likely going to have to have back surgery). Why not deal those picks and package them with Bass to get us somebody like Cousins. Because Ainge was hedging his bet and not fully committed to the win-now run.

    I'm not saying Ainge didn't do the best he could (which isn't saying much), but you can't move in two different directions at once and I just don't see that he and Doc were on the same page last season. The fact that Doc's deal with LAC makes him the VP of basketball operations shows he wasn't happy with the input he had in the talent that was put together in support of KG, PP and Rondo or all the wheeling and deeling constantly being talked about.

    The biggest bullshit is if this was really all just Doc being tired of the Celtics, why was KG partnered in the deal? Oh, that's right, because Ainge was actually setting the deal up to move KG…NOT Doc as it was the only likely place and situation that KG would waive the no-trade clause for.

    Ainge is a lying shyster and Doc will get to share his side tomorrow. Though I doubt we'll get the real story anytime soon.

    Is anyone really convinced that Doc was going to leave KG and PP and go coach the Clippers if he thought they would both still be in green after the trade deadline. Sorry guys, it's been fun…but that Blake Griffen/CP3 duo is where it's at now….peace.

    I – just – don't – buy – it

    • jpbl1976

      I agree with your points except Lee: didn't Doc even share a story about how he just ran into Lee somewhere after breakfast or something and pitched him right there? I think Lee just played himself out of the rotation.

      I still think he's salvageable, though. That guy isn't a stiff. I'm more worried about the Jet because as personable as he is, he's up there in years…

      • elroz

        For me, if Rondo and Bradley are healthy, it won't matter much if it's Lee or Terry off the bench…but I tend to agree and rather keep Lee – faster, bigger, better D than Terry. I would keep T. Williams as well and ship Terry off (or Lee if one has to).

    • Morpheus

      Exactly. What a big pile of bullshit, Danny. You know damn well what you're going to do with Pierce and KG.
      The conversations they were having before the Clippers situation came up would have no doubt in my mind been about a possible rebuild and that KG and Pierce were not going to be in that picture ie part of that rebuild. Hence, Doc coming to Danny and discussing the possibility about coaching the Clippers.

      Danny is a sneaky sonofabitch. He says, "we had a conversation, him and I, as friends and partners over the last nine years, and a guy that I really trust," as if he expected Doc, KG and Pierce back? Come on… we know the story about him buying out Pierce before the playoffs. Hence, why i think Doc had a change of heart after the 1st round exit. He knew the story about Danny buying out Paul and that was the "sign" he got. The sign that Danny was going into rebuild mode.

      Ultimately, Doc would have stayed if KG and Paul were going to be back next season, he knew that was unlikely. Danny thought in a sneaky way that somehow Doc would have been ok with that. Or, maybe his intentions were to get rid of KG and Paul, thus getting rid of Doc. Who knows. That's where it gets tricky.

      And yes, Danny is definitely working them phones overtime trying to trade Paul and KG either on draft night or soon after, believe that.

      • tbunny

        I'm sorry but Doc signed a five year deal. He knew that there was a 100% chance he would not be coaching Pierce and KG at the end of that deal. The idea that Doc was somehow let down by Ainge because Ainge didn't promise not to trade KG and Pierce is basically incoherent.

        • GymRat

          You should look up the rules of a no-trade clause and how nearly impossible they are to be eligible for – let alone actually get a team to agree on. Your argument is not very well thought out and shows no understanding of the actual business of basketball.

          Just because Doc signed a 5-year deal it never meant he intended to coach that long. It just allowed for that possibility. He could have retired after (or with) PP and KG at the end of this year or next. Or the C's could have fired him at anytime for no reason – they just still would have to pay him.

          A contract is pretty much meaningless (Ask Danny – purveyor of the rare feet of giving a HOF'er a no-trade deal then attempting to deal him).

          • tbunny

            All true, except none of that establishes any sort of expectation that Doc can tell Danny what to do with Pierce and KG.

    • tbunny

      Again, Doc signed a five year deal. He knew Pierce and KG would be leaving during that deal. He knew that was Ainge's decision to make. How is this hard to understand?

      • GymRat

        Doc clearly signed the extension with the understanding that he would be part of a rebuild (assuming he meant to coach 5 full years), but he also clearly expected to see PP and KG play out their contracts as Celtics (KG has a friggin no-trade clause). That likely was meant to be the end of this season as Pierce's contract would expire and KG would just have one final year with an inexpensive buyout. The rebuild would have then begun with plenty of cap-space to lure free agents and with some friggin class.

        Flipping the HOF'ers for laundry money was never part of the plan.

        Huge difference.

        How hard is that to understand?

        • jman

          Exactly gym rat. This is all on Danny. The bullshit if keeping his players on their toes, a rebuild because of one bad season. But what caused the bad season besides the injuries. What were the emotions because of being on their toes. No respect for the players at all. Danny has showed his colors and has made Boston look like a shiester town. It's not always about winning championships, it's about showing professionalism loyalty and entertainment. And to just have allowed these guys to play out their contracts would of kept the team looking loyal to their hof's. Like someone said a few days ago, we look like the bobcats.

          • Vincent

            37 yr old Hall of Famers are not worth much. Ainge's job is to do what's best for the Celtics, not what's best for KG, Doc, and PP. It's a business, and finishing at .500 and getting crushed by the Knicks in the first round isn't anything to celebrate or continue.

            This is pro sports, so let's grow up. You sign a contract, you get paid. Once your performance doesn't live up to the pay, you're a candidate to get cut, amnestied, waived, or traded.

  • Morpheus

    Thing is, i like Danny, but he handled this situation poorly.

    I think he couldn't be upfront about a rebuild because Doc, KG and Pierce were so close and they revived the Celtic spirit after a 20 year drought. He was probably too scared to confront them about it.

    • Vincent

      Pure nonsense. As if KG and PP and Doc are so naive and stupid they couldn't figure out where this was headed? Come on…

      • Morpheus

        You kidding me. You do realise with a healthy Rondo, Sullinger heck even a healthy Barbosa things would have been much different in the playoffs. You underestimate the heart of a champion, the BALLS and GRIT Paul and KG have in them. KG and PP would have been confident that they would still be contenders if Danny had gotten them some decent help, especially up front.

        I do not believe that Paul and KG for a second believed that they would be facing a complete rebuild, being shipped out of town this early on in their contracts.

        To believe that somehow Doc, PP and KG "knew" where this was going, is pure nonsense and ignorant.

  • Nick Magliozzi

    It would be ideal if we could keep pierce and KG. However, if only one could stay on the team I for one hope its Pierce. Pierce still had a terrific season, with many negatives going against him 1. He had a pinched nerve in his neck 2. No Rondo so he had to take over point guard duties 3. No Ray Allen so big shots were now always going to be Pierce's 4. A crappy bench rotation. 15 million is a lot of money, but Pierce has shown loyalty to this team and has earned that money. He still averaged 19 points and with Rondo back he can easily do that again. Danny Ainge keep Pierce or Red Auerbach will haunt you forever.

  • Josh_5

    I completely agree with Gym Rat's novel above. There's noway Doc leaves Boston if KG and PP are still wearing green. Danny has been wanting to take both directions at the same time and it finally caught up to him. Danny's inconsistent decision making was taking its toll on Doc and when Doc probably heard that KG and PP would most likely be traded, he had had enough. Doc should catch a little heat for not honoring his contract, but I blame Danny because he refused to "shit or get off the pot". Either go all in to win now, or sell the house and start over. You don't get to do both at the same time.

    • Vincent

      Danny is trying to get maximum value for PP and KG. it's not like other teams are going to go public and offer their rosters to Danny, so what did you expect him to do differently? Danny has to determine if the offers for KG and PP are worth more than keeping them in green.

      And in case you forgot, the C's were a 7th seed and got crushed by the lousy Knicks in the first round. Anyone that thinks that Doc, KG, and PP believed this was a championship-caliber roster is delusional. 37 yr old players never get better, they get worse.

      • Josh_5

        I know we wouldn't be title contenders with the same roster, but I'd take being a 7th seed over winning 30 games. Not to mention Celtic pride, and letting these HOFers retires as Celtics.

  • CG12

    I don't get this incessant need to blame someone. In the words of Doug Coghlan "everything ends badly, or else it wouldn't end." The need to consider the long-term future of the team and the inevitable decline of KG and PP meant that they would either stick around too long or go early/the right time and have everyone second guess the moves. Danny is dealing the hand he has. Doc saw how things seemed to be going and decided he probably wasn't up for it, so he moved to a better situation, while getting some value for the Cs. I would have loved for everyone to stay until they chose to leave, but it just doesn't work that way. I'm sure there are wrinkles and subplots to the narrative we are getting, but there is no reason to think that we are being fed lies for some nefarious reason. I, for one, am excited for the next chapter.

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