Celtics' Ainge Praises 'Humble, Hard-Working' Players amid Kyrie Irving Rumors

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJune 24, 2019

Boston Celtics basketball general manager Danny Ainge laughs during a news conference, Monday, June 24, 2019, in Boston, to introduce the team's 2019 draft players. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Elise Amendola/Associated Press

Boston Celtics President Danny Ainge alluded to the team's chemistry issues Monday, praising "humble, hard-working" players who are wiling to sacrifice for the team. 

"I think it just makes life more enjoyable when everybody is humble, hard-working, and will play any role they have to to help the team succeed," Ainge told reporters. "You do have to have a certain amount of talent to win, as we all know, but good people makes coming to work more fun."

Without naming names, the insinuation from Ainge is that not everyone on the Celtics last season had that attitude. Boston spent most of the 2018-19 campaign dealing with chemistry issues, many of which caused discord between young players and veterans on the roster.

Terry Rozier, a restricted free agent, was the most vocal about his displeasure with his role. Kyrie Irving, by contrast, admitted he could have done a better job as a leader but now appears to be headed elsewhere in free agency.

"I felt like I went from the passenger seat to the trunk," Rozier told ESPN's Jackie MacMullan. "Everybody tells you, 'Don't think about the contract, don't think about the money.' I always tell myself, 'I'll get what I deserve one day. Maybe not this day, but one day.'"

Long viewed as one of the NBA's best general managers, Ainge has been taking heavy criticism this offseason. Irving's departure is seen as a failure on the Celtics' part to make him want to stay, while it appears the team will also lose Al Horford when he hits unrestricted free agency. With Rozier making it clear he does not want to come back under his previous role, the team trading Aron Baynes and Marcus Morris being a free agent, most of the Celtics' rotation could be playing elsewhere next season.

The Celtics appear to be headed toward a stealth rebuild around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the two trade chips Ainge has held onto with a vice grip. He refused to offer either player for Kawhi Leonard last summer and would not relinquish Tatum in talks for Anthony Davis this year.