What does the hiring of Danny Ainge mean for the Utah Jazz?


What exactly is the Utah Jazz doing in bringing Danny Ainge to the front office?

Announced this week as the team’s replacement CEO and governor, 62-year-old Ainge is now perhaps the second most powerful person in the entire organization, just below owner Ryan Smith. Without a doubt, Ainge will play a big role in determining what Jazz looks like on the field going forward.

To look to the future, there is no better guide than the past. And during his 18-year tenure with the Boston Celtics, Ainge left behind plenty of evidence that showed what kind of basketball operator he was.

We have his track record, decades of media interviews and thanks reported by NBA writer Keith P. Smith Earlier this year, a lot of insight from Ainge’s competitors about how the former BYU and NBA star on the job made deals.

So what do we know about Danny Ainge? We know this:

Ainge is completely unafraid of feeling hurt

Ainge will make any deal to improve his team – and then worry about picking up emotional pieces afterwards.

Ainge was put in charge of the Celtics in 2003, a year after Boston reached the Eastern Conference Finals under head coach Jim O’Brien.

The next year, Ainge traded Antoine Walker three times All-Star. That was a big move. But another deal was enough to frustrate O’Brien, enough to force him to quit mid-season. As soon as the Celtics had won five games in a row, the team swapped Eric Williams, Tony Battie and Kedrick Brown for the Cavaliers for Ricky Davis, Chris Mihm and Michael Stewart – they were essentially forced to lose games for the rest of that year. . Ainge and O’Brien confronted each other soon after over their ideological differences, and O’Brien resigned instead of coaching the team Ainge was building.

“I guess if a guy doesn’t want to work through a relationship and see things move forward, then I respect the fact that he’s willing to walk away and not drag us down, in my own words. he,” Ainge said then.

Fast-forward to 2017. Keeper Isaiah Thomas has just started a season where he placed fifth in the MVP vote, once again sending the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals. But the Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving was available – and Ainge jumped in, trading his favorite, older franchise player for the younger – and ultimately better – man. Defend the championship.

“I will probably never speak to Danny again. That may not happen,” Thomas speak. “I would talk to everyone, but what he did, knowing all I went through, you don’t do that, man. That’s not right.”

Ainge was right in both cases – among others, in which he devoted an emotional connection to higher player value. O’Brien later say that all Ainge made “correct judgments” of his moves. Thomas never had such a season again, while Irving remained an elite player (when he plays). Other franchise executives likely won’t be actively making deals that upset apple carts, but Ainge is.

Ainge is not a truth-teller to the media, but a straight shooter with executives.

Ainge’s comments to reporters are a bad sign of his next move.

Again, you can go back to his early days in the Celtics job, when he told reporters he had “absolutely no intention of trading Antoine Walker”. Walker was exchanged for the next season.

Or you could go to his last day in the Celtics job, when he “insisted” to the Boston Globe that his next job will be “as a kind of advisor, not as a chief executive.” He is currently the CEO of Jazz.

In between, there have been numerous examples of falsehoods being told to the public. He said he was not trying to trade Rajon Rondo, while simultaneously making a deal involving him and Chris Paul. He told the public that the team wanted to keep coach Doc Rivers, then not let Rivers back.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Former BYU basketball player Danny Ainge, newly appointed CEO of Utah Jazz, is congratulated before the Jazz game against the LA Clippers at Vivint Smart Home Arena on Wednesday , December 15, 2021.

“I was very disappointed about that part of Danny’s press conference,” said Rivers, now coaching the Sixers, speak. “Danny knows like I know, that’s not true.”

But executives who work with Ainge say the Celtics are one of the more outspoken teams to work with in the commercial market, in part because of his honesty.

“No (definitely) with Boston. Come in. It can take a lot of conversations, but they shouldn’t take up your time. And you get brutal honesty,” Smith quoted an Eastern Conference GM as saying. “Once we asked them what they thought of one of our players and the answer was ‘You’re asking because he can’t play. Why do we want him if you don’t? ‘ And they were right. He cannot play.

“I think Danny made a lot of trades with everyone because there wasn’t (expiration). No one feels like information is being withheld or that they are being deceived. That’s important in our business. You have to have faith, and I trust Boston when it comes to making trades.”

Ainge is a tough negotiator

But executives are consistent in saying Ainge delivers a great bargain in his deals with other teams.

I don’t think it’s the whole thing that he has to win the contract, but he wants everything he can get,” a Western Conference GM assistant told Smith. “Once, our GM hung up the phone and said, ‘I think I’m just giving Ainge the right to choose our next shirt number and the right to swap the first child of future draft picks.’

Or this, from an Eastern Conference executive: “I see with the Celtics that they know what they want and don’t leave it. It was both angry and exhilarating. At least you don’t waste time.”

This tendency to jostle for bits and pieces of the deal turned out to be a real payoff.

Getting Jae Crowder, then a minor Dallas Mavericks player who scored just 3.6 points per game, in the Rajon Rondo deal proved to be an important step. Get a massive seven picks In the trade, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett performed brilliantly. He was picked in the second round of the Ray Allen deal, becoming Glen Davis, a key contributor to the Celtics championship.

Refuse to agree to sign and trade with Jazz after Gordon Hayward’s Decision infuriated the Jazz, but was a step in the right direction from the Celtics point of view. But when the Celtics lost Hayward in the freedom, he to be can extract a sign and trade from the Charlotte Hornet – allowing them to acquire Evan Fournier.

Critics may note that insistence on a high price leads to trades that would have been taken, but were not. He’s had a lot of first-round picks over the past few years, but didn’t trade them off. As a competitive team, Boston needed support around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and clearly needed to trade those picks up for immediate help. Instead, he didn’t use picks in the drafts of players who now exist at the end of the Boston rotation: Aaron Nesmith, Payton Pritchard, Romeo Langford and Grant Williams.

Ainge nailed some big steps

When you look at the biggest moves in Ainge’s career, … he nailed a lot of them, often in flamboyant fashion.

Yes, Antoine Walker has won the All-Star three times, but it’s all earned in his Celtics career – even though Ainge traded it for him when he was just 26 years old. Ainge was right to consider him a player incapable of progress, one of the infamous All-Stars “empty stats” of the time.

(Eric Walden | The Salt Lake Tribune) Danny Ainge, left, is introduced by team owner Ryan Smith as the CEO and Alternate Governor of the Utah Jazz at Vivint Arena on Wednesday, December 15, 2021.

Paul Pierce was similarly worried after his presence contributed to the 2002 disbandment of the United States men’s basketball team. But when Pierce asked to be moved, he protested by acquiring Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett – putting together a quality Big 3 to win the NBA championship in 2008 and almost another championship in 2010. .

Fast-forward to 2013. Ainge sees the writing on the wall that his championship has been completed, and extracts the largest possible bid from the Nets for it. Pierce and Garnett played just one and a half seasons for the Brooklyn Nets, which only made it to the second round, while the Celtics extracted seven picks and swapped high-value picks.

One of those picks turned out to be the #1 pick in the 2017 draft with an obvious top-value player: Markelle Fultz. But Ainge correctly identified the player in the top 5 as having a higher chance of success as Tatum. Giving the Sixers the #1 pick to the #3 – Tatum – and two future first-round picks is a great move.

Trading Isaiah Thomas at the absolute peak of his worth is another thing Oh move when looking back.

Or as the GM of the Eastern Conference pointed out to Smith: “He made 60 deals in almost 20 years. You can’t make many trades in those years if you don’t win most of them! ” What does the hiring of Danny Ainge mean for the Utah Jazz?

Beth Allcock

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