Stephen A. Smith is not impressed with Danny Ainge.
During Wednesday’s “First Take” episode, Smith railed against the Boston Celtics president for (reportedly) failing to re-sign Al Horford and Kyrie Irving. Smith apparently believes the Celtics’ current plight is the fault of Ainge, who has failed to put the franchise “over the hump” since hitting the reset button in 2013 with the Paul Pierce-Kevin Garnett trade.
It was an unsurprisingly unnuanced take from the ESPN talking head.
Take a look:
Look, we get the frustration here, but blaming Ainge for all this is way, way unfair.
Is it Ainge’s fault that Irving torpedoed the Celtics’ locker room and was an abject fraud? Is it Ainge’s fault that Gordon Hayward broke his ankle, unarguably altering the course of the franchise? Is it Ainge’s fault that star players like Anthony Davis will disregard inept management and leadership and force their way to a team (Los Angeles Lakers) because, you know, movies and beaches?
The answer to all three questions is the same: “no.”
Of course, Ainge can’t be left totally off the hook here. While done with the best intentions, choosing to bring back largely the same roster from 2017-18 season played a key role in the team’s failures. Ainge had opportunities to trade disgruntled/redundant players (Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown) but chose not to. Furthermore, his big “cash-in” moment was acquiring a player in Irving who, though undeniably talented, had commitment/likability issues before the Cleveland Cavaliers traded him.
Still, it’s hard to completely destroy Ainge for any of those problems. He tried to build a superteam out of nothing, and nearly pulled it off.
At the end of the day, the NBA gonna NBA, and Ainge learned that the hard way.