Danny Ainge has won a title as the president of basketball operations — the decision maker — for the Celtics. He has seen some rough rebuilding years as well.
Now there seems to be a foundation coming together in Boston — a well-liked young coach in Brad Stevens, a group of nice young rotation players that buy into the system, a lot of draft picks coming their way — and Ainge intends to stick around for it. He’s been with the Celtics for 13 years, and Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald asked him how much longer he planned to be around.
“I don’t see a finish line . . . at all,” Ainge said. “I guess there’s a finish line for everybody, but I don’t see it. Listen, I’ve been around the NBA long enough to know that you never know how things are going to play out. I don’t expect anything. I never really think about it. When I took this job and we came back, my wife wondered how long we would do it, but we really didn’t know. Still don’t. I still don’t think about it, or worry about it….
“I’m having too much fun,” he said. “I like working with the guys. I feel like right now, after 12 years, I think what we’ve sort of built with our data people, our sports science people, our training staff, our medical staff and our coaching staff, it’s come a long way. I love working with the guys I work with. I still like the players of today. I’m not one of those people that think, ‘Oh, the players of today aren’t what they used to be.’ I don’t see that at all. I love the young kids. I love how hard they work. They work harder than we ever worked. They energize me. I love being around this group of guys.”
I love that last thought. So many veteran players — and older fans — love to think today’s generation of players are self-centered, don’t know the game, and couldn’t hang in the ’80s or ’90s or whatever era they grew up watching. That’s a load of crap. A lot more players than people remember didn’t know the game back then. Today’s players are longer, more athletic and better conditioned. Plus the game has changed — Hall of Famer Gary Payton has told PBT he doesn’t know how he would function in today’s NBA where he can’t touch a guy on the perimeter. Too many people view the past through rose-colored glasses and hazy memories — today is a great and golden age of the NBA. And in 25 years we can hear Stephen Curry talk about how the young players today couldn’t have hung with him.
I like what Ainge has started to build in Boston, he’s got a solid foundation. The challenge is that to win in the NBA you need a couple of Top 15 players, and that’s what Boston lacks right now. Whether through the draft, free agency or trade, Ainge has to land the star that can lift the rest of that roster up. And that’s always the hardest part.
But Ainge has done it before.