BOSTON (CBS) — Like everyone else in the basketball world, Danny Ainge is pretty excited about Thursday night’s Celtics-Warriors showdown.
The two best teams in the NBA will square off at the TD Garden, a great early season test for Ainge’s young Celtics.
“A game in November like this, not every regular season game brings this much drama. It’s fun,” the C’s president of basketball ops. told 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich during his weekly chat. “I don’t play too much into the result. During the game I will be like all the players and coaches, but I’ve been around along enough to know if you win you can’t go crazy.”
Boston’s 13-game winning streak has many thinking that what was considered a team of the future can actually make some noise in the present. Ainge doesn’t like to put expectations on his team, but understands the hype around his squad.
“You guys always try to get me to say my expectations, which I won’t say for the exact reason of what happened five minutes in opening night. We would be a much better team if Gordon Hayward was healthy,” he said. “But there is a silver lining; a lot of our young guys are getting the opportunity to step up and show their worth in the NBA.
“We have a long way to go. We’re young and have our offensive droughts. But the way they scratch and claw to win is very entertaining,” said Ainge.
With the Warriors in town, Ainge was asked about Kevin Durant’s decision to join the Warriors over the Celtics two summers ago. He equated it to losing an NBA Finals game, but said he and his staff has to quickly move on.
“It was tough, just because we know how great he is and how much of an impact he can have,” he said. “You just have to move on. I have great respect for Kevin, he gave us great consideration and chose a fantastic organization and chose a great team with great players. He did what he thought was best for him.”
In that light, Toucher asked Ainge about ignoring his advice to draft Draymond Green back in 2012.
“He’s become a terrific player, the 6-foot-6 version of Marcus Smart. He does a lot of things to help you win,” Ainge said of Green, whom be passed on to draft the likes of Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo. “His weaknesses aren’t exploited [on Golden State] and he can provide things that you can’t find anywhere else.”
Ainge also brought up Smart, who is having one of the worst shooting seasons in NBA history but seems to always find a way to help the Celtics win. It’s a fascinating concept, and Ainge said much of Smart’s impact doesn’t show up in the box score.
“Marcus is a very bright player. He really sees the game well on both ends of the court. He hasn’t been a good shooter most of his life, but he’s worked hard and it’s getting better. I know it’s not showing up on the stats. On the second unit he finds himself with the ball at the end of the clock and he isn’t concerned about shooting percentages, because he’ll heave shots from half-court or three-quarters court — shots with one percent chance of going in.
“Marcus is a terrific passer, he can post up and does a great job at that when they put little guards on him. He can offensive rebound and he’s an unselfish player,” added Ainge. “He’s still a very young player and he’s getting better at his shot selection. When he’s wide open at the end of the game and has a wide open three, I want him to take it. We love his progress as a player and he’s continuing to develop. He’s a huge part of our success over the last few years.”
Ainge also said that Kyrie Irving hasn’t flaunted his new diet to him, but he’s interested in taking his new guard to Chipotle just to see what he orders. Kyrie’s level of play to start his Boston career also has Ainge considering one of the guard’s more controversial takes.
“I’m beginning to believe the world may be flat,” Ainge joked.
Ainge also touched on whether or not he believes there is such thing as a “rookie wall” and Boston’s incredible play on the defensive end to start the season. Listen to the full interview in the podcast above.