A Celtics owner’s view: ‘You have to honor the Celtics by winning championships’
The Celtics held their annual Shamrock Foundation gala at the Westin Boston Waterfront on Thursday night. Before the formal event began, there was a cocktail reception in a tented area for players, executives, staffers and big donors.
Near the end, as players mingled with guests and talked about the upcoming season, Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck stood off to the side and was asked what he was hoping to see from his team this season.
Before he answered, he looked down at his right hand, and nodded toward the 2008 NBA championship ring that sat on his ring finger. Then he looked up, chuckled, and continued.
“I want to see, someday, one of these again,” Grousbeck said. “But I want to have a sustained run where we’re the real deal. In the mix. Contending. And I’d like to start right now.”
Grousbeck led a group that purchased the Celtics in 2002, and there have not been many seasons that began with expectations as high as this one. Boston has reached the Eastern Conference finals in each of the last two seasons, and last year it did so without perhaps its two best players: Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.
Now that they are back, and surrounded by a young, promising group, Grousbeck can’t help but think about what could be possible this year and beyond.
“I came in, I named the company Banner 17, and we only had 16 [championships],” Grousbeck said. “I’m not ready to rename the company, but the goal is the same. You have to honor the Celtics by winning championships. That’s the way to be an ownership that does your part. You have to win the thing.”
Grousbeck has stated several times he is prepared to pay what it takes to build an NBA championship contender, and ownership understands that will likely mean going deep into the luxury tax in the near future.
After Irving opts out of his contract at season’s end, he will likely seek a five-year maximum-salary deal that could pay him about $190 million. Hayward will still have two years remaining on his max deal after this season, too. There will be other difficult financial decisions to make, but Grousbeck on Thursday was understandably in no mood to think too far down the road, especially with this season set to tip off on Tuesday.
“As you know, we don’t talk about things in the future that could happen with people, so my sense is though really, everybody on this roster is feeling like this season is one they want to focus on,” Grousbeck said. “I don’t think anybody is going to be rolling the ball out there and thinking about next year. I just don’t. Sincerely. I think they are anxious to get the season started next Tuesday and see if we can be a good team.”
Irving did give Grousbeck and the Celtics reason to exhale last week when he publicly announced he intends to re-sign with Boston at season’s end, hoping to end the speculation about his future that was already ramping up.
Grousbeck pointed out that Irving’s proclamation is not binding, but he was glad to hear it nevertheless. Grousbeck said if he had known in advance that Irving was going to announce it to the crowd at fan appreciation night, he would have been there.
“I feel like I’ve been getting to know Kyrie for a year,” he said. “Everything I learn about him and every connection that I make is authentic. He’s genuine, he’s a true Celtic, basically, and a great person. I’m really honored that he’ll plan on considering us next summer and I couldn’t be happier with how the relationship stands and the fact that he’s leading our team into this exciting season.”
This will be Grousbeck’s 16th season overall as a Celtics owner, and he said that this group seems as close-knit as any of the others during his tenure.
“They’re a real team and they’re taking a great approach to this season,” he said. “I’m really excited for the whole team, not just Kyrie.”
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With Monday’s deadline looming, the Celtics and Terry Rozier have had some discussions about a possible contract extension, though it is not very likely to happen. Rozier would be a restricted free agent at season’s end if he does not sign an extension, and could prefer to play somewhere he will be given the playing time and salary of a starter.
“I’ve been trying to take the pressure off the extension thing,” he said. “So I’m focused on the team. If it’s right for me to sign an extension, I will. If it’s not, it still can happen in the summer. So, you never know.”
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Celtics center Aron Baynes on Thursday was given the New England Baptist Hospital Community Champions Award for his community service work in the Boston area.