Utah Jazz CEO Danny Ainge isn’t mad — despite what the memes might suggest

Ainge recently gave an interview to Sports Illustrated.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Danny Ainge, left, Utah Jazz CEO of basketball operations and general manager Justin Zanik talk on the court prior to Game 6 of the 2022 NBA first-round playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks, Saturday, April 23, 2022, in Salt Lake City.

The Utah Jazz became the first NBA team to reach 10 wins with their victory over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday. It’s a start that has baffled Jazz and NBA fans alike after the organization traded Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Bojan Bogdanović.

The Jazz winning despite being widely expected to tank hasn’t necessarily surprised Mitchell. But that’s not exactly the case for the team’s top executive.

Jazz CEO Danny Ainge recently gave an interview to Sports Illustrated in which he said he was “pleasantly surprised” by his team’s start to the season. He spoke highly of the team’s veteran leadership and how mature the young guys are.

“I like a lot of the players on our team,” Ainge told SI. “But the fact that they’ve jelled so well so early is fun. There is a lot of movement and a lot of guys moving the ball. That’s a fun way to play. And I think they’re all enjoying it very much.”

Before joining the Jazz, Ainge, a BYU alumnus, built an NBA Finals team in the Boston Celtics. Upon his arrival, many wondered if he could do the same in Utah. Trading three of the team’s best players in recent months felt similar to what he did in Boston — trading Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce and rebuilding the team through the draft. He also built the 2008 Celtics team that won a title, by the way.

But the Jazz starting 10-3 has left fans wondering whether Ainge is privately seething because his grand rebuild, which needs lots of losing to work, is being thwarted. He seemed unhappy with that characterization.

“It’s assumed that’s how I feel? Give me a break,” Ainge said. “I’ve been accused of [building teams to lose] before. It’s never been true.”

The NBA season is long, and it’s theoretically possible that Ainge still decides to trade the likes of Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson and others to put the Jazz in the best position to land Victor Wembanyama or other top draft picks. It’s also possible he decides to try upgrading the roster come February’s trade deadline.

Ainge did not rule out any possibility, while also saying the team is trying to build a team “for the now and for the future.”

“I wouldn’t discount anything,” Ainge said. “We have a lot of opportunities to make deals with all the picks that we have.”