BOSTON (CBS) – Entering the season, a certain “T” word cast a heavy cloud over the Boston Celtics.
Many hoped the mission this season was to lose as many games and get the highest draft pick as possible. But “tanking” has never entered the Celtics minds, and despite an 8-12 record, they find themselves atop the lowly Atlantic Division on Thursday.
Celtics president Danny Ainge joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich on Thursday, and said with several of the favorites in the Eastern Conference currently battling the injury bug, Boston’s current lead in the division doesn’t mean much to him.
“I just feel like there are a lot of teams that have injuries and haven’t played as well as they’re capable of playing,” said Ainge. “I don’t think we’ve played as well as we can. We need to get more consistent, but I like a lot of things I see with individual players. I think everyone is playing well at times; we just need to play more consistent and more together.”
The two New York teams have been major disappointments to start the season, with a combined eight wins between the two. The Knicks are just 3-13 on the season, percentage points behind Milwaukee for the worst record in the league.
“I would have guessed they would have been a top three or four teams in the east when the season started. They’re missing their cornerstone on defense (in Tyson Chandler) and Raymond Felton has been hurt, who was a big part of their success last year,” Ainge said of the Knicks. “I’m surprised still their record is what it is, but I believe New York and Brooklyn are too talented of teams to continue on the track they’re on. I think they’ll get their act together, but they do need to get healthy.
Brooklyn is an even bigger mess, with assistant coach Lawrence Frank being demoted by head coach Jason Kidd. Frank was on the Celtics bench as an assistant in 2010-11, and Ainge says it’s too bad his reputation is taking a hit due to Brooklyn’s struggles.
“He’s very competent and a good, hard-working guy,” Ainge said of Frank. “I also know Jason Kidd very well; I coached him in Phoenix when he was three-time All NBA, and I’m a big fan of Jason’s. I think he is a bright mind but he needs to learn some things about the games. He is bright and stubborn.”
“Those are two good friends,” he said of Frank and Kidd. “They loved their time together in New Jersey and Kidd had a lot of trust in Lawrence when the season started. But when things go bad like they have in Brooklyn, with high payroll, high expectations, and high pressure, differences in philosophies or how to manage is not surprising to me at all.”
“For whatever reason Jason felt he preferred to move in a different direction. It’s sad that Lawrence’s reputation is being smeared, and what he’s built up as a reputation around the NBA,” he said. “I don’t think Jason is doing that. It’s a move, a gutsy move; Lawrence is an experienced guy he’s eliminating from his bench, so there must have been a falling out or differences in philosophy.”
It’s been a bumpy start for Kidd as a head coach. Is the former player too stubborn to be an NBA head coach? Ainge doesn’t think so.
“I think Jason could be a good head coach,” said Ainge. “Right now the team is not performing well, and not being inside and knowing what’s going on, I don’t know the reasons why. But they’re another team, when Paul [Pierce] and [Kevin Garnett] went there, the expectations were for them to be number-4 and 5 options, and they’ve been 1 and 2 through much of the season.”
“Deron Wiliams, Brook Lopez, and Joe Johnson, those are the players that carried the team to 50 wins on their own, they haven’t been healthy,” said Ainge, noting Williams and Lopez have both missed significant time this season. “That’s a pretty big blow in our league, to lose two players that are supposed to be your best players.”
Ainge also shared his thoughts on Jared Sullinger’s strong start to the season, and how the Celtics have a different MVP every night: