Ainge: We Do Have A Direction And Everything Is Going To Plan
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BOSTON (CBS) – Boston Celtics VP of Basketball Operations acknowledged on Friday afternoon with Felger and Bertrand how tough it is for Boston to attract high-profile free agents, and that’s why establishing a winning culture and building through the draft like the Pacers have done recently is the best model for him to use.
In the week leading up to the trade deadline, the Twittersphere was flush with rumors of the Boston Celtics making trades with seemingly every team in the NBA.
Now that the deadline has come and gone with no trades to speak of, Felger kicked off the interview wanting to know if Ainge was disappointed in his team’s inactivity.
“Not really. I woke up this morning feeling fine,” Ainge said. “We tried to do some things. We had some things we were hoping to accomplish at the deadline, but it’s like you go shopping and you can’t buy it because it’s too expensive. You need to wait and get a better price at a better time. That’s sort of how the trade deadline went for us.”
Felger pointed to the complexity of league’s collective bargaining agreement and asked Ainge whether or not that was a barrier to formulating a deal.
Ainge does have some frustration with the CBA, but that frustration lies mainly in how it’s interpreted by the media and fans.
Even for someone like him who works with the collective bargaining agreement every day, it’s hard to figure out. That confusion is multiplied even more by the average fan and media member not privy to all the information.
“The NBA is a little bit unique in that marquee players, and transcendent players are what drives the league and teams to success,” Ainge said. “The trades that you see happen yesterday are all financial trades, or trades to change team chemistry. There really wasn’t anything significant. There really weren’t any good bargains out there to do.”
“Trades are harder [than in most leagues]. Shorter-term contracts made trades harder. The shorter-term contracts, the penalties for the cap and there’s a lot of teams that have draft picks that are encumbered. There’s all sorts of little things that the average fans don’t understand.”
Ainge went on to say that his team was not involved or close to any “blockbuster, franchise-altering” trades throughout the deadline – but some minor deals were close. Differences in asking prices proved to be an impediment to close an offer.
The positive is that they were able to retain all their draft picks and assets, so, “We’ll be fine going into the summer,” Ainge told Felger & Bertrand.
Players like LeBron James only come once in a generation, and as Ainge said it’s the “marquee, transcendent players” that drive the league. So how do the Celtics, a team outside of the top and bottom three, stumble upon a player like that?
Do you worry about being stuck in the middle, Danny Ainge?
Ainge was quick to dismiss the notion that you must either be a title contender or a lottery team.
“I don’t think that’s true,” Ainge said. “Look at the top team in the league right now, it’s Indiana isn’t it? I mean, that’s a little bit unique. They’re there with the No. 10 pick, the No. 17 pick, a No. 24 pick and another No. 20 pick – they don’t have anybody inside a top 10 pick. They’re a legitimate team.”
To be in the lottery, all that means is you bought yourself a ticket, but to win the Powerball you need that “marquee, transcendent player.” For Ainge, it isn’t worth being a bad team for multiple decades to try and land that star.
He’d rather be the current day Pacers, or the Pistons and Kings from the early 2000s.
“To win a championship, a lot has to go right,” Ainge said. “In my opinion there’s only two ways to build a dynasty, and that’s Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Cleveland waited 25 years to get LeBron. The Clippers were in the lottery for 25 straight years and they never got a LeBron James or a Kevin Durant. You have to operate from building a team like the Pistons won it in 2004, and Sacramento was a team that came very very close to winning a championship with no superstars if it wasn’t for a fluke call in Game 7 against the Lakers.”
Ainge has said all along that he’s not sold on the upcoming draft class.
He sees a lot of good players, but certainly no LeBrons or Durants. Maybe a Paul George will emerge, but a LeBron James or Kevin Durant “doesn’t exist in this draft.”
The Celtics’ inability to land a top-tier free agent has been talked about ad nauseam, but for Ainge it’s not so much the city as it is the opportunity.
The city and its fans will always be constant, so for him it’s about creating a scenario like in 2007 with Kevin Garnett that will be the difference in hoisting Banner 18.
“Boston is not a place people are trying to avoid, but it’s also not a No. 1 destination,” adding, “We have to create an advantage and create a winning opportunity for those players to come here.”
After discussing the interest of other teams in Rajon Rondo at the deadline and the misinformation/false reports from the media, Ainge finished the interview by discussing the long-term future of the Celtics and if everything is going to plan in the post-Big Three era.
“Yeah, I think that things are going according to plan,” Ainge said. “I know the big issue is losing every game versus trying to develop chemistry, and character and culture. It’s a very, very difficult issue. I understand the debate and I understand the discussion, but the culture is huge. Having Kris Humphries and Brandon Bass teach Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk how to play hard is very important.
“We understand that some of the players that are on our roster right now will not be on our roster next year and some of them will. That’s what we’re trying to figure out too. We’re trying to see what everybody is made of, their work ethic, if they’re self motivated and if they’re championship caliber players. We’re trying to figure all that out right now, but we do have a direction and we do have a plan.”
Listen below for the full discussion:
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