One day after the Celtics introduced their top free-agent acquisitions at the Auerbach Center, Danny Ainge was on the receiving end of more questioning about the departures of Al Horford and Kyrie Irving in an extended interview with Toucher & Rich on 98.5 the Sports Hub. A few noteworthy topics comments of note regarding the C's former stars in the wake of their exits to Philadelphia and Brooklyn respectively.
On whether Irving put too much on himself as the leader of the Celtics:
"Listen, I just don’t think our chemistry was good. And again, it’s not just Kyrie, it’s ... there’s a lot of people involved that form the chemistry of a team and I know that from day 1, a lot of people put a lot of heat on Kyrie of being the guy that’s supposed to be this great leader and it was his responsibility to lead everybody.
"I continually tried to remove that pressure from Kyrie and [tell him to] just be yourself, just go play, just have fun, find joy in the game. Quit trying to be something you’re not. Just forget about all this nonsense about, ‘You have to get other people involved, you have to be the leader of the team, you have to be Superman to our team.' ... He didn’t need to do that. I think he did feel that burden, that he had to be too much, and wasn’t able to do that."
On having an indication that Irving may leave Boston as early as March or April:
"He had a change of heart, or just had some frustration, I would say would be the best description, and had less certainty about staying. Then he rallied again and felt like things were going better. We won 10 out of 11 games leading into the All-Star break. It felt like his and [Brad Stevens'] relationship was getting better. But he did express to me on a couple of occasions between March and the end of [the season] that he really wanted to go home. I got the impression at that point that he wanted to go play in Brooklyn more than he wanted to play in New York, or Boston."
On whether the Celtics held out hope Irving would return as the season unfolded:
"[Irving] didn’t inform me that he was gone, he didn’t inform me that he didn’t like Boston, he didn’t inform me that he was for sure gone. He was just like ... (New York) where his heart was, and I think he was gonna look into that. But he wanted to take some time and decompress and figure it all out."
Ainge also called back into the show after his initial interview to defend Irving more and clarify his comments about Irving preferring Brooklyn to Boston.
"I asked him point-blank in the conversations that I had with him, ‘Would you consider returning to Boston?’ And he was always [saying] ‘yes’," Ainge said. "He was always in that frame of mind. I don’t think that he was out the door for sure by then. I think that he was contemplating all of his options and just making sure that he ... I was saying that he preferred Brooklyn over New York at that moment.
“Yes we had chemistry issues during the season and I did say on the show that it was not all on Kyrie. It was a lot of people who were responsible for chemistry issues. I don’t like the fact that all the blame is on him. I’d like everyone to take responsibility for that. So I feel like the Kyrie bashing is unfair. That’s all.”
On whether Horford leaving for the Sixers surprised him: