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Celtics

Robb: Danny Ainge’s Next Deal Not A Matter Of If Or When — It’s A Matter Of How Many

By Brian Robb, CBS Boston
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(Photo by Steve Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by Steve Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) — In recent years, trade deadline week has been a bit of a letdown for Boston Celtics fans. Typically, there has been lots of speculation thrown around featuring big names like Rajon Rondo in the rumors. But ultimately, when push comes to shove, there haven’t been any major moves; just minor deals and free-agent signings.

The 2013-14 season is a different animal for Danny Ainge. Currently, Celtics ownership is paying over $70 million to a team that enters the All-Star Break with a record of 19-35, currently the sixth-worst record in the NBA.

Several members of Boston’s roster are being handsomely compensated to be part of that dismal record. Kris Humphries ($12 million), Gerald Wallace ($10.1 million) Jeff Green ($8.7 million), Brandon Bass ($6.45 million), and Keith Bogans ($5.1 million) are just a few of those names this year. Instead of losing in Boston, these veterans could all be useful assets in some form to other teams around the league.

Read: Who Could Be Dealt?

Some players (Wallace) have contracts that are too long and expensive to be dealt without Ainge giving up some additional value, something that he likely won’t do at this stage. Others (Bogans) will probably be held onto until this summer to be used as a trade chip in deals for his non-guaranteed $5.1 million salary for next year.

It remains to be seen whether Ainge has any interest in keeping some or any of the other high-priced parts (Green, Bass, Humphries) around for the team’s future. This reality loomed large before the team took off for the All-Star Break.

Head coach Brad Stevens was unwilling to speculate whether the current roster would remain intact past the trade deadline.

“Those are hard questions to answer,” Stevens admitted. “I don’t know either way. At the end of the day, that’s why I’m the coach and someone else is doing that. That’s probably good. What I’m going to do is focus on the guys we have. If that changes, I’ll focus on whoever else is here.

Stevens continued: “I don’t know if there will be or should be [trades]. I do know we have to get better as a team to make the progress I think we need to make.”

That’s not exactly a statement that would inspire confidence for potential players who are on the block. Having seen two trades already in the past two months, Stevens is well aware of the maneuvering Ainge will be considering in the next week, but the head coach will avoid getting distracted by the rumor mill.

“I’ve tried not to get caught up in all the talk as well. It’s distracting for everyone to hear those rumors and names. I think one of the things that we have to do is understand what’s substantial and what’s not, and we realize 90 percent or more of what is out there is not,” Stevens said.

Rondo is one player who is probably safe from any deals this year, as he continues to return to form after tearing his ACL last season. Outside of receiving an offer full of picks and a young player he can’t refuse, Ainge will keep the Celtics’ new captain, hoping he returns to All-Star form before the offseason.

Celtics At 7: Cash In Those Chips Now!

Boston’s point guard has lived through his fair share of rumors in the past few seasons, though, and tries to tune them out when the deadline nears.

“I don’t watch TV,” Rondo said. “It’s been like that my last eight years as a Celtic [with the trade rumors]. Until a trade gets pulled, I’ll be a Celtic.”

Rondo also feels like his teammates aren’t that caught up in the rumor mill.

“There’s only two guys maybe that’s in the rumors,” Rondo said. “Everyone else just plays the game. Guys that aren’t in rumors, sometimes their names get called, it is part of the league. We have a pretty young team, but for the most part we don’t talk about the trades or anything that that can happen, because you never know. It’s part of the game.”

While it’s nice to see the Celtics aren’t consumed by the trade talk, make no mistake: Most of Boston’s roster should be on edge. Boston’s front office will make trades next week and the probability is high that the team will make several of them.

Ainge has openly admitted that making the postseason is not a goal for the group this year, so why would the team want to pay big money to players like Humphries, Bass and Green when it can find willing takers elsewhere?

Additionally, with the recent improvement of players like Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Chris Johnson and Phil Pressey, minutes have to be cleared for the youngsters to develop. Just another reason for Ainge to clear some of the deck.

Not everyone will be gone. It’s possible Ainge still sees Bass, Humphries, Avery Bradley or Green as a part of this team’s future.

In less than a week, we’ll find out who could remain in town for at least a few more months. Don’t be fooled though: This year, someone is not going to make the cut.

Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.

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