Celtics

Danny Ainge doesn't regret trading for Kyrie Irving, 'no matter what happens'

Danny Ainge doesn't regret trading for Kyrie Irving, 'no matter what happens'

BOSTON -- Earlier this year, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge talked in glowing terms about the team's pending basketball “marriage” to impending free agent Kyrie Irving. 

Well, that wedding Ainge referenced isn’t as much of a lock as it once was.

I asked Ainge at the Auerbach Center on Wednesday if "wedding" is still on.

“I don’t know. There’s not much I can say about that, honestly,” Ainge said. “There’s ongoing conversations. We’ll have to wait and see what happens.”

I followed up by asking Ainge if Irving or his camp gave the Celtics an indication he did not want to come back to Boston. 

“I have not received that indication, no,” Ainge said. 

Irving has been the subject of trade rumors for months, most centering around him taking his talents to the Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks or Los Angeles Lakers. 

Not surprisingly, Ainge would love to hear from Irving or his camp prior to the June 20 NBA draft about the perennial All-Star's intentions in free agency.

“Yeah, but I’m not … he can do what he wants. It’s his choice to do what he wants,” Ainge said of Irving. “But sure I’d like to have answers to all your questions now, that would be nice. I could relax even more. It’s a busy time of year. There’s a lot of unanswered questions with free agency and draft and all the players on our roster.”

Ainge was asked if Irving gave the Celtics an indication they could do something roster-wise that would entice him to want to come back. 

“I don’t know the answer to that,” Ainge said. “I don’t know that yet.”

There are plenty of rumors about Irving wanting to play with another proven All-Star such as New Orleans’ Anthony Davis and Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant.

Davis has asked for a trade and reportedly is sticking to that stance even after meeting with new Pelicans executive president of basketball operations David Griffin.

Like Irving, Durant will be a free agent this summer, with both often linked as a potential package deal to the Knicks

While the season certainly didn’t end the way Ainge or the Celtics would have wanted, Ainge’s desire to keep Irving in a Celtics uniform going forward remains as strong as ever. 

“The whole Kyrie thing, it’s unfortunate that one person gets credit or blame for a team’s failures,” Ainge said. “We had a lot of reasons why the team didn’t succeed this year. And Kyrie deserves his share of the blame but not any more than anybody else. There’s a lot of guys that didn’t handle things the right way and make the sacrifices that needed to be done for the benefit of the team.

"I think they’re all going to learn from it, including Kyrie. He’s still a young player. I think Kyrie’s going to come back even better next year.”

But even if Irving chooses to play elsewhere, Ainge won’t second-guess his decision to trade for him.

“There’s always risk in making deals. We’re not afraid of risks,” Ainge said. “We made a risk by trading for Kyrie (from Cleveland). And no matter what happens with Kyrie, I'll never regret that. Just move on to the next deal.”

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Why Kemba Walker credits Gordon Hayward for helping him thrive with Celtics

Why Kemba Walker credits Gordon Hayward for helping him thrive with Celtics

It was a fair question when Kemba Walker joined the Celtics: After years of being "the guy" in Charlotte, how would the All-Star guard handle carrying a lighter load on a deep Boston team?

Walker put the kibosh on those concerns by embracing his role as a "team-first" point guard in Boston alongside promising young wings Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. But he actually went too far the other way, to the point where he was passing up open shots.

Enter Gordon Hayward, who encouraged Walker to unleash the scoring prowess that helped him average 25.6 points per game in his final season with the Hornets.

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"He was always coming up to me, telling me that they (the Celtics) want me to be more aggressive—they can tell when I'm not," Walker told Bleacher Report's Yaron Weitzman in a recent interview.

"He made me feel comfortable, which I really appreciated, especially early in the year. Just letting me know that nobody is going to say anything, and nobody is going to be mad at me for shooting [certain] shots."

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Celtics assistant coach Joe Mazzulla led the charge in urging Walker to shoot more. But Hayward assured Walker that the players had his back, too, which was instrumental in the veteran gaining confidence with his new team.

The results showed on the court, too: Walker increased both his field goal attempts (from 16.7 per game in November to 17.4 in December) and scoring average (21.2 points per game in November; 23.2 in December) to help the Celtics go 10-3 during the month of December.

A knee injury limited Walker's effectiveness as the season progressed further, but it appears he's fully healthy entering the NBA restart in Orlando later this month. If the 30-year-old continues to be aggressive on offense, the C's could be a serious problem for opponents in the bubble.

Enes Kanter reveals plans for message on Celtics jersey in NBA bubble

Enes Kanter reveals plans for message on Celtics jersey in NBA bubble

The NBA plans to give its players a unique platform in Orlando, and Enes Kanter intends on using it.

The league and the NBA Players Association have discussed allowing players to replace the names on the back of their jerseys with personalized messages that call attention to a charitable cause or social issue.

During a recent interview with CNN Philippines, Kanter revealed the one-word message he has planned for his Boston Celtics jersey: Freedom.

That word is a fitting choice for the Turkey native, who has repeatedly criticized the country's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for repressing its citizens' freedoms. Kanter himself is banned from Turkey and has been labeled a "terrorist" by Erdogan's regime, while his father was imprisoned in Turkey until recently.

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"That freedom means so much to me, not just for my country in Turkey, not just for people in America, but throughout the whole world," Kanter said.

Kanter recently joked on Instagram that he should have "Erdogan Sucks" on the back of his jersey, but the 28-year-old wants his message to extend beyond his homeland.

"If you look at what's going on in the world right now, lots of countries, lots of people out there need their freedom, and they're fighting for it," Kanter said.

" ... My message to the whole world is, keep fighting for freedom. Keep fighting for justice. Stand for what you believe in and never back down."

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Kanter also has been an advocate for social change in the United States, attending a "Black Lives Matter" rally in Boston last month to protest racial inequality and police brutality following the murder of George Floyd.

The NBA and the NBPA are still ironing out the details of their jersey initiative as the league prepares to resume the 2019-20 season later this month. But it should surprise no one that Kanter already has a plan in place.