Celtics

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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