Danny Ainge 'really excited' for Gordon Hayward's next season with Celtics

Danny Ainge 'really excited' for Gordon Hayward's next season with Celtics

BOSTON — Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge sounds bullish about Gordon Hayward’s chances of bouncing back to All-Star form during the 2019-20 season.

Ainge expressed optimism about Hayward, who struggled this year to find consistency while working his way back from what was ultimately two surgeries following the gruesome ankle injury that all but erased his 2017-18 season. After a strong finish to the 2018-19 campaign and encouraging stretches in Boston’s opening-round sweep of the Pacers, Hayward struggled to impact the series against the Bucks. 

“I’m really excited for Gordon’s upcoming season,” said Ainge. "He’s working hard right now in the gym. He’s here every day with five or six coaches and bodies out there working extremely hard. He’s put a lot of time in. I’m anticipating great things from Gordon this next year. 

"I don’t really look at it as fading in the Milwaukee series. I look at it as sometimes it’s just opportunity. There’s only one ball out there. And I’m not worried about Gordon Hayward. I’m not worried about his future or how good a player he is. He’s doing everything he can. If he doesn’t become the player that he wants to be then it won’t be from a lack of trying. But I’m very excited and optimistic about his future.”

Ainge held a wide-ranging 21-minute press conference on Wednesday at the Auerbach Center, the first time he’s met with reporters since suffering a heart attack during Boston’s playoff run, and while Kyrie Irving’s future was the focal point of a conversation centered around Boston’s cloudy summer plans, Ainge offered thoughts on Hayward and a some of Boston’s other players and coaches.

Ainge saved some of his biggest praise for coach Brad Stevens, who had taken much of the blame for Boston’s roller coaster play this past season.

"Brad and I talk every day. Things are going great. There's no other coach I'd rather have than Brad. He's the best,” said Ainge.

Later Ainge added: "It was a very difficult job. I knew it'd be difficult from the beginning of the year and we talked about that but I think it was even more difficult than I anticipated and he anticipated. Again, I think he's going to be a lot better because of the year he went through. He's the least of our worries. 

"We know that he's going to work to become the best that he can be and that he's going to learn from it. I wish every one of our players would put the time, effort and energy into what Brad does, but there's no other coach I'd rather have than Brad Stevens.”

Some other topics Ainge touched on: 

* Asked about the possibility that Al Horford could opt out of the final year of his deal (and $30.1 million) and negotiate a potential extension to stay in Boston, Ainge said, "That will be discussed. That’s one of the priorities on our list as well.”

* Questioned about the young core of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Terry Rozier, Ainge said simply, “I think that they all had great moments in the season and I think there’s a lot they still need to get better at.”

* Pressed on Rozier and his outspoken nature following the season, Ainge said: "You guys know I’m a big fan of Terry’s. I don’t always agree with how everybody handles the media, just like they probably don’t agree with how I handle the media and things that I say. We don’t always think alike, that’s what makes the game fun. But I’m a big fan of Terry’s, I think that, if Terry was in the right circumstance and the right role, I think he would love playing in Boston, is my opinion. And, if not, then I think Terry would let me know that. But Terry and I have a very good relationship, as Terry does with Brad as well.”

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Kyrie Irving (shoulder) out indefinitely, could miss March 3 game in Boston

Kyrie Irving (shoulder) out indefinitely, could miss March 3 game in Boston

It looks like Boston Celtics fans may have to wait even longer to witness Kyrie Irving's return to TD Garden.

The ex-Celtics guard has been ruled out indefinitely after re-aggravating his injured right shoulder, Brooklyn Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said Tuesday. That likely puts Irving's status in doubt for the March 3 C's-Nets game in Boston.

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Irving didn't travel to Boston when his Nets visited the Celtics on Nov. 27. The shoulder injury has limited him to only 20 games this season, but he's been effective when healthy, averaging 27.4 points and 6.4 assists per game. 

This Friday is Jayson Tatum Day here at NBC Sports Boston. Be sure to check out our exclusive content around Tatum throughout the day, both online and on the broadcast of Celtics-Timberwolves, which begins Friday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 8 p.m. You can also stream it on the MyTeams App.

That 617 Life Podcast: What can NBA do to improve dunk and 3-point contests?

That 617 Life Podcast: What can NBA do to improve dunk and 3-point contests?

If you missed this year's NBA All-Star Game, you missed one of the most entertaining All-Star events in recent sports history.

Team LeBron vs. Team Giannis came down to the wire, with both teams battling at 100-percent effort to reach the target score of 157 under the game's new format. Defense was being played at a tremendously high level, which we've hardly ever seen in any NBA All-Star Game. Toronto Raptors star Kyle Lowry even took two charges.

But as great as the game was, All-Star Weekend as a whole could still use some improvement. Particularly in the dunk and 3-point contests.

On the latest edition of the "That 617 Life" podcast, hosts Leroy Irvin, Shanda Foster, and Cerrone Battle discuss what the NBA could do to make them better:

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Battle thought the 3-point and dunk contests were entertaining, but would like to see more participants:

Another issue I have with All-Star Weekend when it comes to the 3-point contest and the dunk contest is the amount of participants ... I remember Terry Porter and Mark Price going at it at the same time. It was like 12 guys in the contest, you know what I'm saying?

And in the dunk contest -- I mean at one point back in the 80's it was like 10 dudes trying to win it. And it's like now, as good as it is, I would love to see more participants. I want to see more people in it. I want to see a longer contest. A true tournament.

Foster agrees with Battle and wants to see some of the biggest stars in the league step up to join in on the festivities.

They need to bring that back. I got really sick and tired of seeing -- and you know, I get it, it's the vacation -- but it was irritating to see the big names just flossing all their photos on Instagram from vacation when it's like, you know, it's All-Star break -- it's called All-Star for a reason. It's not "All-Star" if the All-Stars aren't all there.

For more NBA All-Star Weekend discussion, you can click here to listen and subscribe to Thar 617 Life Podcast.