Celtics CEO Wyc Grousbeck was the guest on the Season Ticket podcast Friday and talked about the state of affairs with the Celtics. Topics of discussion included his expectations for the team after Gordon Hayward’s injury, what trading Isaiah Thomas meant to him, and the passion within the organization.
Here are some highlights:
Did you think the Celtics would be as successful as they have been after Gordon Hayward went down with injury?
Grousbeck: No way. I hoped with our team that we thought we had together [with Hayward], we thought we could be a team that surprised everybody like the ‘07-08 team — in terms of going on streaks and being super good. I thought we had the makings of a really good team. But then seeing Gordon go down so horrifically, I’ve got to say I was just thinking we’d be scrapping and trying to build and seeing if we could survive the year. We’re off to a much better start than I thought.
Could Gordon Hayward return this season?
Grousbeck: Well, I’ve been told that it’s a long road back, but it’s better to have broken a bone than not to. Look at Paul George, who had a different injury but a horrific break, and he’s back playing at an All-NBA level. So we’re very hopeful that Gordon can come back over the long term, but we don’t have any predictions about when that’s going to be. And we have that disabled player exception for the year, so that tends to show you what everybody thinks. The medical community doesn’t think he’s rushing back anytime soon. We won’t rush him back.
On Kyrie Irving and the impact he’s had on the Celtics:
Grousbeck: Kyrie Irving is absolutely unbelievable as a person, as a player bonding the team together. He’s a giver. He actually gives a lot to the younger guys on the team. He gives a lot to the fans. That’s what he is, and it’s been a real pleasure seeing him here. I think the real key to this team is the teamwork, though. It’s not just one. Kyrie says he’s a partner with Al [Horford] and Gordon and everybody else and Brad [Stevens]. And that’s how he feels about it. So it’s really the mindset, and then guys like Kyrie within that mindset in helping create it and take it to another level.
On why trading Isaiah Thomas was not a typical business decision:
Grousbeck: If it’s a business, it’s a business of trying to win a championship. In other words, that wasn’t a dollars and cents move. That was a move to try to take us to a different [level]. We all feel very strong about Isaiah, and I’ve seen recent things he said where he’s happy that we’re playing well and he thinks Kyrie’s amazing. Isaiah’s just a super quality person, and I’ll be rooting for him, although he’ll be in the Cavaliers uniform when he comes back.
Will the Celtics give Marcus Smart an extension?
Grousbeck: We evaluate Marcus Smart game-by-game, along with all the other players, and he’s a phenomenal contributor. He’s a real heart-and-soul glue guy for the team. He makes so many plays that contribute to winning. When we’ve won a game, you can usually find Marcus’s fingerprints on it. And we love having him as a Celtic.
Gasper: Obviously, you’re a business guy and you know a lot of times there can be undervalued assets. The things that Marcus does don’t necessarily show up on a stat sheet. Does that make him an undervalued asset?
Grousbeck: Well, his agent sees them all and lets us know about them. And we didn’t come to a deal with his agent. So, I don’t know if he’s undervalued or overvalued, or what. But, anyway, that’s a discussion that we’ll have at the end of the year.
Do you regret the “fireworks’’ comment he made in March of 2014?
Grousbeck: I’ve been looking for a banner for 15 years. You know, we got one. Now I’m looking for a second one. I’ve been to the Finals twice. I want to be in the Finals five more times. This is what I want. This is what I burn for and live for. I regret none of this. I don’t regret a second of being at the Celtics. I put everything on the line for it. Business-wise or in a professional capacity, it’s the love of my life. I love the Celtics and this is what I do. And then I have the love of my life in my personal life.
But it’s an amazing thing to be involved with the Celtics and I don’t regret a second of it … And look who’s come? Brad Stevens came because he believed. And then Al Horford chose us and came because he believed. And then Gordon Hayward chose us. And now here’s Kyrie and he’s throwing his heart and soul into it. This is a place people wanted to be because of that passion.
Did you believe that Boston couldn’t attract star free agents?
Grousbeck: It seemed to be true. It seemed that it was a tough place to attract people, and we needed to trade for them. We hadn’t ever had free agent cap room before, so we didn’t really give it a real try. I feel now that we are a real destination for people. People are choosing us, and I think the fans have a lot to do with it. Brad has a lot to do with it. Those were two reasons that Al Horford cited when he came here as an example. Brad now, then lead to Gordon, then lead to Kyrie being happy here, so it all goes together. The fans are a big part of it.
Are you concerned that Brad Stevens will leave to coach in college?
Grousbeck: I thought we put that to rest. Those questions came last year, and he re-upped with us for six years.