Stephen A. Smith: Danny Ainge lacks salesmanship, Celtics falling apart by the seams


With Al Horford and Kyrie Irving both likely to not return to the Celtics, Stephen A. Smith believes that the team is “falling apart by the seams.” 

“I mean when you look at this team that’s presently constructed, they’re just going to be an average team,” Smith said Wednesday morning on First Take.

He believes this is largely due to one main factor: Danny Ainge.

“The reality of the situation is that ain’t nobody coming to Boston to play for Danny Ainge,” said Smith. “In most instances, he’s got to draft them, that’s how he’s going to have to build.”

Boston has three first-round picks in the 2019 NBA Draft Thursday night: Nos. 14, 20, and 22, though the team has also reportedly been considering trading up for the No. 4 pick. Max Kellerman suggested that Ainge take a few notes from the Pelicans, after the blockbuster Anthony Davis trade and the soon-to-be selection of Zion Williamson. 

“AD wanted out, so they had a superstar in his prime make a trade, while they get another young superstar in there. The thing they could get for AD was a million pieces – young, the same age group as Zion, to all build together,” said Kellerman. “That’s kind of like what Danny Ainge should do right now with the Celtics. Tatum and Brown… that’s going to be the nucleus of the Celtics moving forward.”

In the suggested parallel between Boston and the Pelicans, what “superstar” would the Celtics potentially look to trade to bring in young pieces? Kellerman looks straight to 2017 All-Star Gordon Hayward.

“He’s on the books for over $30 million next year. He’s coming off a bad injury, he was not the same last year, but the anticipation is he’s going to be most of the same player this upcoming season,” Kellerman said. “Great, he’s under contract, he doesn’t have a no-trade clause, there are teams out there that I can think of like Indiana, like Portland, who really need another two-way wing-type player to get over the top.

“Hayward is an interesting trade piece right now. If you could move him for young pieces to put around Brown and Tatum, you have a path forward. Otherwise, the Celtics are going to be spinning their wheels.”

Though, Smith seemed to have some doubts about Ainge’s salesmanship, after taking a deep look at his free agency history to see who has been acquired over the years, or lack thereof.

Back in the summer of 2007 Ainge traded Jeff Green, Wally Szczerbiak, and Delonte West to acquire Ray Allen and Glen Davis from the Supersonics. A little over a month later, he acquired Kevin Garnett to create Boston’s “Big Three.” While Smith referred to this as Ainge’s most courageous move, he was quick to add that it “really wasn’t that courageous” because it was a “gift from his buddy Kevin McHale.”

“So outside of the gift from his buddy, what has Danny Ainge really, really done in free agency? Acquiring Al Horford, you want to throw that up in there, that’s to be respected. But what has he really done?” Smith questioned. 

Kellerman went on to explain how the city of Boston could also be a factor as to why it may be challenging to get players, especially from a marketing standpoint.

“Boston is not a major city, and it’s a cold weather city,” said Kellerman. “It’s a major market because you have from Maine to Connecticut. That’s a whole bunch of people, but the town itself is a cold weather town that is not the kind of alpha-plus-plus NY, LA type of market to amplify your brand. These superstar players want to be, you know, ‘I’m a business man.’ They want to be brands and industries unto themselves.

“So if you have Doc Rivers and a really good situation there, now people are interested. Short of that, you’ve got to sell that place a little bit. It’s not a slam dunk so to speak, the way if New York were better managed or LA is.”

Given that Brad Stevens has been the head coach of the Celtics since 2013, Smith was quick to draw one conclusion: Ainge needs to be a better salesman.

“Danny Ainge has been renowned. I mean he’s been praised ad nauseam for you know, what he’s built with the Boston Celtics, but he didn’t take them over the hump,” Smith said.

“So basically what we’re saying is Danny Ainge is obviously a very credible executive in this game,” he later added. “What he lacks is salesmanship, and so as a result, that’s being exposed, because who’s clamoring to come and play for his organization?”

"Enough's enough."—@stephenasmith calls out Danny Ainge's failures as Celtics GM

— First Take (@FirstTake) June 19, 2019