Danny Ainge drama touches Jazz

Retiring from the Celtics, and tied to Jazz billionaire Ryan Smith

BY HENRY ABBOTT

Danny Ainge is leaving the Celtics, whose season is over, and it’s rattling the Utah Jazz—whose season is not.

A Jazz source says new Jazz billionaire Ryan Smith and Danny Ainge are “best friends.” That they at least know each other is clear. When Danny Ainge’s son Tanner ran for Congress in 2017, there was controversy around a Super-PAC whose filings showed significant donations from two sources: Danny Ainge and Ryan Smith. They’re both from Eugene, Oregon. They both went to Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, where Smith still lives. A quick social media search shows connection.

Will the 62-year-old Ainge take a role with the Jazz?

Dennis Lindsey has done an incredible job putting together a Jazz roster that finished the season with an NBA-best 52-20 record. And yet, as this season began, sources told TrueHoop that Lindsey might be moving on anyway, with the Rockets consistently mentioned as a target.

It took more than a decade of angling for Rafael Stone to get to his current post. Who knows how long it will last? Many suspect the antsy Tilman Fertitta will turn on Stone soon enough. One source points out that the Jazz have new ownership and are talking about changes. Longtime Jazz executive Dennis Lindsey has deep ties to the Houston area. You have to watch your back in this business.

Lindsey grew up an hour south of Houston in Freeport, Texas—just across the bridge from the Fertitta family stronghold of Galveston Island. Dennis and his son both went to college at Baylor—a few hours from Houston. Dennis began his NBA career as a video coordinator with the Rockets. Over 11 years Lindsey worked his way up to assistant GM, before leaving for the Spurs and then Jazz.

When he got to the Jazz, Lindsey was the envy of the league with arguably the most hands-off owners in sports, the Miller family—who trusted key executives and essentially never fired anyone. Smith arrived in October with a hands-on approach, heavy day-to-day involvement, and an urge to put his imprint up and down the organization.

That Lindsey can turn around a team is undeniable. When he got the Jazz job they were a 36-30 team led by Al Jefferson. Now that the Jazz are excellent, it might be a terrible time to leave—perhaps there are titles around the corner! On the other hand, his value has never been higher.


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