July 4, 2016. I spent my entire morning and early afternoon refreshing twitter on my phone awaiting the Kevin Durant announcement. Out of nowhere, Yahoo posts a short video stating that Durant had chosen Boston. One minute the internet was set ablaze, and the next minute, the video was taken down. It was a false alarm, and Durant joined the 73-9 almost-won-the finals Warriors. Fans nationwide pointed and laughed at Celtics fans while we drowned in the anguish of losing a player we never had.
July 4, 2017. Here we go again. Spending time with family and friends to celebrate the holiday while refreshing twitter in between every mouthful of barbecued chicken. Chris Haynes tweets that Hayward picked Boston.
...and Zach Lowe confirms it.
Again, the internet ignites like a wildfire. And then, chaos. Those close to Hayward said he hadn’t picked a team yet, more insiders tweet to confirm this un-confirmation of Hayward’s future plans. Hours passed, and we filled the time by scrolling through confused tweets, trying to decipher Instagram posts, and staying tuned to ESPN so David Aldridge could, in essence, admit he has no idea what is going on.
Critics of Danny Ainge were feeling revitalized. Coming down from the high of Boston trading the first pick away (and watching Tatum outplay Fultz in their first meeting), observers of the madness was once again pointing and laughing at the Celtics for missing out on damn near everybody. Jimmy Butler, Paul George, and Blake Griffin had all been signed away and the Hayward announcement looked like another false alarm.
But it wasn’t. Hayward announced in a hastily edited (to address the leak of his decision) Players Tribune post that he had decided to join Boston to finish what he and Brad Stevens had set out to do: win a championship. Is that a realistic goal? Who knows.
Danny Ainge’s master plan, with some setbacks, has come to fruition. The Celtics have become competitive without cashing in all their chips to make it so. Durant may not have come with Horford, and Paul George went too soon to pair with Hayward, yet the Celtics are still entering the 2017-18 season coming off a Conference Finals appearance as the top-seeded team. Sure, they were obliterated, but they’ll get another chance with Isaiah Thomas leading the new additions, Hayward and Tatum, against a Cleveland squad that only got older. You can’t put an expiration date on LeBron’s dynasty (LeDynasty), but why ponder the future when you can compete in the present (AND the future!).
Danny Ainge’s steady hand has kept Boston in the mix. He could’ve unloaded all the assets at any moment for a blockbuster, or he could build piece by piece, and the latter looks better by the day.
This isn't Ainge's first rebuild, so why was there so much doubt? If you look at the players he signed for Doc Rivers, you can tell he has a deep understanding of what the team needs as well as what the coach is looking for. In Doc Rivers, Ainge had a true veteran of the game to work with, and appropriately surrounded him with veteran players. To assist Pierce, Ainge acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen via trade, hired guns Eddie House and James Posey in free agency, followed by Sam Cassell, PJ Brown, Jermaine O'Neal, Rasheed Wallace, Stephon Marbury, Shaquille O'Neal, and the bookend of an era, Jason Terry. Doc was heralded as a 'players coach', who could work with all types of personalities so long as they were committed to winning.
In contrast, look at the players who now surround the younger, more creative, and more collected Brad Stevens. Ainge has filled out the roster almost perfectly with bulldogs, misfits, versatile wings, dudes with character, and chipped shoulders. Starting with one core piece, Avery Bradley, Ainge gave Stevens a rag-tag group of Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder, Evan Turner, Jonas Jerebko, Kelly Olynyk, Amir Johnson, and Isaiah Thomas to build a new brand of Celtics basketball. Then come Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, Gordon Hayward, and Jayson Tatum, who bring a wealth of raw talent and versatility to turn the Celtics into a real threat. Ainge may have gotten lucky at times, but his judgment has returned the Celtics to the upper echelon of basketball.
Welcome to Boston, Gordon Hayward.