Celtics

Ainge: Talk with Thomas 'one of the most difficult conversations I ever had'

Ainge: Talk with Thomas 'one of the most difficult conversations I ever had'

BOSTON – In Danny Ainge’s line of work, difficult conversations with players are a given.

But the talk Ainge had to have with Isaiah Thomas about being traded to Cleveland, stands out from all the rest.

“It was one of the most difficult conversations I ever had,” Ainge told CSN following the introductory press conference for Irving and Gordon Hayward on Friday. “I.T., everybody in Boston is grateful for I.T. and all that he’s done.”

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The Celtics have put together a Big Three that consists of Al Horford, Gordon Hayward and Irving with Thomas playing a pivotal role in all three being in Celtics uniforms today.

Thomas was instrumental in recruiting Horford and Hayward to sign with Boston. And because of his play with the Celtics, the Cavaliers agreed to trade Irving for a package that included Thomas, a two-time All-Star who led all players in the Eastern Conference in scoring (28.9 points per game) last season.

“We wouldn’t be here today with Kyrie and Gordon and Al Horford, if I.T. didn’t exist,” Ainge said. “If I.T. hadn’t helped us get back on the map. . . we’re probably not sitting here having this press conference. Gordon Hayward probably isn’t impressed with the team. Horford and everything else.”

When Thomas arrived, the Celtics were in the second year of their rebuild after trading away franchise cornerstones Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett on draft night in 2013. 

Thomas helped the Celtics get to the postseason in his first year where they were swept by Irving and the Cavs in the first round. 

The following year, the Celtics were eliminated in the first round once again, only this time it was at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks with the series lasting six games. 

This past season, Boston finished with the best record in the East and advanced to the Eastern Conference finals where they were knocked off by Cleveland in five games. 

Hayward acknowledged not having Thomas around is unusual considering he was among the key Celtics players to try and recruit him to Boston, Hayward knows all too well that in the NBA the only thing you can count on happening sooner or later, is change.

“Sometimes these things, change, it happens,” Hayward said in an exclusive interview with CSN. “I learned that in Utah my rookie year.”

Legendary Jazz coach Jerry Sloan unexpectedly resigned as head coach which was soon followed by All-Star point guard Deron Williams being traded.

“Those things happen,” said Hayward who added, “then you’re presented with Kyrie Irving coming to Boston to play with him, another tremendous player. I couldn’t be more excited.”

Now, it gets real for revamped Celtics

Now, it gets real for revamped Celtics

CLEVELAND – For the Celtics, the preseason went about as well as expected.
 
No serious, long-term injuries.

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They won every preseason game, even one in which the team’s second unit played the role of starters.
 
And the chemistry concerns with so many new players, while very real, didn’t seem to be that big an issue.
 
Still, as good as the Celtics may feel about where they stand, they know it means absolutely nothing unless they get it done against elite, NBA-caliber competition.
 
The Cleveland Cavaliers.
 
Opening night.
 
It doesn’t get much more challenging than that.
 
And for the Celtics, win or lose, this is going to be a game for them to build upon going forward this season.
 
“I’m just ready to get going,” said Gordon Hayward. “A lot of things have happened this summer, a lot of buildup. I’m ready to get to the game. It’s going to be a fun matchup, for sure.”
 
Among the summer happenings was Boston and Cleveland pulling off one of the biggest blockbuster deals of the offseason with the Cavs trading Kyrie Irving to the Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic while also conveying Brooklyn’s 2018 first-round pick and Miami’s 2020 second-round pick to complete the deal.
 
Having spent his first six seasons with the Cavaliers, there’s a certain amount of corporate knowledge that the 25-year-old Irving brings to tonight’s matchup.
 
“I know a lot about them, they know a lot about me,” Irving said. “There’s plenty of film on all of us, but specifically going back and understanding the way we played last year when I played with them and now how they’re playing with the new guys, understanding how to implement themselves into their new system plus me implementing myself into this system...There’s definitely some benefits on our end, there are some benefits on their end. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
 
Part of the challenge for the Celtics will be developing the kind of on-court cohesion to be successful, which is easier said than done when you’re talking about getting nearly a dozen players on the same page in just a few weeks.
 
“We have good chemistry as a group,” said Al Horford. “We still have a ways to go as far as keep getting comfortable with each other and keep figuring out our spots. But we feel good with what we have. Our young guys, it’s been remarkable how quickly they’ve been able to come along and be up to date with everything. And our new guys as well. They’re up to date, they know what we need to do. They understand the game plan. It’s been good.”
 
Players aren’t the only ones eager to get to tonight’s game.
 
“To have to go into Cleveland with that level of intensity, with that level of attention, distraction, etc. is great,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. “It’s great to experience that in game one, a tremendous learning experience for our group, so we’re preparing to play as well as we can. And we know that they’re really, really good. But this is..I’m looking forward to it because I want to find out where we are.”
 

'People took it the wrong way,' Isaiah says of his Ainge comments

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'People took it the wrong way,' Isaiah says of his Ainge comments

Isaiah Thomas told Sports Illustrated last week that he "might never talk to Danny [Ainge] again." And he sounded pretty bitter about his trade from the Celtics to the Cavs.

Now, on the "Road Trippin" podcast with new teammate Channing Frye and ex-Cav Richard Jefferson, Thomas, who is out until at least January with a hip injury, said those comments were misunderstood.

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“People took it the wrong way,” Thomas said. “I understand the business, I understand that we’re in position to get traded and sent to other teams and things like that. It’s just how it went down that I didn’t respect. As a man, I feel like if you respected me as much as you say you did, you would have at least informed me about what was going on before it happened. And that’s all I was talking about.

“I’m not tripping off the trade like I got traded to the Cavs and we’re going to win a championship. And at the end of the day, I’m going to be fine with that,” Thomas said. “[Ainge] sent me to an even better situation with a bigger platform. I’m blessed to be in the position, I’m grateful and I’m excited.”

The Cavs host the Celtics tonight in the season opener. 

Jae Crowder, who came to Cleveland from Boston, was also on the podcast and when Frye talked with him about players deserving communication from the front office, Thomas could be heard in the background, saying, “That’s what I’m talking about.”

“I already said what I’m doing," Thomas told Crowder about what he'll do should he run into Ainge. "I’m going to keep it pushing like he kept pushing when he traded me, I’m not going to disrespect him. He’s a man and I’m a man, too. Like, I’m going to go my way. I play for the Cavaliers and that’s what it is.”