Celtics

Ainge understands importance of trust in making deals

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Ainge understands importance of trust in making deals

CLEVELAND – Danny Ainge is always on the prowl for talent.

But when it comes to getting deals done, the other ‘T’ word – trust – is in some ways just as important to identify when it comes to getting a deal done.

And that trust comes over time and in many different forms such as previous dealings in the front office, or in some instances working with a former teammate.

Ainge, the Celtics’ president of basketball operations, spoke about the importance of trust in what was the biggest trade he has pulled off to date – landing Kevin Garnett from Minnesota in 2007.

“The biggest trade we made was with my best friend in the business, Kevin McHale,” Ainge said on 98.5 the Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich Show.

At the time, McHale was the General Manager of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“It wouldn’t have gotten done if not for Kevin and I, because there had to be so much trust going back and forth,” Ainge said.

But when it comes to evaluating players and their potential fit with the Celtics, Ainge leans on himself and his staff.

“The relationship is important but I don’t necessarily listen to their evaluation,” Ainge said.

That becomes quite topical now with the Celtics having had some discussions with the Houston Rockets about Dwight Howard who played for McHale in Houston prior to McHale being fired earlier this season.

While Ainge did not speak specifically about Howard and Boston’s level of interest in the former eight-time all-star and three-time Defensive Player of the Year, there’s not a team in the NBA that Ainge hasn’t had a conversation with recently.

But does that means he’s close to making a major deal.

Nope.

“Most of the time, ninety-nine percent of the things talked about and discussed, don’t happen,” Ainge said. “This time of year there’s a lot of discussions. It’s really hard to predict if there’s any deals there. Usually they happen at the very end, the very last day.”

And for the Celtics, any deal would shake up a roster that’s currently playing its best basketball of the season. The Celtics (29-22) are currently tied with Atlanta for the third-best record in the Eastern Conference with wins in seven of their last eight games, and 10 of the last 13.

“I feel like our team is playing well,” Ainge said. “We let some games get away as the season has gone along, but our team plays hard. Our team is in on almost every game this whole year with the exception of one game.”

But don’t get it twisted.

Ainge won’t hesitate to make a deal if he believes it can significantly improve the team’s standing in the short or long-term.

“I do feel like we need to make improvements on our team, but not necessarily at the trade deadline,” Ainge said. “We can’t force anything. Right now, there’s nothing on the table, there’s nothing imminent. We’ve just had a lot of discussions and hope that next week come trade deadline (Feb. 18, 3 p.m. EST) we’re prepared to make the right decisions.”

 

Isaiah Thomas: Coming back to Celtics would make his story 'that much better'

Isaiah Thomas: Coming back to Celtics would make his story 'that much better'

Isaiah Thomas was, and still is, a beloved figure for the Boston Celtics fanbase.

Thomas, of course, was dealt to the Cleveland Cavaliers as part of the Kyrie Irving trade in 2017. It was a tough end to an incredible two-plus seasons in Boston for the veteran guard.

Injuries have prevented Thomas from getting back to the All-Star form he showed with the C's during the 2016-17 season, and he hasn't been able to earn a regular spot in the Denver Nuggets rotation this season. In fact, he was removed from the rotation last week by Nuggets head coach Michael Malone.

Thomas' future in the NBA beyond this season is unknown, but it sounds like he'd be open to coming back to Boston to finish his career if the chance came.

"At some point," Thomas told reporters before Monday night's Celtics-Nuggets game at TD Garden. "These were the most fun times in my career. I turned into a superstar here. The world knew my name when I played for the Boston Celtics. Not saying they don't now, but playing for Celtics changed my whole career on and off the floor. This city and this organization treated my family with 100 percent respect. Decisions happen, I never hold any  grudges against anybody, even if I'm not for that decision. 

"You never know what can happen. My options are always open no matter what it is. If I end up back here at some point, that would make the story that much better."

Thomas has struggled this season for Denver, but he's not feeling any ill-effects physically, and that's one reason why he's confident plenty of good times lay ahead for him as an NBA player.

"I just want a legit opportunity," Thomas said. "Whatever the role may be, it's gonna be. I know I can play at a high level again. Given the opportunity, I can be an All-Star, I can be all-NBA, I can be all that because physically I feel great. But it's all about the opportunity. If I get an opportunity, I'm going to be ready for it and take full advantage of it. When this summer comes, I'll figure out what's the best opportunity and situation for myself and my family and then go from there."

There's going to be a lot of emotion at TD Garden on Monday night, even if Thomas doesn't play. The Celtics will play a tribute video for him on the jumbotron during  the first quarter, and the crowd will give him a much-deserved ovation. 

Coming back to the Celtics, whether it's next season or down the road, would be a great way for Thomas to advance his career in an environment where he's going to feel plenty of love and support from the fans and the team. It's not a scenario that should be ruled out.

Click to read about Thomas' best moments as a Celtic>>>

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Returns of Celtics' Gordon Hayward and Nuggets' Isaiah Thomas were handled differently. Who did it right?

Returns of Celtics' Gordon Hayward and Nuggets' Isaiah Thomas were handled differently. Who did it right?

BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas hasn’t played in Denver’s last three games (coaches decision) and it’s unclear if he’ll play tonight, his first time back at the TD Garden healthy enough to suit up since being traded away in the summer of 2017.

Gordon Hayward is out after a blow to the head suffered in the Celtics' win over Atlanta on Saturday.

Both came into this season on the mend, with each showing the kind of inconsistent play you'd expect considering both were out for about a year.

But there's one significant difference.

Boston has allowed Hayward to play through his ups and downs, something that has paid off in him delivering some of his best performances against some of the best teams in the latter stages of this season.

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Thomas was been pulled out of the rotation after just nine games, which seems like a pretty quick hook considering he had missed about 11 months of action. It's a move that might come back to bite the Nuggets in the postseason if Thomas doesn't get a decent amount of reps between now and then. 

One of the main reasons for Thomas getting the hook so quickly? The Nuggets, in a fight for the top overall record in the Western Conference, were just 5-4 in the games Thomas played.

Looking back on Hayward’s first nine games, the Celtics were -- you guessed it -- 5-4. 

A deeper dive into their numbers reveals that in terms of offensive impact, both delivered comparable numbers.  Because Hayward played 25 minutes per game and Thomas was around 15, the best way to examine their numbers head-to-head is to look at how they performed per 36 minutes.

Hayward averaged 14.6 points per 36 minutes, while Thomas delivered 19.8 points per game 36 minutes. Shooting for both Hayward (40.2 percent from the field, 32.4 percent on 3’s) and Thomas (37.3 percent from the field, 27.3 percent on 3’s) were below their usual averages, but still relatively close. 

While it was somewhat surprising that Thomas was taken totally out of the rotation so quickly, timing as much as questions about Thomas’ talent was at the heart of the decision. 

Boston had the luxury of being more patient with Hayward because he began the season able to play, with a minutes restriction. 

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However, the Nuggets were not as fortunate with Thomas. Despite signing a one-year deal in the summer, he didn't play his first game until Feb. 13. 

Still, it’s hard to imagine that had Hayward not returned until the middle of February that the Celtics would have yanked him out of the rotation this quickly. But Denver is in a very different place than the Celtics.

The Nuggets are trying to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2013, well aware that their chances of having a deep and meaningful playoff run hinge heavily on their ability to secure home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. 

Meanwhile, the Celtics were built to contend for a title with or without a healthy Hayward, evident by their run towards Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals without Hayward and their leading scorer, Kyrie Irving, who were both sidelined by injury.

More than anything, the way Boston handled Hayward and Denver’s treatment of Thomas coming back from his injury speaks to how each approached how to handle a player that they saw as a key to their chances of success when the season started.

Boston showed showed patience, and it’s paying off. 

Denver didn’t, but you can’t argue with the results -- wins in the three games Thomas has not been in the rotation. 

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