Associated Press

Celtics boss Danny Ainge back at work after ‘mild’ heart attack

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BOSTON (AP) — Kyrie Irving can opt out of his Celtics contract and become a free agent. Gordon Hayward might never play like he did before his injury. It’s possible Brad Stevens won’t figure out a way to deploy all of the team’s talent.

There’s one thing, though, that Boston boss Danny Ainge was able to rule out as he returned to work following his second heart attack: “My role’s not going to change.”

A 60-year-old former All-Star and NBA executive of the year, Ainge was in Milwaukee for the Celtics’ second-round series against the Bucks last month when he suffered what the team described as a “mild” heart attack. Doctors said at the time he was expected to make a full recovery.

Speaking to reporters for the first time since he fell ill, Ainge said Wednesday that he had complete faith in assistant general manager Mike Zarren, scouting director David Lewin and player personnel director Austin Ainge.

“I know our organization is in great hands,” he said at the team’s practice facility.

But he’s not ready to turn the reins over yet.

Ainge said he will work to eat better, exercise more and minimize stress. He didn’t do so well at that during the playoffs, when he tried to watch the second game of the East semifinals against Milwaukee.

“I’ve just got to be in a setting where I’m not screaming and yelling and my veins aren’t sticking out all over my neck,” he said.

This summer, that won’t be easy.

The Celtics went to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals in 2018 despite losing Irving and Hayward to injuries. With the two All-Stars back last season – and LeBron James moving out of the conference – the team was one of the favorites to reach the NBA Finals.

But piecing it all together proved more difficult than expected.

The Celtics managed just a No. 4 seed in the playoffs and lost to Milwaukee in five games. Irving shot 30% during the four-game losing streak that ended the season, and Boston fans began openly rooting for him to exercise his option and become a free agent.

Ainge said Irving was taking too much of the blame for the team’s disappointing season.

“It’s unfortunate that one person gets credit or blame for a team’s failures,” Ainge said. “We had a lot of reasons the team did not succeed this year. Kyrie deserves his share of the blame, but not any more than anybody else.”

Ainge said there were players who questioned their roles or otherwise struggled to fit into the role that Stevens put them in. Although Ainge did not single him out, guard Terry Rozier has complained publicly about what he “put up with” in a season when his minutes dropped for the first time in his career.

“There’s a lot of guys that didn’t handle things the right way, and didn’t make the sacrifices that needed to be done for the benefit of the team,” Ainge said. “We didn’t have 100% buy-in from 100% of the team. I did not anticipate that.”

And though it was Stevens’ job to work that out, Ainge said he had no doubts about his coach.

“Brad, he’s the least of our concerns,” Ainge said. “I wish every one of our players would put the time and effort in that Brad does.”

Ainge is doing his best to keep up. He said his illness didn’t hinder preparations for the June 20 draft, when the Celtics have four picks, including Nos. 14, 20 and 22 in the first round. They will have worked out nearly 100 players “of all shapes and sizes.”

And he’s trying to follow doctors’ orders.

Ainge said he was told to exercise more and lose weight. He also needs to improve his diet, but he won’t be looking to former teammate – and noted marijuana enthusiast – Bill Walton for recipes.

“I’m eating more plants,” he said. “Not the kind of plants in Walton’s garden, by the way.”

 

Jaylen Brown: Celtics nicknamed Grant Williams ‘Ben Simmons’ due to missed 3s

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Celtics rookie Grant Williams on 3-pointers in his first 20 games: 0-for-25.

0-for-25!

Nobody else has ever started a season that cold.

Of everyone else to attempt at least 25 3-pointers in their first 20 games, nobody made fewer than two. Of everyone else to miss all their 3-pointers in their first 20 games, nobody attempted more than 17.

Finally, Williams made a 3-pointer in Boston’s win over the Cavaliers yesterday.

Celtics forward Jaylen Brown, via NBC Sports Boston:

We were calling him Ben Simmons for the longest. But he knocked one down, and knocked them down, too. So, shoutout to both of those guys.

Yes, 76ers guard Ben Simmons barely shoots, let alone makes, 3-pointers. But it seems as if Brown realized mid-answer he shouldn’t provide bulletin-board material to a rival.

Too late.

Simmons has gotten called a coward numerous times by people in Boston due to his refusal to shoot 3s. Becoming the butt of the joke with fellow NBA players? That’s something else entirely.

We’ll see how Simmons responds, but many around him – including Philadelphia coach Brett Brown – have been urging him to hoist more 3s. It’s hard to see this inspiring Simmons to actually change his game.

Paul George says there’s more to his Pacers exit: ‘I promise you, I’m not the one to boo’

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In 2017, Paul George told the Pacers he planned to leave in free agency the following year. It wasn’t a trade request, but George knew his message would likely prompt Indiana to deal him. He wanted out.

George said he preferred the Spurs. (Or was it the Lakers?) The Pacers dealt him to the Thunder.

Now with the Clippers, George returned to Indiana and got booed.

George, via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN:

“You know, someday I’ll do a tell-all and tell the leading events of how I left Indiana,” George said. “And I promise you, I’m not the one to boo.”

“… I’m not gonna share the teaser,” George later added. “… I like being the villain. I’m here two nights out of the year. The people they should boo is here a lot longer than I am.”

Maybe George felt he got wronged. Maybe George actually got wronged.

But fans generally side with their favorite team over a star player who chose to leave.

It’s hard to imagine a set of circumstances where Pacers fans would boo someone other than George for his exit. My hunch: His grievances are significant to him but wouldn’t persuade Indiana fans. Still, I’m at least curious about his full story.

LeBron James on 2011 NBA Finals: ‘I lost my love for the game’

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LeBron James became a villain by leaving the Cavaliers for the Heat on The Decision in 2010. He arrived in Miami promising “not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven” championships.

By the end of his first season with the Heat, he was beaten down. The Mavericks topped Miami in the NBA Finals, winning the last three games of the series. While Miami blew its 2-1 lead, LeBron averaged 15.3 points and 4.7 turnovers per game. He shot 2-for-12 on 3-pointers and 4-for-10 on free throws.

After Game 6, he callously mocked his critics:

“All the people that were rooting for me to fail… at the end of the day, tomorrow they have to wake up and have the same life that (they had) before they woke up today,” James said. “They got the same personal problems they had today. And I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things I want to do.”

ESPN:

LeBron emerged from his funk and led the Heat to consecutive titles. He returned to Cleveland and won another title there. He’s now with the Lakers leading another championship pursuit.

He plays well. He plays smartly. He plays with joy. He often rises to the biggest occasions.

LeBron probably had to go through a setback like the 2011 Finals to sharpen his mental edge. But it’s incredible how far he has come from the defeated player who left that series against Dallas.

Tristan Thompson on Cavaliers anonymously griping about John Beilein: ‘Y’all better find them names ‘cause I’ll pull up on ‘em right now’

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The Athletic – quoting at least three unnamed players – reported the Cavaliers are rebelling against John Beilein’s collegiate coaching style.

Cleveland big Tristan Thompson, via Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com:

“Y’all better find them names ‘cause I’ll pull up on ‘em right now,” Thompson said. “You can’t do that s—.

“At the end of the day if you’re going to build a culture and a family, you can’t have that Chatty Patty s— going on. That s— is whack to me. Everyone’s got to look in the mirror, there’s only so much coach can do and there’s only so much we can do. Do we have the best roster in the NBA? No. But we’re going to go out there and compete every night. Guys got to look in the mirror. So I hope whoever reported that was just bulls——g and blamed it on a player.”

That’s quite the rhetoric from Thompson. I wonder whether he has the same energy in the locker room.

Thompson confronting his teammates would certainly raise the stakes. And make no mistake: His teammates are among the unnamed sources. The report not only specifically cited players, it said “Veterans and younger players, from all corners of the roster” are having issues with Beilein.

Even if he supports his coach, that’s a lot for Thompson to take on.

But if he’s looking for a place to start, I have a guess.