Blakely: George trade puts spotlight on Hayward decision

Blakely: George trade puts spotlight on Hayward decision

BOSTON – For so many months, too many to count really, Gordon Hayward has been the crown jewel in the Boston Celtics’ quest to once again become the king of the NBA.
It’s still their goal but it takes on a much different, far more significant importance after Paul George – the player Boston planned to add to the mix via trade after acquiring Hayward – has been traded to Oklahoma City for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
Yes, Thunder GM Sam Presti Houdini’d the Celtics and the rest of the NBA in pulling off one of the more stealth trades we’ve seen in quite a while.


And so where does that leave the Celtics?
The good news is that George’s departure to the West means the Celtics have one less All-Star talent to worry about in the East.
And that might actually turn out to be a good thing in their pursuit of Gordon Hayward.
There’s no telling what Hayward is most focused on when it comes to deciding between a return to Utah or packing up and heading to Boston or Miami.
But the one thing we do know is that winning at the highest levels will be at or near the front of his wish list.
With more talent heading out West, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the smoothest path towards playoff success will come if he heads East this summer.
And while the Heat do have some nice pieces in place which includes Hassan Whiteside, Boston’s roster is a little deeper and now has the confidence and experience gained by being in the Conference finals in which they were eliminated by Cleveland in five games.
But the pitch Boston now makes for Hayward isn’t nearly as strong as it could have been if they had George in waiting.
Because of that, the Celtics can’t feel nearly as confident in landing him as they did prior to the George trade. And if he’s not in a Celtics uniform next season, it’s hard to look at this offseason and not be disappointed.
Boston would have been in the mix for two of the game’s top players, and came up short in both instances. And with Blake Griffin re-upping with the Los Angeles Clippers, Boston’s backup plan was off the board as well.
This is not the kind of offseason the Celtics envisioned, one that began with Boston landing the number one overall pick in the draft only to trade down two spots while picking up another – you got it – asset (aka draft pick) along the way.
Danny Ainge has stockpiled draft picks the way some folks collect antique ornaments, hoping they will increase in value over time.
While doing that, Boston also went about carving out salary cap space this summer to target a player like Hayward, and to Boston’s credit they have made it to Hayward’s short list of possible teams for next season.
Getting close to landing Kevin Durant last summer was fine, knowing it came about after having gotten a commitment from Al Horford.
But for Boston to come up empty on adding George and Hayward?
No matter how much him going out West may benefit the Celtics, no one can feel good about the way the Thunder just swooped to get George despite Boston having significantly more assets to offer that depending on which narrative you believe, either 1) were offered up in huge bundles but were rejected by the Pacers or 2) were underwhelming to the point where the Pacers felt Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis was a better trade package.
Fortunately for Boston, they weren’t going into this summer in need of a superstar to make them competitive.
They were searching for a star to make them an immediate title contender which is still the goal, of course.
Short of that, they’ll continue building on what has been a franchise clearly on the rise as the search continues for that crown jewel.

Ainge: 'Setback' wrong word to use about Hayward

Ainge: 'Setback' wrong word to use about Hayward

When is a setback not a setback?

When Danny Ainge says, "You know what? Sometimes I talk too much," Ainge told the Boston Herald over the weekend. "'Setback' wasn't the right word, so let me rephrase that because it's not exactly true to say it - or say it that way.

The Celtics president of basketball operations, in his weekly radio interview with Toucher and Rich on 98.5 The Sports Hub and simulcast on NBC Sports Boston, used that word when he was describing how Gordon Hayward is coming along in his recovery. 

"He had like one setback for a couple of weeks, maybe a month and a half ago," Ainge said on the radio last week. "We were progressing a little bit too fast, we thought."

Ainge clarified that to the Herald's Steve Bulpett. 

"What happened is he went on the AlterG [anti-gravity treadmill] the first day and he felt some soreness," he said. "It was the first day he tried the AlterG, a long time ago. He just wasn't ready for it at that point. That's all it was."

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been adamant that Hayward, recovering from his gruesome leg and ankle injury in the season opener, will not play for the Celtics this season. On Sunday, Stevens, via MassLive.com's Jay King, characterized Stevens' soreness as a "small" issue. 



Chest pains and lack of sleep lead to medical leave for Cavs coach Lue

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Chest pains and lack of sleep lead to medical leave for Cavs coach Lue

CLEVELAND - Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue is taking a leave of absence from the team to address health issues that have included chest pains and loss of sleep.

Lue said Monday in a statement that tests have offered no conclusion about what the issue is and offered no timetable for his return. The coach said he feels he needs to step away "and focus on trying to establish a stronger and healthier foundation" from which to coach the rest of the season.

Here's a portion of Lue's statement:

I have had chest pains and other troubling symptoms, compounded by a loss of sleep, throughout the year. Despite a battery of tests, there have been no conclusions as to what the exact issue is.

"While I have tried to work through it, the last thing I want is for it to affect the team. I am going to use this time to focus on a prescribed routine and medication, which has previously been difficult to start in the midst of a season," Lue said. "My goal is to come out of it a stronger and healthier version of myself so I can continue to lead this team to the championship we are all working towards."

A stress-filled season for the Cavs has taken a toll on the Lue, 40, a former Celtics assistant under Doc Rivers who led them to the 2016 NBA championship after taking over for David Blatt midway through that season. They are j40-29, third in the Eastern Conference, behind the second-place Celtics and East-leading Toronto Raptors, and have endured roster shake-ups, injuries and other distractions as they try to return to the NBA Finals.

David Aldridge of TNT reports that the plan is for Lue to return in a week. The NBA playoffs begin April 14. 

"We all want great players, we all want the best teams, but with that comes a lot of pressure as well. And what Ty Lue has had to go through this year with that team, with the trades and the injuries and the pressure, it's unrelenting," Denver coach Michael Malone said. "So I hope that he gets healthy and is able to get back in time for the playoffs and help that team win as many games as possible."

Lue spent the second half of Cleveland's victory in Chicago on Saturday in the locker room because of an illness, the second time this season he left a game because he wasn't feeling well. The former NBA guard also sat one out against Chicago at home in December.

Associate head coach Larry Drew coached the second half of Saturday's game, the finale of a six-game, 11-day road trip. Cleveland is back home to host Milwaukee on Monday.

"We know how difficult these circumstances are for Coach Lue and we support him totally in this focused approach to addressing his health issues," general manager Koby Altman said.

Charlotte coach Steve Clifford also left his team to address his health this season. He took six weeks off. Medical tests revealed that the 56-year-old Clifford did not have any internal problems, but the doctor's diagnosis was the coach was suffering from severe sleep deprivation.

AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.

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