BOSTON (CBS) — The Celtics are one of the hottest teams in the NBA as next Thursday’s trade deadline approaches, but that hasn’t changed Danny Ainge’s approach.
The C’s have won 11 of 12 and sit just 2.5 games back of the Cleveland Cavaliers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. But Ainge said his philosophy hasn’t changed at all because of the success of the team and he wants someone who can be a part of the big picture long-term, and not a quick fix who will only be around for a couple of months.
“I’m certainly aware of all of our competition around the East. It’s not from a lack of desire to want to do a trade, but as an organization we have priorities and a plan,” Ainge told 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich during his weekly interview Thursday morning. “We’re not looking for Band-Aids and we’re not looking to give up future assets. We’re trying to build something more sustainable than a rent-a-player.”
Ainge said there has been plenty of interest in this year’s Brooklyn Nets pick, which has the best odds of being the top overall selection in June, but the team’s dearth of future picks and young assets makes the asking price go up whenever he’s dealing with other teams.
“Everyone knows the assets we have and the young players we have,” he said. “In any conversation we have the price is a lot because of what we have in the bank. That’s the challenge we’re facing and we’re trying to stick to our plan. If a deal comes along where the price to add someone to the team who is more long-term than someone who is just the last 25 games of the season, we have more interest in that than we do in finding a Band-Aid.”
While he admits the Celtics could use some help on the defensive glass, Ainge isn’t going to sacrifice their success in spacing the floor for a little more rebounding.
“We talked about this before the season started and our biggest weakness is defensive rebounding. Some games we get away with it and our guards get back in and get a lot of rebounds, but that’s been a team focus. But it’s also our greatest strength to play skilled players,” he said. “When we have Kelly Olynyk and Al Horford on the court, and the floor is spread for Isaiah and three-point shooters at our big positions, that’s why [Isaiah is] having such a great year and we’re scoring at such a high clip this season. You can’t just put a rebounder that can’t shoot out on the court because it might provide some help on the rebounding end, because it takes away from our strength on the offensive end.
“We know what our weaknesses are; we’d like rim protection and rebounding. At the same time we do like skilled bigs to play around our guards,” added Ainge.
Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle had some nice things to say about the Celtics after they beat his Mavericks on Monday night, saying they could represent the East in the NBA Finals. Ainge is flattered by those remarks, but said there’s a long way to go between now and the postseason.
“Rick is a former Celtic and a good friend of mine, a former teammate. I think Rick is being very nice. I’m not saying I don’t believe what he said; this Celtics team surprises me often,” admitted Ainge. “They’ve really come together, Brad had done a great job and Isaiah and many others are having fantastic years.
“The playoffs are so unpredictable. I feel like we’re a very good team and getting better. I don’t think you’ve seen the best of the Celtics,” Ainge continued. “I don’t think our core group has been together for many games at all this year. I’m looking forward to that after the All-Star break. We’re going to get Avery Bradley and Jaylen Brown back; it’ll take a few games to get acclimated, I think, but after that, the rest of March and April if we can remain healthy, you’ll see what the potential of this team is.”
Ainge also touched on Marcus Smart’s strong play this season and the team’s love affair with the three-point shot. Listen to the full interview below: