BOSTON (CBS) — If you listened to many of the reactions on social media and even on the airwaves at 98.5 The Sports Hub, you may think Danny Ainge would be facing a firing squad on Toucher & Rich on the day after the NBA trade deadline. But the Celtics president sounded quite comfortable with the team’s decision to stand pat and make no moves, even as their Eastern Conference rivals added players to augment their rosters.
While Ainge wouldn’t get into details about any conversations he had prior to the trade deadline, he did explain to Toucher & Rich how deeply the Celtics care about the team’s chemistry and the work that goes into evaluating players’ character as well as their talent. In the wake of the DeMarcus Cousins trade, the Celtics have faced questions about why they avoided adding a player like him, who is very talented but has a deep reputation for being a disruptive presence with teammates and coaches.
Ainge said that the Celtics highly value chemistry and culture – implying that they may not have wanted Cousins for that reason.
“Ruling out [players based on their character] is not something we would do in a lot of cases, but in some cases [we do], just because a player’s talent isn’t worth the problems,” said Ainge. “We do a lot of research, continually – and chemistry, fit into our culture, is very important.”
It’s one thing that the Celtics were reluctant to make a blockbuster trade for a marquee player, but they didn’t even add a cheap bench player that could have helped the team in an area of weakness – like rebounding. Ainge admitted that rebounding may be one of the team’s weakness, but added that a pure rebounder would have hurt the team offensively and wouldn’t necessarily be worth the improvement on the glass.
“We don’t have a great rebounding team from a personnel standpoint, but we also don’t play a great rebounding style, in that we rely on our bigs to play out on the perimeter and make plays and make passes and open the court up for our guards,” said Ainge. “There were one or two rebounders that I would say are good rebounders that would have helped us rebounding, but we always try to evaluate if they’re going to help our team overall.”
Many people may have wanted the Celtics to swing a major trade, but that would have required the Celtics to trade away some valuable assets, such as the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round picks for the next two years. It also would have required the Celtics to swallow up some of their salary cap space, which Ainge said they are saving for free agency this summer.
“We’re trying to preserve some things,” said Ainge. “First of all, the picks that we have are very valuable. The cap space that we have this summer we don’t want to jeopardize, in case we can land a very good player.”
Ultimately, Ainge likes what the Celtics have right now and thinks they can still improve – even this year.
“We’re choosing to stay patient. We like our team. We think our team is going to be better [down the stretch],” said Ainge. “I don’t think you’ve seen the best of this group of guys yet. And we haven’t been healthy, at least. We think there’s more left in them for this year.”
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