The Boston Celtics struggled mightily at times during the 2020-21 season, sometimes to the point of underachieving compared to the level of talent on their roster.
According to Jared Weiss of The Athletic, one contributing factor to the team’s inconsistency was “public criticism” and “public pressure” from team governor Wyc Grousbeck and President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge.
“That [on-court] chemistry was strained not just by health, COVID protocols, and public pressure, but the way the Celtics were discussed by team leadership, according to multiple sources familiar with players’ thinking. There were several inflection points where the roster might not have felt supported, particularly after Ainge and team governor Wyc Grousbeck gave a series of interviews ahead of the trade deadline with their assessments that the team was not competitive.”
Weiss’ report specifically points to Grousbeck’s appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Felger and Mazz in February, one month before the NBA trade deadline.
“I’ve done a little complaining and in private, and I feel a little frustrated. We’re not contenders,” Grousbeck said as part of the interview. “You can’t say you’re a contender if you’re below .500 a third of the way into the season. And so we’re not. I hope the second third, or whatever, is better than the first, third. We’ve got some work to do.”
This report comes amid a big ol’ Woj bomb on Wednesday morning, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Ainge is seriously considering his future with the Celtics and could end up stepping down as president of basketball ops. According to Chris Mannix of SI, Ainge may not retire and instead may explore new opportunities.
Ainge had criticized his own roster, in the context of placing the blame on himself, less than a week before Grousbeck joined Felger and Mazz when he talked to Toucher and Rich in mid-February.
“Our roster obviously is not good,” Ainge said at the time. “If there’s somebody to blame, this is Danny Ainge to blame. This is not Brad Stevens. It’s not Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown. It’s like not good enough right now. And we all know that. And, you know, we need to get better.”
Obviously, the players didn’t take kindly to those comments. So if the relationship between Ainge and the players has been strained that much – that it’s affecting the way they play on the court, even if Ainge wasn’t blaming them – then it’s probably for the best that Ainge and the Celtics ultimately part ways.
Sure sounds like that is what’s coming on Causeway Street.
Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @mattydsays. You can also email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.