Danny Ainge is one of the best GMs in the NBA, but last year's Celtics performance won't be remembered as one of his best jobs - and it looked like it could be at the beginning of last season. The main thing everyone is talking about how much Kyrie Irving and his behavior damaged team chemistry. Ainge addressed that and more in an interview with Rachel Nichols for the Jump.
Ainge started by saying the first 18 months with Kyrie were great. The Celtics were doing great, and he was hoping Kyrie was there for the long run. Then, something happened, and it became clear Kyrie wanted to go home. Still, Ainge doesn't think Kyrie is to blame (via The Jump):
"I don't know why he gets all the blame. I'm the one that should be blamed for last year. We put a team together that didn't have pieces that fit. We had a lot of talent, a lot of expectations. But, it's certainly not Kyrie's fault."
Ainge went on to explain how the core of the issue was the fact the Celtics had too many guys that expected a lot of minutes and opportunity. More than there were available, and then the team suffered. As this is a mistake in team building, Ainge primarily blames himself (via The Jump):
"We had a lot of young guys that had a lot of success without Gordon and Kyrie. The guys that had success without those two guys felt like it was their time for the spotlight. It just didn't mesh."
The Celtics didn't panic about losing Kyrie and getting no assets in return because they felt there were a lot of available point guards in free agency, via trade, and on their roster. When Kemba became available, they went all in and are reaping the rewards. Ainge did compare Kemba and Kyrie by saying there is a joy with this team that they didn't have last year even when they were winning.
If we are to trust one of the best GM's in the NBA, there is such a thing as too much talent. That should make us appreciate the Clippers bench, especially Williams and Harrell, even more. To have so much ability and sacrifice for the good of the team, being happy with your role, knowing you could have a more significant role on another team is very rare.
Ainge said that last year was a learning experience and that he would do things differently. His main point was about having a team with such "equal depth." Then he used a stunning example of great depth, the Los Angeles Lakers (via The Jump):
"The Lakers have really good depth, in my opinion, but they have two stars. There's no questions, if's and's or but's about it. Last year we had eight guys or nine guys that all thought they were equal to each other. Nobody just took the job. That's certainly not going to happen with LeBron and Anthony Davis. It makes it much easier for people to accept roles when there's a clear hierarchy."
I'd contest just one thing Ainge said. Quite sure there was one player on the Celtics last year that didn't think he had an equal on the roster.