Danny Ainge has not reached a deal with a rookie extension candidate since 2009, but that did not stop him from sounding optimistic about the prospect of one on Thursday morning in his weekly interview with Toucher and Rich on 98.5 the Sports Hub. In the wake of a Yahoo report that said the two sides were far apart after Jaylen Brown turned down an offer for $80 million over four years from Boston, Ainge did his best to put a positive spin on those talks.
“I feel like the negotiations are going well,” Ainge said.“Whoever put out that report was not accurate. We are working to come to a result. Monday is our deadline. The negotiations have gone well.”
Pressed about what he took issue with from the Yahoo report, it appears that the $80 million offer was far from the only contract that has been put on the table so far.
“It’s just not an accurate report, that’s all,” Ainge said. “We’ve given him numerous offers. We have been negotiating for a little while so, that’s all.”
The two sides have until Monday afternoon to reach a deal on an extension. So far, just three players from the 2016 rookie class have come to terms with their teams (Ben Simmons, Jamal Murray, Caris LaVert)
“Jaylen doesn’t seem to be too stressed about it,” Ainge said. “He seems to be good and playing well and in good spirits and working hard. It’s hard not to think about it at all. I think every player would, but I think we are in a good place. We’ll see what happens over these next few days.”
Brown hired agent Jason Glushon last week to represent him in negotiations after handling talks by himself with the C’s during the first three years of his career. Ainge also reflected on dealing with Brown directly in that capacity and the impact it could have on negotiations.
“Before Jaylen hired an agent, Jaylen would talk to me and he would also get a lot of facts, a lot of information, counsel and advice — but more than anything, get educated on what was going on from a couple people in the players union," Ainge said. "There are a couple people in the players union that are very good and know exactly what they are doing. I think Jaylen was just trying to educate himself on the situation. He wants to be in the know.”
This feels like some narrative control from Ainge, as the C’s understandably don’t want to be seen as a team that low balls its players in negotiations. Normally, Ainge does not talk publicly about contract offers, but it makes sense for him to throw cold water on the $80 million report if the C’s have done better than that in more recent offers.
Whether the Celtics can find some middle ground here is going to be the compelling storyline in the next few days. While Murray’s max deal is an obstacle, the modest three-year, $53 million deal that LeVert signed gives the C’s some ammo with Brown’s camp to convince them something in the $21-25 million range annually is worthy of their consideration. That type of commitment still carries risk, but it also should be a movable piece as soon as next summer in trade talks thanks to Brown’s age and potential.
The recent extension of Bradley Beal with the Wizards also takes one potential trade target off the market for the Celtics for this season (Beal can’t be traded for six months), perhaps eliminating one potential incentive to hold off from giving Brown an extension. Signing Brown to an extension now would make him very tough to deal for this season due to CBA salary rules surrounding extensions, but Beal was one of the very few stars out there that the C’s may have considered moving Brown for as part of a bigger trade package.
At the least, the Celtics are clearly trying to make Brown feel wanted in negotiations now, a smart tactic given how much turnover there has been here over his tenure in Boston. The question now from Brown’s agent is just how much of an offer does he think is waiting for the swingman on the restricted market next summer — when there is expected to be under ten teams with major cap room. If he’s not optimistic that Brown will be able to find a max, eliminating the risk of another down season now is an acceptable path. I still wouldn’t expect a deal at this juncture, but we should find out how much Brown values long-term security in the coming days.