Danny Ainge weighs in on Celtics’ success, Brad Stevens’ moves as GM

Let’s face it: Without Danny Ainge, the Boston Celtics probably wouldn’t be in the 2022 NBA Finals.

Ainge was the Celtics’ general manager/president of basketball operations for 18 years before resigning exactly a year ago on Thursday. He drafted six of the eight players in Boston’s current playoff rotation and built a talented young core of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Robert Williams that has become the best team in the Eastern Conference.

Ainge – who is now CEO of basketball operations at the Utah Jazz – has justifiable pride in his work as he watches his former club battle the Golden State Warriors in their first NBA Finals appearance since 2010.

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“You know, it was fun to watch,” Ainge told Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix ahead of Thursday’s first game. “You invest a lot of time in relationships with all players potential. It’s fun to go through that process and see it blossom.”

While Ainge deserves credit for building the Celtics foundation, his successor has made some key additions.

Brad Stevens, head coach and now president of basketball operations, switched to Al Horford preseason and Derrick White at the NBA trade deadline, and both players have become key figures in Boston’s postseason success. Stevens also helped clean up the deadline-day roster, dishing out Dennis Schroder and Josh Richardson, moves that allowed Smart to flourish as a true point guard.

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Ainge gave Stevens very high marks for his first year on the job.

“I think Brad did a really good job,” said Ainge. “I thought he did a good job in the off-season. I thought he did a good job at the close.

“You know, just when things aren’t always going as well as you’d like, even though the team was having a pretty good run, like just when he was pulling the trigger on a trade for Derrick. It opened up minutes for Payton, who played really well on the track.

“I think that made it easier for (head coach) Ime (Udoka). There was a kind of traffic jam at the wing positions and at the backup point guard. I think that eliminated that and I think that benefited the team. “

Many have wondered if Ainge would have approved Boston’s deal for White, which would have cost the Cs a 2022 first-round pick and a 2028 first-round swap with the San Antonio Spurs. While Ainge was not interested in hypotheses, he gave credit to Stevens for the results achieved.

“None of us know what would have happened under different circumstances,” Ainge said. “Bottom line Brad made deals. The deals helped the team and he certainly deserves all the credit.”

Stevens, helping the Celtics win an NBA title in his first year as a manager would be a remarkable achievement. But Ainge would probably be very happy knowing that his earlier work has paid off.







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