This week in Celtics news: The offseason is underway
Aron Baynes talks his pending player option, legends come out for the late John Havlicek, and Kyrie Irving draws a crowd in Los Angeles.
This week in Celtics news…
1. Center Aron Baynes attended a carnival at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center, where he helped celebrate the hard work of 2,000 selected students from 26 local public middle schools. Baynes showed no mercy as he made his way through the variety of games, dominating in everything from dodgeball to “Tip-A-Troll.”
Aron Baynes on his approach to the carnival games: “Always competitive. I think I told them I lost a couple games, but I didn’t. I have to keep their confidence up, too. They don’t know if I beat every one of their classmates.” pic.twitter.com/s3WQk9jeyr
— Nicole Yang (@nicolecyang) May 23, 2019
After the festivities, Baynes briefly discussed his pending player option — one of several looming decisions that will impact the team this offseason. The 32-year-old can opt in or out of the second year of his two-year, $11 million contract.
“I haven’t really thought too much about that,” Baynes said. “I know my heart’s still here in Boston. I love Boston. It’s been great to my family. There’s no better place to play than TD Garden during the playoffs or when you’re in a comeback.
“If I’m thinking of that, then I know where I want to be. But at the same time, I’ve got to talk with [president of basketball operations] Danny [Ainge] and [coach] Brad [Stevens] and see what their thoughts are as well.”
Baynes, who won a championship with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014, said his priority moving forward is to be a contributor on a title contender. Although he spent much of this past season — through no fault of his own — managing an ankle injury, Baynes held an important role both in relief of and alongside starter Al Horford. The double-big lineup was one of the effective tactics deployed in the final stretch of the regular season as well as in the team’s first-round sweep of the Indiana Pacers.
If he does return to the Celtics next season, Baynes said the team needs to build championship habits night-in and night-out, as opposed to waiting to turn things on once the postseason arrives.
“I don’t think we built the right habits throughout the season,” he said. “Everyone kind of focused on the playoffs. There was a lot of talk that when we get there, we’ll be right, we’ll be able to play. You can’t just flick a switch and play the right way.”
2. Flying out to Boston from his residence in Seattle, Celtics legend Bill Russell sat in the front pew during memorial services for former teammate John Havlicek Thursday afternoon at Trinity Church in Copley Square.
Others in attendance included Ainge, Stevens, team co-owners Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca, assistant general manager Mike Zarren, retired (and beloved) Bruins defenseman Bobby Orr, and a trio of Havlicek’s former teammates in Bob Cousy, Tommy Heinsohn, and Tom “Satch” Sanders.
“He’s such a great athlete, you never thought he would wear down,” Heinsohn said of Havlicek, who died April 25 in Jupiter, Fla. “All the great things they said about him in there were true.”
“There were so many great little stories,” added Stevens. “Everybody on the outside knows how great of a basketball player he was, but I think you double that and that’s who he was as a person. Just a special, special person.”
Ainge, who suffered a mild heart attack in Milwaukee, did not speak to reporters following the funeral but is doing well, per Pagliuca. The 60-year-old is now following a plant-based diet and seems to be fully involved in pre-draft preparations. The Celtics hold three first-round picks (Nos. 14, 20, and 22).
“Danny’s a tireless worker,” Pagliuca said. “We’re happy to see him back.”
3. A video of point guard Kyrie Irving getting swarmed by fans after walking out of RIF, a consignment sneaker shop in Los Angeles, went semi-viral this week.
In the 40-second clip, Irving was greeted with a few invitations to “come to L.A.” and join ex-teammate LeBron James on the Lakers. Irving, who was named All-NBA Second Team on Thursday, has been a frequent subject of the rumor mill due to his upcoming free agency, but a reunion with James still seems far-fetched.
With over a month until negotiations can begin on June 30, however, the buzz is probably not going to die down any time soon — especially if James keeps liking photo-shopped images of Irving wearing a Lakers jersey.
Kyrie was spotted in LA early today ? pic.twitter.com/RfMs3RO5C5
— KIDo (@OTGSQUADX) May 22, 2019
4. For the first time in his five-year career, shooting guard Marcus Smart was named to the league’s All-Defensive First Team.
“Love this and am honored and appreciate all the love and the votes,” he tweeted following the announcement on Wednesday. “I want a banner though. Offseason is a myth. Let’s get it!”
Also receiving first-team honors are forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and point guard Eric Bledsoe of the Milwaukee Bucks, forward Paul George of the Oklahoma City Thunder, and center Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz.
Smart will host a basketball clinic in his home state of Texas, June 17-19, as well as one in Boston, June 24-26, at Brandeis.