Looking back at a Celtics season that ended in a disappointing second-round playoff exit and on the eve of free agency, Danny Ainge said the team was hindered by players with too many individual goals and not enough focus on winning.
"I felt like at some point in the year, players will accept a role. We just had too many individual goals, like we didn't have enough guys that winning was the most important thing," the Celtics president of basketball operations said at the team's annual corporate partner's summit in Newport, R.I.
Ainge didn't name individual players, but reports of dissatisfaction with roles and playing time emerged throughout the season and after the Celtics were eliminated by the Milwaukee Bucks.
"When you have 21- and 22-year-old kids, that's going to happen. I like them and I understand where every player is. I was that player. Yes, I wanted to be an All-Star and yes, I wanted more shots. I used to celebrate every time [Larry] Bird didn't play," Ainge said, relating his own experience on the great Celtics teams of the '80s. "Are you kidding? That's more shots..."
Watch the attached video for his complete comments.
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Want to witness one of the greatest individual performances in NBA history? Just tune into NBC Sports Boston on Sunday night.
Our "Classic Celtics" series -- which featured Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals on Friday night -- continues Sunday with a throwback: Game 2 of Boston's 1986 NBA playoffs first-round series with the Chicago Bulls.
That April 20, 1986, game at TD Garden was a defining moment for then-23-year-old Michael Jordan, who went off for an NBA postseason-record 63 points.
But Celtics fans can appreciate Jordan's masterful performance knowing that Boston outlasted Chicago 135-131 in double overtime and swept the series en route to an eventual NBA title.
The broadcast begins Sunday at 7 p.m. ET, and as an added bonus, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge -- who scored 24 points in this game while defending Jordan -- will join Brian Scalabrine to provide real-time commentary throughout the game.
Other reasons to watch:
- A vintage performance from Celtics star Larry Bird, who scored a team-high 36 points to go along with 12 rebounds and eight assists.
- The 1980s Celtics at their peak: Bird, Ainge, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson and Bill Walton all scored double figures.
- Jordan hitting two free throws in the final seconds of regulation to force the first overtime.
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Gordon Hayward was enjoying his best season as a Boston Celtic before the 2019-20 season came to a screeching halt due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Through 45 games, the 30-year-old forward was averaging 17.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists while shooting 59.3 percent from the field. Hayward's performance was setting himself up for a solid contract if he were to opt out of his contract and hit free agency this summer.
That scenario doesn't appear likely, however.
According to Heavy.com, NBA executives expect Hayward to exercise his $34 million player option.
'It’s too much money to pass up,' one general manager told Heavy.com. 'He could get a longer deal if that is what he really wants. But I don’t think the Celtics want to give it to him, they have a lot of young guys to pay and the starting (salary) number on whatever the contract is will not be close to $34 million. He can opt in this year and then take a big contract next year. When you look at what he has done since his injury, he has only gotten better. He could get better next year and be ready for the summer of 2021.'
That doesn't exactly come as a surprise. Hayward may get a nice contract if he were to hit the open market this year, but it certainly wouldn't be anywhere near that eye-popping $34 million figure.
It makes far more sense for Hayward to take his money and test the market in 2021 if he and the Celtics don't agree on an extension before then. The 2021 free agent class will be much deeper, and teams will have more cap space to give Hayward a sizable long-term deal. That is, if he can duplicate the kind of success he's enjoyed so far this season.