Celtics

Danny Ainge "settled" Paul Pierce vs. Dwyane Wade debate in the best way

Danny Ainge "settled" Paul Pierce vs. Dwyane Wade debate in the best way

It was a simple question that probably deserved a short, diplomatic answer.

"Sure," Danny Ainge could have said, "Paul Pierce and Dwyane Wade were both great players, but I'm preferential to my own guy."

But that's not how the Boston Celtics' president of basketball operations chose to handle what's become a hot-button issue since Pierce boldly declared himself better than Wade on ESPN.

"I'm gonna say Paul, because I just went into my analytics group the other day and I asked them that question," Ainge said Wednesday morning during his weekly interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Toucher & Rich."

That's right: Not only did Ainge not dismiss the debate, he enlisted the Celtics' analytics team to settle it. Here's how:

"We have an analysis called Adjusted Plus/Minus," Ainge said. "That's probably the best number you can come up with for a player's impact in the game. ... (Pierce and Wade) were very high in the prime of their career in adjusted plus/minus, meaning they were in the 10-11 range per 100 possessions, which is enormous."

According to Ainge, Wade was "slightly better" from age 20 to 29 than Pierce, with an Adjusted Plus/Minus of 6.4 compared to Pierce's 5.4. But if you look at both players in their 30s...

"Pierce was actually better than he was in 20s," Ainge said. "Pierce was 5.8, and Dwyane Wade was minus-0.4.

"And that was my initial feeling: that Pierce was a little more consistent for longer than Dwyane."

So, there you have it. Ainge and his stat geeks ran the numbers, and they chose the Celtics star over the Heat legend.

"I think everybody came to the conclusion that they would have to give the nod to Pierce, on our staff," Ainge said.

Shocker, we know.

Now is a good time remind you that statistics can prove anything. Indeed, there's a ton of evidence supporting Wade -- some of which Ainge admitted -- like his three first-team All-NBA selections to Pierce's zero, his three rings to Pierce's one and his 2009 NBA scoring title.

But let's acknowledge Ainge and his staff taking the time amid a playoff push to dig up statistical proof that Pierce had a better overall body of work than his Heat counterpart.

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2020 NBA restart: Celtics' three-game scrimmage schedule in Orlando revealed

2020 NBA restart: Celtics' three-game scrimmage schedule in Orlando revealed

By this time three weeks from now, the Boston Celtics will be back on the court playing other NBA teams.

The Celtics' first game of the 2020 NBA season restart isn't until July 31, but they'll start warming up a week earlier with three scrimmage games at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla.

Here's Boston's three-game scrimmage schedule in the bubble:

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Friday, July 24
Celtics vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (5 p.m. ET)

Sunday, July 26
Celtics vs. Phoenix Suns (1:30 p.m. ET)

Tuesday, July 28
Celtics vs. Houston Rockets (8 p.m. ET)

The C's face three Western Conference opponents who aren't on their eight-game "seeding round" slate. Their final tune-up against James Harden, Russell Westbrook and the Rockets should be entertaining, although it's possible each team's starters play limited minutes as squads shake off the rust.

The NBA plans to release "potential" broadcast details at a later date, so it's unclear whether any of these games will be televised.

The Celtics began official practices July 1 and are set to travel to Orlando between July 7 and 9, where they'll join 21 other teams in the "bubble." Boston is the current No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference and could be a legitimate championship contender.

Check out the Celtics' eight-game seeding schedule below:

Gordon Hayward recalls rollercoaster Celtics tenure, three years after signing

Gordon Hayward recalls rollercoaster Celtics tenure, three years after signing

It was three years ago that the fireworks that Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck had previously talked about (and we absolutely loved to talk about over and over and over again), actually came to fruition for the Celtics. 

That's when Boston did what no Celtics team under Danny Ainge’s watch had ever done. 

They went out and signed an All-Star free agent, then-27-year-old Gordon Hayward, who was still in his prime as a player. 

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“I can’t believe it’s been three years already, to be honest,” Hayward said during a teleconference call with reporters on Friday. “A lot has happened for me, for my family.”

It is impossible to look at the Hayward narrative in Boston without delving into the gruesome left leg injury he suffered just five minutes into this first game as a Boston Celtic. 

Once he was cleared to resume playing, there was the usual rust associated with a long layover. But more than the time off, Hayward had hurdles to clear beyond being physically able to return to play. 

For most of his career, Hayward leaned on his basketball instincts when it came to making plays at both ends of the floor. 

The injury changed that. 

Hayward had developed the kind of muscle memory with his game that allowed him to ascend to an All-Star level while in Utah, with play that on many nights looked seemingly effortless. The injury, which sidelined him for the rest of the 2017-2018 season, forced him to work at bridging the divide that now existed between his mind and body as far as what he was capable of doing on the court.

It wasn’t all that surprising that it led to mixed results, with Hayward looking like the best player on the floor some nights and then inexplicably struggling against inferior competition the next. 

And just like fans at times would become frustrated with his inconsistent play, Hayward wasn’t enjoying this rollercoaster of emotions fueled by his up-and-down play either. 

The 6-foot-8 forward has spent his entire basketball career working to strengthen his body to withstand the physical rigors that come with being a slashing, attacking-the-rim wing who can also make teams pay for sagging off him with a mid-range game that can extend beyond the 3-point line. 

But the injury forced Hayward to really work at strengthening his mind, something that he quickly acknowledged as being the biggest takeaway from his time thus far in Boston. 

“For sure I hit a low during my injury,” Hayward said. “And had to work more than ever on that mental side, more than I ever had in my basketball career on that mental side. That’s for sure something that takes work.”

The topic of mental health among professional athletes has gained significant traction in recent years as a discussion which professional players such as Hayward are far more comfortable addressing publicly. 

“For sure the mental side is where I’ve grown,” he said.

And that growth has Hayward in arguably the best position he has been in as a Celtic. 

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While he was initially brought in to be either the team’s go-to guy or next in line, Hayward has effectively settled into more of a jack-of-all-trades role, allowing him to make an impact of significance without necessarily having to carry the team on a night-in, night-out basis. 

He’s averaging 17.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists this season, his best numbers in those categories since becoming a Celtic. 

Just as impressive has been his efficiency — he's shooting 50.2 percent from the field and 39.2 percent from 3-point range this season.

And while he’ll be the first to tell you that his time in Boston has indeed been a rollercoaster of sorts, he has no regrets about his decision to become a Celtic which reunited him with his college coach at Butler, Brad Stevens.

“It’s been some great moments for sure,” Hayward said of his time in Boston. “Obviously some not-great moments with the injury and everything but some great moments. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”