Celtics

Blakely: Ainge blinked . . . but with reason

Blakely: Ainge blinked . . . but with reason

BOSTON -- The big takeaway from the much-delayed Boston-Cleveland blockbuster deal?

Danny Ainge blinked.

This deal wasn’t going to be done unless Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, did the seemingly unthinkable: Cave in to the last-minute demands of the Cavaliers.

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The two sides had already agreed that Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and a 2018 unprotected Brooklyn first-round pick was going to Cleveland in exchange for Irving.

The Cavs had some concerns about Thomas’ injured hip and how long he would be sidelined, so they asked for additional compensation.

Boston dug its heels in early, but eventually agreed to tack on an additional draft pick -- a 2020 second-rounder from Miami. It was a compromise of sorts because Cleveland wanted another first-rounder from Boston to seal the deal.

But since when does Ainge compromise?

His track record for being a tough negotiator while pulling lopsided deals is impressive.
 
He got Isaiah Thomas from Phoenix for Marcus Thornton and a draft pick.

He shipped Rajon Rondo to Dallas for three players, one of whom was a throw-in named Jae Crowder.

He landed the No. 1 pick in last June’s NBA draft, only to trade down two spots to select Jayson Tatum (the player he would have taken with the top overall pick) and get a protected first-round pick via the Los Angeles Lakers in 2018.

So it’s understandable how many in Celtics Nation felt the deal Ainge put on the table for the Cavs, the one that was originally agreed upon, was more than enough compensation for Irving.

But Irving is a different kind of player from the others Boston has been wheeling and dealing for in recent years. That type of player comes at a steep price, even if he was the one who demanded the trade and, theoretically, took some bargaining power away from Cleveland.

While his talent is special, what really sets Irving apart is that he’s so accomplished in this league at such a young age. Only 25 years old, he's an NBA champion who's been to the Finals three times, an Olympic Gold medalist, and a four-time All-Star.
 
Ainge was right in trying to take advantage of the circumstances by which Irving became available, even if it meant trading away two-time All-Star and fan favorite Isaiah Thomas.
 
But acquiring a player of Irving's stature requires going above and beyond the normal when it comes to negotiating.

That’s why as much as the Celtics didn’t want to give up any additional assets, adding a second-round pick to the deal was a small price to pay for securing the services of Irving for at least the next two seasons.

Isn’t that the point of having all those draft picks, to use them in a way to significantly bolster your roster?
 
Boston has more star power now with the addition of Irving, who joins an All-Star cast that includes Gordon Hayward and Al Horford.

Still, the cost of this deal was a lot steeper for Boston than usual.

Fans have become spoiled with trades that provide a clear and decisive victory for the C's in recent years.

This one fell well short of that. Cleveland, the Celtics' main Eastern Conference rivals, is now deeper and more versatile, particularly with the addition of Crowder.

As one league executive texted me this morning, “Danny Ainge got Danny Ainge’d on this one.”
 
Still, Boston got the best player in the deal and still has a roster that talent-wise, ranks among the top two or three teams in the East.

Yes, Ainge blinked in giving in to Cleveland’s last-minute demands for more compensation.

But in doing so, the Celtics are balancing the incredibly difficult challenge of being a contender now while having a roster that has the potential to be in the chase for titles for years to come.

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Plenty of on-the-job training for Celtics' rookies

Plenty of on-the-job training for Celtics' rookies

BOSTON – With all the changes the Celtics went through over the summer, seeing more rookies on the floor this season was a given.
 
But six?
 
Yes, only three games into the season and the Celtics have played more rookies than any team under fifth-year coach Brad Stevens.

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And in the 102-92 victory at Philadelphia on Friday night, the Celtics (1-2) played almost as many first-year players (five) as veterans (six).
 
The youth movement here in Boston has been sped up a bit by the season-ending injury to Gordon Hayward, compounded by a left ankle sprain to Marcus Smart that Smart said won’t keep him out any more than Friday night in Philly.

Even if Smart is back in the Celtics lineup Tuesday night against New York, that doesn’t change the fact that Boston will continue to need rookies to step up and contribute going forward as they did on Friday.
 
And while there’s an old adage about experience being the greatest teacher, Boston’s youngsters are going to have to fast-forward past some of those on-the-floor growing pains for the Celtics to stay among the top teams in the East.
 
“Everybody talks about young players having to learn by going through experience,” said Stevens. “Why don’t we just watch film and learn? Learn from things we can control and in the interim, let’s beat the age thing. Let’s not talk about the age thing. Let’s talk about how we can be better at what we can control and how we can learn and grow every day and expedite the learning curve.
 
Stevens added, “because they are going to get opportunities all the way down the line, let’s not focus on trying to learn from experience; let’s focus on learning from every day and see if we can get a little bit better every day.”
 
The one rookie who has had no problem adjusting to the NBA game early on has been Jayson Tatum.
 
Selected with the third overall pick last June, Tatum has been among the NBA's most productive rookies in this first week of the season.
 
Tatum’s 35.3 minutes played per game is tops among all rookies. His 12.3 points and 9.0 rebounds rank seventh and fourth among his first-year brethren.
 
Stevens loves what he has seen thus far from Tatum, but believes he’s capable of making an even greater impact sooner rather than later.
 
“I like him to shoot it on the catch more,” Stevens said. “Because he has tremendous touch. When he shoots it in rhythm with confidence, the ball finds the net. He’s one of those guys; he’s a natural scorer. But his ability to read the game … he’s very intelligent. It’s been more evident on the defensive end. He’s gonna pick his spots offensively now. But we want him to be aggressive and first and foremost, be a threat to shoot it every time he catches it.
 
Stevens added, “I guess it should feel pretty good when you’re 19 years old and your coach is begging you to shoot it.”
 
How quickly Tatum and the rest of Boston’s youngsters grow into the roles they will be asked to play this season can do nothing but help the Celtics adapt to what has already been a season with major changes needing to be made.
 
“You saw [against Philadelphia], we had Shane [Larkin], we had Guerschon [Yabusele], we had guys coming in that played the game at a high level and we need them to contribute,” said Boston’s Kyrie Irving. “For me to see that and witness that, it makes me nothing but proud and happy to have teammates that are ready to play. It’s not always going to look perfect because we’re still gaining knowledge about one another. But as long as we’re out there competing, having each other’s backs, that’s all that matters.”
 

Kyrie Irving fined $25,000 for his inappropriate language with a fan

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Kyrie Irving fined $25,000 for his inappropriate language with a fan

BOSTON – As expected, the NBA has fined Celtics guard Kyrie Irving $25,000 for using “inappropriate language” toward a fan at the Friday night game in Philadelphia.
 
The incident occurred at halftime as Irving and his teammates were heading to the locker room, trailing by four. Boston went on to win 102-92 for their first victory of the season.
 
A fan yelled, “Hey, where’s LeBron?” to which Irving replied with a lewd suggestion to the yeller.
 
The Celtics practiced on Saturday with Irving addressing the incident.

When asked if he had any regrets about the incident, Irving replied, “Hell no. Man enough to record it on video, that’s on him. I’m glad he got his ad name out there, and his five seconds of fame and it’s gone viral. That’s social media platform we live on.
 
Irving added, “I take full responsibility for what I said. You move on.”
 
When asked about the incident on Saturday, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he had not seen the video but was aware of it.
 
“People make mistakes; hopefully learn from them and move on,” Stevens said. “There’s a right and wrong. And if you’re in the wrong you have to own up to it and that’s that.”

It was the second such fine levied by the league in as many days. 

New Orleans center DeMarcus Cousins was fined $25,000 for "inappropriate language" toward a fan when the Pelicans lost 103-91 at Memphis on Wednesday.