Boston Celtics Governor Wyc Grousbeck once said, "Danny Ainge would throw his mother in for the right trade." It was obviously a bit tongue in cheek considering Mrs. Ainge was more of a low-post presence whose place in the NBA is outdated. Still, the sentiment of Ainge being cold-hearted when it comes to transactions is valid.
He traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, two players who resurrected Celtics Pride and brought home Banner 17. The trade was a masterpiece and secured draft picks from Brooklyn that gave Boston the ability to select both Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Still, it took guts to deal away two Hall of Famers. But that doesn't mean his legacy in Boston is all sunshine and rainbows.
Danny Ainge Makes Enemies in Boston
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Ainge also infamously dealt away Isaiah Thomas after a playoff run that saw the diminutive guard play through a severe hip injury and grief over the tragic loss of his sister. This deal was also a smart basketball decision as the Celtics got superstar Kyrie Irving. I know what you're thinking, but in 2017 Irving was in a much different place basketball-wise.
The trade being a good basketball move didn't matter to the court of public opinion. Anthony Davis' father was so upset he spoke out that his son (then a rumored Celtics trade target) would never play for the green team after what Ainge did:
Anthony Davis Sr. coming with the ? pic.twitter.com/nb61zwZAA2
— NBACentral (@TheNBACentral) February 2, 2019
Ainge was even vilified by Thomas himself, who said he may never speak to the executive again. The two have reportedly since made amends, but IT's initial emotional reaction showed how blindsided he'd been by the deal.
Years have passed and Ainge is now running the Utah Jazz instead of the Celtics. He just traded away their star center Rudy Gobert in what many are calling a complete fleecing by Ainge, securing four first-round picks in the process. News also broke this week that the team will listen to offers for star guard Donovan Mitchell:
After previously shutting down inquiries on moving All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell, rival teams say the Utah Jazz are showing a willingness to listen on possible trade scenarios, sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 12, 2022
The Only Way Danny Ainge Can Redeem Himself: A Donovan Mitchell Trade
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Ainge is setting up the Jazz for the type of asset haul that could make Utah a title contender in a short time, much like what his PP/KG trade did for the Celtics. What potentially complicates this scenario is one of the top suitors for Mitchell is the Miami Heat. The same team run by Pat Riley, who has a history with Ainge:
Pat Riley, in a statement: "Danny Ainge needs to shut the f--- up and manage his own team." - http://t.co/e80eDjubnW
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) March 29, 2013
So what can Ainge do? He's not someone who would do any competitor a favor, least of which someone like Riley he's feuded with. Ainge's reputation is he wants to win every trade, and I'm sure there's a deal with Miami where he can do just that. But after seeing Ainge run the Celtics for nearly two decades, I think he will want to make this hurt for Riley.
And there's a very clear way to do that: Force Riley to include Udonis Haslem in the trade.
Haslem has played 19 seasons for the Heat and is reportedly returning for a 20th year. He's won three titles with Miami and remains a huge piece of "Heat Culture". When Jimmy Butler almost fought coach Erik Spoelstra this season, it was Haslem who shut it down.
This would hurt the Heat. Not on the court so much but in terms of the culture and the optics. Riley convincing Haslem to acquiesce to a sign-and-trade deal would replace the IT trade as the prime example of the cold-hearted nature of professional sports. And maybe it forces the next big trade target to cross Miami off their preferred destination list (though that might be a stretch considering it's still Miami).
It's a win-win for Ainge. Get a massive return for a star player you're ready to move on from and hurt one of your biggest professional rivals in the process. Plus, he can finally wipe away some of the stink of the IT trade. Do it, Danny.
MORE: If Danny Ainge Calls, Hang Up: He Proved Why in Boston & He's Proving it Again in Utah
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