Toucher & Rich: Danny Ainge Lacks The Patience For Another Losing Season
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BOSTON (CBS) – Now that the NBA season is over for Celtics fans we can start to piece together their future by looking ahead toward the lottery, which takes place on May 20.
The Celtics finished the season at 25-57, tied for fourth worst record in the league, and despite the poor results on the court, the fans still showed up and cheered. However, they likely don’t have the stomach to go through another losing season, and the good news is that Danny Ainge doesn’t either.
The president of basketball operations joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich show Thursday morning to put the cap on what was a disappointing, but generally expected season of Celtics basketball.
“I don’t [have the patience]. I didn’t like this season very much. … I agree with Grande. The fans were amazing. Around the league, I saw teams having much better success than us and they just didn’t compare in terms of volume and the support of our fan base.
“I think there’s two reasons: our fan base is pretty educated, and second of all our fan base, like me, I enjoyed watching our team play most every night, with maybe a dozen exceptions. … I saw a lot of things to be positive about. I saw individuals that had good years, but collectively it was not a good mix of players. A lot of good players got a lot better throughout the course of the year and I’m very excited about the future.”
Ainge, as well as head coach Brad Stevens, will conclude their end of season meetings with players at noon Thursday, and at this time he has not offered any extensions or deals to anyone currently on the roster.
One intriguing player with an expiring deal is forward Kris Humphries. Ainge called Humphries a “bright spot” and went into detail about his great individual season, as well as the prospect of him returning.
“Kris had a really good year. … He’s a good teammate. Good player. Productive. He was a terrific shooter from the mid-range. He gave good energy and effort. He had to play out of position most of the year at center and did an outstanding job. Kris could very well be on our team next year. He won’t come back to us on a $12 million salary, it’ll be a much-reduced number. … He understands the business. He gets it. He’s on board. … He knows there’s quite a few possibilities for him this summer,” Ainge said hinting at a sign-and-trade.
Looking ahead to the draft, Danny Ainge has said all along in interviews with Toucher and Rich since the beginning of the season that there’s no LeBron James-type, franchise-altering player in the upcoming draft. Given his stance on the draft, Ainge said Thursday morning that he’d trade his top first round draft pick, no matter how high it may be, in the right deal.
“The right deal” could very well include players on his own team, because Ainge also told T&R that nobody is untradeable.
“I tell all the players, even the great ones like [Garnett], Paul Pierce, it’s my job to make the Celtics better. If there’s a deal that will make us better in the long term, and in the short term, I have to look at them. There’s players that I anticipate being here and I’m not as actively pursuing to trade in trades than others, but nobody can be completely off limits.”
Rajon Rondo, who has been called a difficult player to deal with (just ask Doc Rivers), seems to always be involved in trade rumors. Despite the constant Rondo rumor mill, Ainge says all the players he deals with, including the four-time All Star, appreciate his honesty.
“I think he handles it well. We have a good relationship. We talk a lot. I think that the players, generally, I know as a player myself I would’ve appreciate more honesty. A lot of players have told me how much they appreciate the honesty with them. … We’re big boys. We can handle it. They understand the business. … I feel like [honesty] is the best way. Rondo has been a great player for us. I owe it to him to be honest.”
Providing he is a member of the Celtics in the 2014-15, Ainge says Rondo, like many players before him, will have some input on the roster.
“You bet. I consult with him, just like I did with KG, Paul, Ray Allen, Eddie House, James Posey. I may go to any player and get their opinion if they have information on a particular guy.”
Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck expects “fireworks” this offseason for his team, and Danny Ainge’s expectations are just as high.
“I’m looking to make something happen. We will have some opportunities. The thing I have to guard against and be honest about is to make sure we do a good deal, just not a deal to blow off some fireworks, make a splash or win a PR press conference. I need to build a team to win and win for the long haul.
“We’re certainly gonna try to set off some fireworks. You bet.”
Listen below for the full interview, including Ainge’s prediction for the NBA Finals matchup:
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