Danny Ainge may have pulled off another heist, but he knows better than to take a victory lap.
The Boston Celtics’ president of basketball operations made the news this week when The Athletic’s Jason Lloyd revealed a Cleveland Cavaliers player called Ainge a “f—ing thief” for pulling off the blockbuster Kyrie Irving trade last summer.
Ainge was asked how he felt about those harsh words Thursday during his weekly radio interview on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher & Rich” and responded with a healthy dose of diplomacy.
“First of all, time will tell,” Ainge said, as aired on NBC Sports Boston. “The pick that we gave them (the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft) had the chance to be the No. 1 pick in the draft. It turned out to be No. 8, but who knows? They may get a really good player with the eighth pick in this year’s draft.”
Ainge then noted the Cavs turned Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder into Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. and Rodney Hood. Those seem like terrible moves at the moment, but Ainge added (with what we’ll assume was a straight face), “time will tell on all these trades.”
The longtime executive added one more piece of “evidence” to defend himself.
“At the time, we were criticized for giving up too much,” Ainge said. “And we gave up a lot. We liked Jae Crowder and we liked Isaiah Thomas and we liked that Brooklyn pick, so I thought it was a fair trade at the time.
“Both key players — Isaiah and Kyrie — aren’t playing in this series, which is interesting, but we liked the trade for us then, we like it now, and hopefully it works out good for both teams.”
Ainge obviously isn’t going to come out and say he swindled Cleveland, and to an extent, he’s right: The jury technically is still out on this trade until at least the NBA Draft. But one mark of a good deal is when you have to downplay how successful it was, and that’s exactly what’s going on here.
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