Danny Ainge gave Brad Stevens another vote of confidence last week, telling reporters “there’s no other coach” he’d rather have despite the Boston Celtics’ disappointing season.
Fair enough. After all, Stevens has been instrumental in Boston’s return to prominence over the past six seasons, and he’s still one of the most highly regarded coaches across the NBA.
But should Ainge place a little more blame on Stevens for how things unraveled during the 2018-19 campaign?
Jay Williams believes so, explaining recently on ESPN’s “Get Up!” that Ainge needs to hold Stevens more accountable for the Celtics’ issues, especially since Boston’s president of basketball operations holds his players to such a high standard.
“It just feels like Danny Ainge keeps throwing all these players under the bus, and it’s like, ‘Well, our coach, we love him, we’re gonna stick with him,'” Williams, a former NBA point guard and Duke standout, said. “Fine, if you want to stick with him, but to act like there’s no blame on Brad Stevens I think is a little bit misleading.
“I understand we can all agree this hasn’t been the best year for Kyrie Irving as a leader, I think there are some questions, but to sit up there and say that Brad Stevens didn’t have anything wrong — I mean how about them starting Gordon Hayward over Jayson Tatum at the beginning of the year? I think that changed up the dynamic, the chemistry of the team. There’s a lot of stuff that I think everybody deserves blame here. It’s just not on the players, and sometimes it feels like it’s Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens, and everybody else is having issues and they’re the ones who aren’t.”
The Celtics entered the season with NBA Finals aspirations after pushing LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers to the brink of elimination in last year’s Eastern Conference finals while both Irving and Hayward were sidelined with injuries. But the C’s stumbled to a No. 4 seed amid questionable leadership tactics from Irving and inconsistent play from Hayward, and one can’t help but wonder whether Stevens could have done more to iron out Boston’s problems before it became too late.
The Celtics dispatched the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the NBA playoffs this season before falling to the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the second round. Now, an offseason of uncertainty awaits, as the Celtics must figure out whether Irving plans to leave in free agency and whether they should pursue a trade for a superstar like Anthony Davis.