Celtics

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.”

Blakely: High expectations now make a rare blowout worse

Blakely: High expectations now make a rare blowout worse

BOSTON – As I watched the Celtics melt into a big old puddle of who-knows-what-the-hell-that-was last night at Chicago, I was angry.

This should not be happening.

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Sure, it’s just one of 82 games.

But there is no way they should be getting throttled like this to Chicago, the team with the worst record in the NBA (now 6-20) for whom, let’s be honest...losing advances the Bulls' goal this season, which is to be in the best position possible to land one of the top picks in the draft.

The more I thought about it, the loss wasn’t what upset me the most.

I was pissed off mainly because they got beat down by a bad team, which says more about my expectations for this team and the expectations of most Celtics fans, than anything else.

Those expectations are sky high these days, and for good reason.

Boston (23-6) has the best record in the Eastern Conference after owning the league’s best record overall following a historic 16 consecutive wins, which is the fourth-longest winning streak in franchise history. 

Kyrie Irving has been a one-man highlight reel all season. Jayson Tatum has been better than anyone predicted. Jaylen Brown is a more rounded offensive player, Aron Baynes has been awesome, Daniel Theis...the list of reasons why optimism for this team is so high is a long one.

That kind of success, with such a young core of players, is rare.

So, to see them get thumped 108-85 by the Bulls was jarring to say the least.

But as I skimmed the calendar to see how many more days could I blow off Christmas shopping before rush delivery wouldn’t get to places in time, I was reminded that the Celtics season is more than a third of the way complete.

And we’re talking about their first blowout loss of the season?

It was disappointing for all involved, for sure.

But the fact that we’re this far down the road in this season before having to overreact to a bad loss, speaks to the growth of this team under Brad Stevens.

Let’s put it this way.

Boston’s first beatdown this season came in Game No. 29 if you’re keeping track at home.

The latest the Celtics’ first loss by 15 or more came under Stevens prior to this season? Game No. 14 in the 2015-16 season.

They got crushed 121-97 in that game by an Atlanta Hawks team led by some dude named Al Horford.

If there’s one characteristic of Stevens teams that has carried on from one team to the next in his five seasons in Boston, it's their competitive spirit.

They may not have been the most talented teams, but you knew his guys were going to scrap and claw while suffering through a few setbacks – some worse than others - along the way.

But this season is different.

Even with Gordon Hayward going down with a season-ending (we think) left ankle injury, Boston has shown itself to be a resilient bunch by winning at a ridiculously high clip.

And in doing so, their success being undermanned has created a set of expectations that they can come back from any deficit and find victory.

But the real comeback for fans was the sobering back-to-earth reality of Monday’s loss, a game in which a team that has been as successful as the Celtics this season can lose if they’re not careful.

Still, we’re talking about the team with the best record in the East getting handed its first blowout loss of the season - in December.

Since 2008, only three other Celtics teams went this deep into the season before suffering their first loss by 15 or more points.

And of those three teams, two of them (2008 and 2010) went on to the NBA Finals.

Disappointed with the loss to the Bulls still?

I am.

But knowing how the Celtics have finished in recent years when they’ve avoided the big beatdown for as long as they have this season, it’s a little easier to move on from whatever-the-hell-that-was we saw last night in Chicago.

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Horford out, Irving probable for Wednesday's game vs Nuggets

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Horford out, Irving probable for Wednesday's game vs Nuggets

BOSTON – The days of playing short-handed continue for the Boston Celtics who will be without at least one all-star when they host the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday. 

The Celtics announced on Tuesday that Al Horford (rest) will not play. A knee collision with Detroit’s Anthony Tolliver on Sunday made Horford a game-time decision prior to Boston’s 108-85 loss at Chicago on Monday. Horford played but like most of his teammates, didn’t play as well as he would have liked before finishing with 15 points, four rebounds and five assists which included him missing all four of his 3-point attempts. 

Kyrie Irving is probable with a quad injury that kept him out of the Bulls loss. 

Marcus Morris (left knee) will miss his third straight game (14th this season) and remains out indefinitely. Also, Gordon Hayward (left ankle fracture) remains out although he may get some good news tomorrow.

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