Danny Ainge is just five weeks removed from his second heart attack, but that didn’t stop him from delivering a strong opinion of the 2018-19 Boston Celtics on Wednesday.
“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,” the Boston general manager and president of basketball operations told reporters in his first interview session since his May 2 heart attack. “We didn’t have 100 percent buy-in from 100 percent of the team. I did not anticipate that.”
The Celtics were ousted in the second round of the playoffs by the Milwaukee Bucks to cap what was a frustrating season.
Boston was viewed as the best team in the Eastern Conference prior to the season with LeBron James departing the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Los Angeles Lakers of the Western Conference. But the team didn’t click and had just the fourth-best record in the East at 49-33.
“We all need to learn from this past year,” the 60-year-old Ainge said.
Ainge said point guard Kyrie Irving — who possibly has played his last game with the team — received too much of the blame for the team’s underachieving nature.
“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 also made it clear that coach Brad Stevens wasn’t the problem.
“He’s the least of our worries,” Ainge said. “We know that he’s going to work to become the best that he can be and that he’s going to learn from it. I wish every one of our players would put the time, effort and energy into what Brad does, but there’s no other coach I’d rather have than Brad Stevens.”
Ainge is putting more time and effort into his health and reducing stress in the wake of his second heart attack. The first one occurred in 2009.
He suffered the latest one while the Celtics were in Milwaukee for the conference semifinal series. The club described Ainge’s heart attack as “mild.”
Ainge said his role with the club will remain the same and that his recovery hasn’t affected preparations for the NBA draft on June 20. Boston has the Nos. 14, 20 and 22 selections.
Working on the diet has been challenging, and Ainge couldn’t resist taking a crack at former teammate Bill Walton, who has publicly expressed a liking for marijuana.
“I’m eating more plants,” Ainge said. “Not the kind of plants in Walton’s garden, by the way.”
—Field Level Media