By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge did not want to throw in the towel when it came to Kyrie Irving.
Ainge made that abundantly clear again and again.
Even when Irving seemed to have two feet out the door following Boston’s disappointing second-round exit at the hands of the Bucks — and with Irving seeming more than happy to be done with his second season as a Celtic — Ainge held out hope that the engagement with Irving was still going to lead to a summer wedding.
He also refused to throw the hot-and-cold Irving under the bus when reports suggested that Irving had ‘ghosted’ the Celtics following the season, and did his best to maintain a positive disposition while also playing everything extremely close to the vest when discussing Irving (and Al Horford) during his post-draft media availability late last month. Ainge did all of that while almost every single NBA insider — and outsider, for that matter — seemingly linked Irving, who ultimately signed with the Brooklyn Nets, to everyone but the Celtics.
But speaking with reporters at the introductory press conference for Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter on Wednesday, Ainge admitted that he did indeed see the writing on the wall during the regular season in regards to Irving’s status in Boston.
“I think I had a pretty good idea [Irving was leaving] in March or April,” Ainge said. “Not for sure, not certain. But I was obviously thinking about moving in a different direction at that point. Thinking of the different options.”
The realization that Kyrie was indeed on his way out — after Irving had verbally committed to re-signing a long-term deal with the Celtics to a TD Garden crowd prior to the start of the season and after a Nike commercial where Irving talked about being the last Celtic to wear No. 11 — almost certainly required a quick pivot from Ainge.
In season, too.
Never short on plans, though, Ainge said that his “Plan A” then became finding a way to add Walker and Kanter to Boston.
“It’s a tough business: You got to have lots of different directions to go. You have to be ready,” Ainge acknowledged. “We had others — if this one that we had today, we’re sitting here with two guys that chose to come to us that we’re very fortunate to have. But if it hadn’t happened, we would’ve had another plan.”
But fortunately for Ainge and the C’s, their first post-Kyrie plan has certainly worked — contractually, anyway — out of the gate.