Celtics

Ainge's wish for this upcoming season? A happier Brad Stevens

Ainge's wish for this upcoming season? A happier Brad Stevens

BOSTON -- Danny Ainge has a number of things he wants to see from the Celtics after what has been a pretty active offseason following a tumultuous regular season and a poor showing in the playoffs.  

Among them?

A happier head coach. 

Ainge, speaking at WBUR’s CitySpace on Friday night, touched on a number of Celtics topics including the team’s offseason moves and the potential impact they will have. 

“My biggest concern through all of this was, I want my coach to be happy who he’s coaching and that’s the hardest job,” said Ainge, the Celtics president of basketball operations. “I’ve been at this business a long time. It’s...you gotta have fun. You really have to have joy. That doesn’t mean every minute is going to be happy. Everybody is going to face adversity and challenges and trials through the course of a season. But, it still has to be fun.”

Throughout last season, which ended with the Celtics on the short end of a five-game gentleman's sweep at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round, players at various points talked about how there just wasn’t as much fun and joy out there when they were playing.

"Guys are just hanging their heads; it's not fun," said Marcus Morris following a home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers last season. "It's not fun. We're not competing at a high level. Even though we're still winning, it's not fun. I don't see the joy in the game."

There was the drama surrounding Kyrie Irving who wanted to come back to Boston "if you guys will have me back" in October, which soon turned into “talk to me July 1” a couple months later before he wound up leaving Boston to play for the Brooklyn Nets.

Boston never settled into a reliable rotation last season because most of the players failed to create enough separation between themselves and others to warrant steady minutes. 

Throw in the fact that so many players had personal agendas that had little to do with actually winning games, and you had the makings of a season that will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. 

“It’s good to go through some adversity,” Ainge said. “But last year was a little much.”

With a new season right around the corner, there’s a renewed optimism that extends beyond Brad Stevens’ happiness. 

“And not just Brad, all the coaches,” Ainge said. “I want them to have fun and enjoy the job. The whole organization, our fans, enjoy the product on the court; our owners who invest millions, hundreds of millions of dollars into our team. I want all those people to enjoy what we have going.”

It appears Ainge may be getting his wish with this team based on all that has transpired this summer, highlighted by the addition of three-time All-Star Kemba Walker to the roster, in addition to Enes Kanter, who is one of the league’s better offensive rebounders, which has been a weakness of the Celtics for a number of years. 

And yes, Ainge sees a happier Stevens heading into this season as well. 

“I think that Brad is really excited for the year,” Ainge said. “There’s still some uncertainty what’s gonna happen. We have a new group. He really likes the spirit of the team. He likes how many people have come to offseason workouts, much more than we ever had in my 17 years here in Boston. We have a lot more players in the gym. We’d probably have a lot more if we didn’t have six playing in the World Cup.”

Ainge is referring to Team USA’s quartet of Celtics - Walker; Jayson Tatum; Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart - as well as Daniel Theis playing Germany and Victor Poirier for France.

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Grant Williams describes meeting Bill Russell at Celtics-Lakers game

Grant Williams describes meeting Bill Russell at Celtics-Lakers game

Any time the Boston Celtics play in Los Angeles, there are bound to be celebrities in the crowd. The Celtics and the Lakers have arguably the greatest rivalry in NBA history, after all, so watching them square off is a must-see event when both teams are good.

But on Sunday afternoon, there was one famous person in the crowd that caught the attention of Celtics rookie Grant Williams. That would be Celtics legend and 11-time NBA champion, Bill Russell.

Russell appeared at the game to watch the Celtics in action, but also wore a jersey to honor the late Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna. And evidently, Williams took some time to talk to Russell at halftime.

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After the contest, Williams communicated what his message to the NBA great was.

“I just wanted to thank him for everything he’s done for the game,” Williams said per Tom Westerholm of MassLive.com. “I said I was thankful, because he was so impactful. He was a dude who was one of the best players in the game, a historic Boston legend, and honestly it was just good to see him in person for the first time. You see all the celebrities in LA and all this stuff, but I was more focused on Bill Russell than anybody else. Denzel was there, all those other guys, but Bill was special.”

And Williams also communicated that getting a chance to play in a Celtics-Lakers rivalry game in front of one of the best players of all-time was "really cool".

“It was really cool, especially a game of that magnitude and intensity,” Williams said. “Lakers vs. Celtics, something that one of the biggest rivalries in sports and playing against LeBron, it was fun. It was a competitive environment. Hopefully he enjoyed it.”

It's really nice to see that Williams truly appreciates NBA history and one of the greatest Celtics of all-time. He will surely remember this moment for a long time.

During his rookie season, Williams is averaging 3.7 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.0 assist per game while playing 15.5 minutes off the bench. The 2019 first-round pick could play a key role as a small-ball center for the squad as they gear up for a playoff run.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Trail Blazers, which begins Tuesday at 9 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 10 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.

LeBron James congratulates Jayson Tatum on Instagram for 41-point game

LeBron James congratulates Jayson Tatum on Instagram for 41-point game

Jayson Tatum is starting to emerge as one of the NBA's young superstars. And his performance on Sunday against the Los Angeles Lakers only fueled the hype surrounding him over the course of the past month.

The Boston Celtics forward had one of the best outings of his career on Sunday. He tied a career-high with 41 points and did everything he could to help keep the Celtics alive against the Lakers. They couldn't ultimately pull off the win, but losing by just two without Kemba Walker's services was certainly impressive.

Tatum did a lot to power the C's and keep them in the game. And some of his most notable peers took notice of his performance.

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After Tatum's excellent outing, Lakers forward LeBron James posted to Instagram to congratulate and encourage Tatum. Here's a look at James' post.

That's a decent gesture from James, and it's one that Tatum won't soon forget. And neither will he forget the seemingly emotional embrace the two shared after the tightly contested contest ground to an end.

It's also worth noting that Tatum did play as part of Team LeBron at NBA All-Star weekend. So, they likely connected there and it sure seems that James, who drafted Tatum in the All-Star captains' fantasy draft, admires the young star's game.

Over his past 10 games since returning from a groin injury, Tatum has averaged 28.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.3 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game for the Celtics. If he keeps producing at that clip, it'll be great news for the team's hopes of being a playoff contender.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Trail Blazers, which begins Tuesday at 9 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 10 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.