Opinion: Pressure on Danny Ainge to give Celtics roster to compete with top teams in East

No matter how many times Danny Ainge was asked this season, the Boston Celtics' president of basketball operations made it clear that Brad Stevens’ coaching was not the reason for the team's disappointing season.

So if it wasn’t coaching, that leaves two possibilities.

When pressed, Ainge suggested injuries and COVID-19 had an impact on Boston’s 36-36 season that ended in a first-round Eastern Conference playoff series loss to Brooklyn in five games on Tuesday.

“It’s not the way we envisioned this season going,” Celtics star Jayson Tatum said.

Jaylen Brown missed the end of the regular season and playoffs with a wrist injury. Kemba Walker missed the start of the regular season, played in just 43 of 72 games and a knee injury sidelined him for the final two games of the playoffs. And Tatum was bothered by lingering after-effects of COVID-19 for much of the season.

“I’m sure under perfect circumstances — no COVID and no injuries — our season looks a lot different,” Tatum said.

Stevens had a forthright answer

“You take everything into account, but the reality is all 30 teams were dealing with that — obviously not the major injury like Jaylen’s — so I would say objectively, we have to get better,” he said. “There’s ways to do that. But when you talk about being in the mix, that’s where we want to be.”

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