Ainge recognizes 'huge sacrifices' Irving, Hayward made to become Celtics

Ainge recognizes 'huge sacrifices' Irving, Hayward made to become Celtics

BOSTON – There were lots of factors that played a role in Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving winding up as Boston Celtics.

But money, at least on their part, wasn’t among them.

In fact, both players left significant sums of money on the table to become Boston Celtics, a point that is not lost on Danny Ainge, the team’s president of basketball operations.

“Kyrie walked away from a huge trade kicker and could have demanded, easily,” Ainge said in an exclusive interview following the press conference introducing Hayward and Irving. “He was so excited to come to Boston, he was willing to do that in a second.”

MORE: VIDEO: 1-on-1 interviews with Irving, Hayward and Ainge

Irving’s contract has three years remaining with the third year a player option, and is worth as much as $60.2 million with the first two years worth $38.9 million.

His deal includes a 15 percent trade kicker which is applicable to the first two of the three years left on his deal, because option years – the third year in his deal - are not included in trade kickers.

Hayward was an unrestricted free agent this summer, choosing to sign a four-year, $127.8 million deal with the Celtics rather than re-sign with the Jazz who were willing to pay him a max-salary that would have provided him with an additional year on his contract and $44.5 million in salary.

And had Hayward been named to one of the league’s all-NBA teams, he would have been eligible for the NBA’s designated player exception which could have potentially provided him a salary similar to the four-year, $170 million extension Washington’s John Wall agreed to this summer.

While Hayward acknowledged it was a significant difference salary-wise, “for me it wouldn’t have mattered,” he said. “I still turned down a whole lot ($44-plus million to stay in Utah). That’s still a significant amount of money as well.

Hayward added, “for me it was about winning and competing for a title. That’s what I wanted to do. I don’t think it would have mattered.”

Said Ainge: “Both of those guys made huge, huge sacrifices. To ask them to do more would be risky on our part. They were doing what I thought was fair game and very grateful that both of them chose to come here and make those sacrifices.”

Kyrie gets the last laugh against Horford and Team Steph

Kyrie gets the last laugh against Horford and Team Steph

LOS ANGELES – Kyrie Irving and Al Horford were on different teams for the NBA's All-Star game pitting Team LeBron vs Team Steph, so somebody was coming back a loser.

But considering how competitive the game was for longer stretches than usual, both players came away feeling good in a relatively close all-star game that ended with Team LeBron edging Team Steph 148-145.

LeBron James led all scorers with 29 points along wit 10 rebounds and eight assists and walked away with Game MVP honors for the third time.

Irving, who played for Team LeBron, had a near double-double with 13 points and nine assists along with seven rebounds.

And Horford, who came off the bench for Team Steph, had six points and five rebounds along with two assists.  

“This was pretty fun,” Irving said. “I think that we showcased that tonight with an incredible competitive spirit. The game was kind of getting away, but I think a few of us took it a little personal that we wanted to keep the game still competitive and at a high level. Fans and everyone across so many different countries want to see the best players in the world showcase their talent.”

Horford echoed similar sentiments about the game which had a different format this year, with LeBron James and Stephen Curry each picking the two teams from the 22-player pool of players from both the Eastern and Western Conferences.

“Early, guys were making (defensive) plays,” Horford said. “Guys were making a point, they weren’t going to let it be a dunk fest.

Horford added, “Even last year and the year before, there was a lot of heat on how bad the game was. I felt like this game was, it was good.”

Irving, a five-time all-star, also acknowledged how he and some of the players wanted to change the perception of the all-star game as being nothing more than a glorified lay-up line.

“I think we all took it kind of personal,” Irving said. “Individually we wanted to come out and be competitive. Last year it was (192-182), tat’s just not as fun as communicating with guys that you don’t necessarily play with every single day, bouncing ideas off in the time-outs. It’s just that competitive fire that we all share.”

And then there’s the payday for winning.

Not only will various charities benefit from the game – LeBron James’ charity of choice gets $350,000 because his team won and Steph Curry’s charity of choice gets $150,000 – but the players on the winning team get a pretty nice check as well.

The winning team members each get $100,000 while the players on the losing team come away with $25,000.

“There was something that, something that we could look forward to if we got the win,” Irving acknowledged. “You know, they’ll probably bring up the cash prize, but … $100,000 to $25,000, I think everybody in this room would be doing the same things we were doing.”


LeBron James savors first opportunity to build NBA roster

USA TODAY Sports Photo

LeBron James savors first opportunity to build NBA roster

LOS ANGELES – LeBron James had been mum on the process he used in selecting Team LeBron … until now.

Following Team LeBron’s 148-145 win over Team Steph, James revealed how he went about assembling is roster which included Boston’s Kyrie Irving who asked for a trade out of Cleveland last summer.

“I took Kevin (Durant) first, then I took (New Orleans) Anthony Davis, and I followed that with Kyrie and DeMarcus (Cousins).”

While this year’s all-star game had been billed as the ultimate pick-up game, it was clear that James put a tremendous amount of thought into assembling his team akin to what an NBA General Manager might do.

“I know who I like watching and I had a draft board,” James said. “I had a process. Some of it went to … it almost went according to plan. A couple of them fell through, but I was satisfied and happy with all the guys that I got.”

A reporter later asked James where was this draft board.

“Ain’t none of your business,” said James, grinning. “You’re going too far, man.”