Danny Ainge on Jaylen Brown, the NBA play-in tournament, and referee bias

"I prefer the older way, but this is just what we are dealt with and we have to make the most of it."

Danny Ainge Celtics
Danny Ainge watches the Celtics-Wizards game in January, 2021. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

With the Celtics locked in a close competition with the Heat to avoid having to participate in the NBA’s postseason play-in tournament, Boston might be getting a key player back from injury just in time for a pivotal matchup on Sunday.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge revealed Thursday in a weekly interview on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher & Rich” that Jaylen Brown could return this weekend from a sprained ankle he suffered in a recent loss to the Trail Blazers.

“It’s looking like that he’ll probably be returning on Sunday,” Ainge replied when asked for an update on Brown’s status.


Boston will play Miami on Sunday, and again on Tuesday. Both teams currently hold the same 35-31 record.

When asked about his thoughts on the play-in tournament as a concept, Ainge eventually acknowledged his preference.

“I think that there are some good things about the play-in tournament,” Ainge said. “I prefer the older way, but this is just what we are dealt with and we have to make the most of it.”

On the subject of Marcus Smart’s recent ejection, Ainge disagreed with the decision.

“I don’t think it was worthy of being ejected from a game,” he asserted.

As for the league’s system of reviewing calls, Ainge admitted that the length of time that’s taken is an issue.

“The league is aware that they need to do a better job with them, and they’re trying,” Ainge said of the review process. “They’re trying to make the game a better game to watch, and we know the interruptions that are caused by the replays. I know that they’re working towards those, but I don’t know what the answer is. I don’t even know what the process is in that specific situation.”

In the case of Smart (as well as other decisions), Ainge expressed a concern regarding partiality.


“It just seems like with that much time to make a decision, it feels like a jury trying to make a decision, and there’s a disagreement as to what the case is,” Ainge said. “If there’s any disagreement at all — if it takes that long to convince everybody — you just worry about the bias. If it’s not obvious, you don’t make the call. That’s my opinion.”

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