By Matt McCarthy, 985TheSportsHub.com
Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge is taking the blame for last year's disappointing Celtics team, saying it was his fault that Kyrie Irving left and the team failed to meet its lofty expectations.
In an interview with Rachel Nichols of ESPN, Ainge said his short-comings in building the roster were to blame for the team's struggles. He also said Irving gets too much of the blame for how the season went down.
"Kyrie for his first year and a half was terrific for us, and I was hopeful that it was going to be a good marriage going forward. But he really wanted to go home, and that's his choice, and I don't know why he gets all the blame. I'm the one who should be blamed for last year," Ainge said.
"We put a team together that just didn't have pieces that fit. We had a lot of talent - a lot of expectations. It's certainly not Kyrie's fault," Ainge added. "I do think it was my fault."
Ainge said, in hindsight, he wish he had cleaned out the roster to make head coach Brad Stevens' job easier. Tensions clearly existed between the young players who led the Celtics to a near-NBA Finals berth in 2018 and the veteran players on the roster as Gordon Hayward and Irving returned from their injuries.
"We had a deep roster, we were built for a longer run, but we had a lot of young guys that had a lot of success without Gordon and Kyrie, and the guys that had success without those two guys felt like it was their time for the spotlight. It just didn't mesh," Ainge told Nichols.
Ainge said he has taken lessons away from last year's disappointment,
"I think I'd be a little bit more careful about building a team that had such equal depth...Last year we had eight guys or nine guys that all thought they were equal to each other and nobody just took the job and won it...It makes it much easier to accept roles when there is a clear hierarchy," Ainge said.
Ainge also touched on the addition of Kemba Walker, his reputation around the league, the team's situation in the front court, playing with Larry Bird and Kevin McHale, and his health in the sit-down with Nichols.
You can watch a preview of the interview here:
"I do think it was my fault."
1-on-1 with Danny Ainge on what went wrong last year with Kyrie, how the front office pivoted to find an even better fit in Kemba Walker, and how his time with Larry Bird & Kevin McHale affected his reaction to Gordon Hayward's latest injury. pic.twitter.com/uw3gz5viVx
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) November 26, 2019
You can hear Matt McCarthy on various 98.5 The Sports Hub programs. Follow him on Twitter @MattMcCarthy985.