The Boston Celtics have announced the retirement of a legend in their franchise’s history, Danny Ainge. In shocking news, his replacement in the seat of basketball boss is their now former and 4th winningest head coach in franchise history, Brad Stevens.
Stevens, 44, who took over as head coach following the departure of coaching legend Doc Rivers in 2013, never brought a championship to Boston as a head coach but hopes to change that as an executive. In a pivotal offseason ahead, Stevens has his hands full but is ready for the challenge.
“I’m passionate about this group of people, I’m passionate about the team we have, I’m passionate about the people that work in our front office, I’m passionate about our coaching staff, and that’s who I’ve spent all morning with,” Stevens said.
As for Ainge, 62, following previous health issues that include a heart attack two years ago, his future is unclear. Ainge cites the health concerns and changes due to the pandemic as contributors to his decision to step down.
“In the bubble and all the rules and scrutiny and protocols that we had to go through has not made the job as much fun,” he said.
Ainge’s career in Boston spanned 8 years as a player in which he won 2 NBA championships (84 & 86) and an additional 18 years in the Front office of the Celtics Organization that saw him add one more ring to his collection in 2008, a year in which he added an Executive of the Year award to his trophy case.
Road Ahead for Boston
Boston and Stevens face a tough challenge in revamping and retooling their roster this offseason with not much cap flexibility. After 3 trips to the Conference Finals in the past 4 years, Boston saw their team struggle late in the season, falling into the Play-In tournament.
After obtaining the 7 seed in the playoffs, Boston struggled against the Brooklyn Nets Big Three of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and James Harden, receiving the boot after a lopsided 5 game series.
This drop in performance leaves the Celtics Front office and their new leader, Brad Stevens with many tough decisions to make. Stevens is also going to have to adapt, as for the first time in many years, the Celtics will not have the cap room to make moves in Free agency, or a surplus of draft picks at their disposal (Thank you Brooklyn Nets).
Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown are all under contract for the foreseeable future, leaving the Celtics with little wiggle room and cap space (6 million) to make moves in free agency.
Kemba Walker and his massively overpaid contract could be dumped in a trade, but Boston may have to sacrifice some pieces for a team to be willing to accept. This would mean sacrificing the little depth they have of young players such as Payton Pritchard, Aaron Nesmith, and Robert Williams.
They are also left with decisions to make on the one year remaining on Marcus Smart’s contract, as well as the expiring contract of Evan Fournier. Being able to retain Walker, Smart, and Fournier is highly unlikely due to the large luxury tax bill the team would face, and that core still would not be competitive in the top-heavy Eastern Conference.
With Giannis in Milwaukee for the long term, and the presence of stout cores in Philadelphia and Brooklyn, Boston needs to find a way to build a supporting cast around their young stars of Tatum and Brown.