It’s been 9 long years since the most one-sided trade in NBA history. The trade that put Danny Ainge on a pedestal above other GM’s in the game and the trade that inflated his ego from that point on in which he must not only win the trade with another team, but absolutely destroy them and leave it as lopsided as Halftime in Space Jam.
It’s also been many many years since a reputable free agent in their prime signed with the Boston Celtics. That all changed last offseason when Al Horford chose Boston over the black hole that is the Atlanta sports scene and of course this past 4th of July Gordon Hayward decided to move to the Northeast from a Utah team that is not going to get past the 2nd round in the Western playoffs for years to come. CEO Wyc Grousbeck mentioned the Celtics will set off fireworks. Three years ago. A few years later the Celtics have a new Big 3 and how fitting for it to happen on the birthday of our great nation.
However, don’t rush to proclaim President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge as the one who set off the glorious explosions. The past few years we have heard that the Celtics had either better offers for high caliber players that were traded (most recently Paul George) or definitely had the assets to entice a better deal with dealt players (Jimmy Butler, Demarcus Cousins, etc.). You could say Ainge was well beyond the honeymoon phase in the eyes of the fans and perhaps the owners of the team in that historic trade with the Brooklyn Nets nine years ago. Fireworks were set off not thanks to Ainge but thanks to former Butler University coach Brad Stevens and the President of Basketball Operations owes the Celtics Head Coach for allowing him to keep his job.
It’s no secret and it’s possibly headaching now to hear that Gordon Hayward played under Brad Stevens at Butler. (If that’s the first time you’re hearing that, I am honored). Their relationship dates back to2008 Hayward’s Freshman year in college and Stevens’ 2nd year as the Bulldogs’ Head Coach. Hayward believed he was the better tennis player than ball player but took some convincing from the young Butler coach that basketball was his calling. Making it to the Finals in Hayward’s sophomore year and losing by inches on his half court heave at the buzzer to powerhouse Duke, Gordon Hayward had a decision to make as he eloquently wrote in The Players’ Tribune. That decision was to enter the NBA Draft or give it another shot to win a NCAA championship. And in that article that Hayward seemingly spent all of Independence Day on he praises “Coach Stevens” immensely.
One of the coach’s duties of any level is to hold on to their superstar because of course that only helps the coach’s cause to keep his job as well as keep that team competitive. Hayward wrote that Stevens laid out all of Gordon’s options and was completely on his side whatever decision he chose. Complete trust. A true relationship. The 2017 All Star expressed that likely with a grin across his face typing away how much Brad Stevens meant to him in college and still does to this day.
Of course the Celtics being a good team contributes to a talented player signing there but the true factor that Gordon Hayward is a Boston Celtic isn’t because of Danny Ainge, it isn’t because of the culture, but it’s because of Hayward’s college coach and now professional coach Brad Stevens. Lastly in that article, the newly acquired Celtic states that there is “unfinished business” with Brad Stevens to win a championship. Thanks to Brad Stevens, Danny Ainge’s summer is saved and can live on another year as the President of Celtics basketball Operations.