‘Our history is we try to make the big deal.’ Q&A with Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck
Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck had a wide-ranging conversation with the Globe Thursday in which he discussed everything from early frustrations to possible moves to his optimism about the next six years, as the team stays ready to pounce on opportunities.
Q. What have you thought about this season, and where do you think it can go from here?
A. I certainly looked at the team on paper this summer and said, “I’m pretty excited.” But they don’t give out paper trophies.
I think the first part of this year has been obviously up and down and a bit challenging to get through. Some of the games have been flat; others have been pretty special. I just went this morning and with Danny [Ainge] and sort of reviewed the team, A-to-Z, and some of the statistics come out more positively than a casual fan might think. We’re a top-10 offense, top-five defense, and rank top 10 in rebounding as well.
So I’d say overall, when you look at things, there’s no reason to be overly concerned. We need to take another step, but we don’t need to take five more steps.
Q. What’s the next step?
A. What we’ll do over the next month is determine if there’s anything we can do in February [prior to the trade deadline] to advance the team to a new level. But when I look at the team right now, I feel really good about their character, really good about their skill, really good about the upside over the next 5-6 years, with young players and the draft.
I feel overall confident and excited we can make some noise over the next 5-6 years with this core group, adding on when we can. But this season still does feel like a work in progress, and it feels like we’ve got a long way to go if we want to make some noise in May again, or even in June.
Q. You said it was an A-to-Z meeting with Danny Ainge. What does that entail?
A. Just going over the roster, going over how Brad [Stevens] is feeling about things. Brad is sometimes there. Going over anything that’s on Danny’s mind, any conversations he’s had with other teams, or any thoughts he has about particular players. I do a lot more listening than talking. I want to hear what the basketball people are saying and take it in.
Q. You mentioned spending the next month looking at possible moves. What is your role in that?
A. We’ll just leave that in the mystery category. But what happens with trades is that they’re proposed by the basketball side and I’m kept up to date all along as the phone calls develop and as we think about what assets we might include and what the team might look like after a trade. And so I approve them or disapprove them, or try to change them, and that’s gone on for 16 years.
Q. The Celtics are in fifth place in the East. How much does your place in the standings factor in when considering whether to make a move?
A. I think it’s just knowing that we’re in the mix and will have a chance to make some noise in the East and have it be a special season. It’s not a special season right now. Can it become a special season? I still think it can. But we’ve got work to do.
Q. When it comes to roster building, what kind of preparations do you make to stay ready for a time a superstar might become available?
A. Well, this team is stacked with a lot of talented players on reasonable contracts, and a ton of draft picks. So that’s why our phone is already ringing. Our history is that we try to make the big deal and have gone for it. We try to put banners in the rafters. There’s only one so far [from this ownership group]. We’d like to have another one up there, and that may require another move, or just continued growth with these guys. We’ll have to see.
Q. You’ve consistently said you’re prepared to pay the luxury tax moving forward. Is that just part of the process when you’re building a championship team?
A. We have a 16-year record of spending and putting the best possible team out on the court, and I’ll just leave it at that. Everybody can see what we’ve done, knows what we’ve done, and knows that we’ve put the Celtics first in every aspect.
Q. You could have four first-round draft picks in June. How much do you track those potential choices and look at that bigger window that could still be open because of these assets?
A. I’m excited about all the draft picks we have now and in future years. It’s one of the reasons I’m so excited about the next six years as opposed to the next six games. The next six games we might go 0-6, but the next six years I feel pretty good about.
I know both February and June will be very active. Because we have all these draft picks and young players, we get a lot of calls. And so Danny, Mike Zarren, Austin Ainge, they get a ton of calls and try to figure out if there’s anything to recommend to me to make the team better.
My view of this draft right now is it’s going to be as many phone calls as we’ve ever had. I don’t worry much about what players we end up drafting, because that’s completely on the basketball side.
Q. Obviously, like you, fans had big expectations this year. What would be your message to the ones that are riding the ups and downs?
A. I’d like to say that I agree. It has been challenging. I wanted to be at the top of the conference, and we’re fifth, and I guess I’d just say we’re going to try hard to make this year still a special season. I still personally believe that there is upside this season with this group and I like us being stocked with a ton of guys who can play.
It probably makes it harder to coach, because everybody wants minutes, but I want to be stocked, because I’ve seen it happen where you get tired or injured and it’s April or May and you don’t have your full strength and you have to go home.
We’ve got a very well-stocked roster for this year, and then we’ll let next year and the year after take care of itself. But we’re still all-in on this year. I’m still very hopeful it’ll be a special year. We’ll see what happens.
Q. What have you thought of Kyrie Irving’s season?
A. I think he’s a truly extraordinary player. He’s had, according to stats, probably his best season, in many ways, so far. He’s on a completely other level sometimes. He’s one of the elite handful of players in the world when that’s happening.
What I appreciate almost even more than that is the way in private he’s as positive and helpful and team-oriented as any player I’ve ever seen, as far as bringing along and mentoring the other players. He’s committed to them and is positive to them and he realizes our success depends on not just him, but everybody.
Q. What have you thought of Marcus Morris’s season?
A. He’s sure looked like an All-Star to me and I couldn’t be happier. Every time he steps on the court, I feel great about it. There’s a lot of guys like that on the team. But just night in and night out, making shots, playing defense, high energy, putting his body on the line. It’s great to see.
Q. Did Wednesday’s 35-point game give you a glimpse of what Gordon Hayward is capable of as he finds his way?
A. I gave him the game ball in the locker room after the game. Everybody was very happy for him. I don’t give out game balls very often. Kyrie got one a couple weeks ago, and then Gordon. I think those are the only two this season. Gordon played great last night. That’s the Gordon we know and I’m glad he’s here.
Q. You retired Paul Pierce’s number last year. Are there plans for another ceremony?
A. I don’t have anything to specifically announce. I know who you’re talking about. At the moment it hasn’t come up, but I’m confident there will be something to talk about.
Q. Boston hasn’t hosted an All-Star Game since 1964. Last year you considered applying for the 2022 All-Star Game but didn’t. Is there interest on your end?
A. It’s very hard. Boston in February isn’t a great tourist destination, although we love our city. And we have to block out hotel rooms, and the convention center, and the arena. We’re willing to look at it. But Boston in August would make a lot more sense than Boston in February. So maybe we’ll have an All-Star game in August.
Q. What have you thought of the TD Garden game experience this year?
A. We’ve been getting really good feedback from the fans. We survey the fans all the time, as much as anybody in the league. We really care what they think. We’re a bunch of fans that bought this team. We’re at the games and take it seriously.
We feel like fans are excited. Last night marked our 100th consecutive sellout, and that was a really nice thing. We really appreciate the fans. We take it seriously when they want change, but right now it feels like a good atmosphere in there. I’ve been to a bunch of road games and I haven’t really found anyplace that has our electricity.