Celtics Exit Interviews: What changes will Danny Ainge make?

Celtics Exit Interviews: What changes will Danny Ainge make?

BOSTON -- Before the season began, there were calls for Danny Ainge to make changes. 

As the trade deadline approached, more calls and offers came in. 

Ultimately, Ainge stood by this group when so many thought a shake-up was in order. 

And for a change, the naysayers may have been right, because the 2018-19 Celtics fell well short of both their own personal goals as well as those expectations from those on the outside looking in. 

Which brings us to what may shape up to be one of the most transformative offseasons for this franchise in more than a decade. 

Because the last time the Celtics had an offseason when the stakes were this high, it was 2007.

Paul Pierce wanted out if they couldn't significantly upgrade the talent around him. 

So, the Celtics pulled off a pair of offseason deals that led to one of the greatest rags-to-riches stories in NBA history. 

Ainge landed a pair of perennial All-Stars in Ray Allen and later Kevin Garnett, who joined forces with Pierce in leading Boston to the 2008 NBA title. 

There is the potential for Boston to have another landslide of basketball riches in the coming months if they can convince Kyrie Irving to re-sign with the Celtics and potentially pull a deal off to land Anthony Davis via trade from New Orleans. 

And if one or both of those deals don’t work out, it’ll be on Ainge to figure out a way to keep this Celtics team competitive among the top teams in the East at a time when most of the teams have some element of uncertainty going into the offseason as it relates to their roster. 

Key players from each of the top four teams in the East — Milwaukee, Toronto, Boston and Philadelphia — could potentially be on the move this summer, which has the potential to significantly alter the calculus when it comes to who's running things in the East. 

This is where Ainge has the potential to do what he has seemingly done well for years: figure out the best way to bolster the roster. 

Ainge has never deviated from his desire to bring back Irving. 

And while rumors that Irving is bound for the New York Knicks have persisted all season, Ainge’s confidence that Irving would remain in a Celtics uniform going forward has remained strong. 

“The way I view the situation is, I think a lot of people because of Kyrie’s announcement beginning of the year, thought that there was a marriage,” Ainge said on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s "Toucher & Rich" show earlier this year. “I think it’s more like an engagement and we’re going to get married on July 1. And I think that engagement is still on as far as I know in my individual conversations with Kyrie; still engaged but we can’t make those vows, sign that contract until July 1."

But as important as re-signing Irving is to Boston’s success going forward, Ainge will have to do more in order to best ensure that this past season’s struggles are no more than a speed bump in the team’s journey towards Banner 18. 

Boston has the upcoming draft, one in which they have a trio of first-round picks (No. 14, 20 and 22). This will be the fourth time in the past six years the Celtics have had multiple first-round picks. 

The Celtics must do a good job via free agency beyond Irving. Al Horford has the potential to opt out of the final year of his deal and may be open to signing a shorter-money, longer-term deal. 

Aron Baynes can opt out, but will likely play out the final year of his contract with the Celtics.

There’s a lot going on with what’s shaping up to be a busy summer, a busy summer whose success will ultimately be determined by Ainge’s ability to answer the call of change that’s upon this franchise now. 

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Celtics Exit Interviews: Will Marcus Morris be back?

Celtics Exit Interviews: Will Marcus Morris be back?

BOSTON -- Say what you want about Marcus Morris; the man doesn’t lack confidence. 

Like Kyrie Irving, Morris also talked about how things would be different for the Celtics, in a good way, once the playoffs rolled around. 

He was right … sort of. 

A strong first-round sweep of Indiana was as good as things would get for Morris and the Celtics who were soon knocked out of the playoffs in the second round by Milwaukee. 

And while Morris proved to be one of the few bright spots for the Celtics this season, he, too, had a less-than-ideal finish to the season and potentially, his career as a Celtic. 

Morris will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and is expected to receive a decent amount of attention from a number teams, which include the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers. 

The attention Morris will garner this summer is in large part due to how he played this past season for the Celtics. 

Morris put up career-best stats in a number of categories such as rebounding (6.1 per game) and shooting (44.7 percent from the field).

Still, there’s a need for him to become a more consistent shooter. 

Prior to the All-Star break, Morris was averaging a career-high 14.5 points on 47.6 percent shooting from the field and 40.9 percent on 3’s. 

After the break, his scoring had dropped to 12.5 points while shooting 37.8 percent from the field and 30.0 percent on 3’s. 

Morris has a solid 6-foot-9 frame and seems built for today’s NBA game, which rewards players with defensive versatility. While that’s a big part of who Morris is as a player, his defense this past season wasn’t as good as we’ve seen from him in past.

Even with some aspects of his game being off compared to past years, Morris, who turns 30 in September, is a player who has tremendous value in the NBA for not just what he does statistically, but also because of the tough-guy demeanor that he plays with on a night-in, night-out basis.

And those skills are going to be rewarded in a big way this summer when he hits free agency and lands what’s likely to be a contract that will at least double the $5 million he made last season. 

The only question isn’t whether he will get paid, but rather will he be getting paid by the Celtics?

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Celtics Exit Interviews: Jaylen Brown at a crossroads

Celtics Exit Interviews: Jaylen Brown at a crossroads

BOSTON -- After a solid rookie season in 2017, Jaylen Brown avoided the sophomore slump the following season and instead had a surge toward becoming a starter and the Celtics’ best scorer not named Kyrie Irving.

There was growth in Year 3, but not how Brown or the Celtics envisioned.

After struggling at first to wholeheartedly embrace a new role that saw him go from starting to coming off the bench, Brown learned a vital lesson about playing time.

The better you play, the more you get.

And it is a lesson that will serve him well heading into this offseason, which has some life-altering potential.

While his numbers took a dip, Brown’s value for this team may not be any higher than it is now.

With three years under his belt, Brown has done enough to where teams no longer see him as an unknown commodity whose value is heavily intertwined with potential.

“He’s what, 22 years old?” a Western Conference scout told NBC Sports Boston. “You don’t see him as your star per se, but there’s a lot to like about Jaylen’s game. And looking from the outside at how things were with the Celtics, I think there’s a great amount of respect for him as a person, too.”

The internal struggles that led to the Celtics flaming out in the second round of the playoffs have become a well-talked about topic.

Terry Rozier has not held back on his thoughts as to what some of the issues were. Most recently, Aron Baynes discussed the team’s “flip the switch” approach to the playoffs and how that was a recipe for disaster which played out before our very eyes.

Even the good folks at Bleacher Report covered the Celtics’ issues via their “Game of Zones” animated series, which takes a hilarious poke at the chemistry problems that seemed to haunt team all season.

So, what does it all mean to Brown?

Brown’s approach to this offseason has to be no different than what it has been each of the previous two. That is, to become a better all-around player because the one thing he has shown thus far in his career is that he’s good at many things but great at none.

In three seasons, Brown has never averaged more than 1.6 assists per game so the need to get others involved and step up his play-making is important.

A good chunk of his turnovers come from losing control of the ball while dribbling, so tightening up his handle will surely be an area in need of improvement this summer.

Brown could also work to become a better defender, the one thing many expected would not be a major issue for him in the NBA due to his length, athleticism and clear desire in college to make an impact at that end of the floor.

And then there’s the potential contract extension that Brown is eligible for before the start of next season.

Brown, who does not have an agent, hopes to talk about the Celtics at some point this summer about a new deal.

With or without an extension, Brown’s game is indeed trending in the right direction.

“I’m 22 years old. I know I have a lot to learn,” Brown said shortly after the Celtics season ended. “I know the older guys on our team, I think they feel the same thing. They got a lot to learn, too. So, that’s a part of it; everybody growing.”

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