Toucher & Rich

BOSTON (CBS) – Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge called 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich Thursday morning for his weekly interview, only this time he wasn’t calling from his office in Boston.

Ainge is scouting in Las Vegas for the NCAA conference tournaments, where the WCC, WAC, Mountain West, Pac 12 are all taking center stage basically within a one-mile radius.

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“I’m watching a lot of college basketball right now,” Ainge said.

With the college basketball season nearly over, the majority of the scouting on these prospects is already done, but certainly far from over.

Ainge has said in the past that March Madness is a chance for players to separate themselves from the pack and show their improvements, so he’ll be watching intently on how these student-athletes rise to the occasion when the lights are the brightest.

Danny Ainge. (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)

Danny Ainge. (Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)

“This is a chance to see their progress,” said Ainge. “We watch the conference tournaments and the NCAA tournaments, and I think that we put more stock into it just because it’s closer and it’s a better evaluation to see how they’ve progressed over the course of the year. Because, at this age kids improve through the course of their freshman and sophomore years.”

Speaking of improvements, the Celtics are on somewhat of a hot streak.

Boston is 7-3 in their last 10 games, including 7-1 in their last eight home games. The Green already have more wins this season than last, and are within shouting distance (1.5 games back) of the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed.

Beating Memphis Wednesday night, who has the third best record in the NBA, is another sign of progress for this young team.

“What I like about our team right now is we have high character guys that play really hard. They’re very coach-able. This is a team that Brad [Stevens] can get through to and can play some different ways,” Ainge told T&R.

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“We have some really nice young core pieces that I’m very excited about. I’m excited. We’re making strides. I think Brad is having a really fun time coaching these guys. I think they have a fun time playing with one another. I really enjoy watching this team play. I have very realistic expectations for this team, yet I’m enjoying every minute of it. I like being around them, and I love watching them perform.”

Isaiah Thomas and Brad Stevens (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Isaiah Thomas and Brad Stevens (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Celtics were without guard Isaiah Thomas Wednesday night, who battled through the ending of Monday night’s game in Miami after a hard fall while driving to the basket.

Since coming to Boston from Phoenix at the trade deadline, Thomas has averaged 21.4 points and is shooting nearly 88 percent from the free throw line.

If the C’s hope to make the playoffs, Thomas can ill-afford to miss much time.

“Isaiah is out with a bruised tailbone, but it’s pretty bad. It’s pretty swollen on both sides of his lower back. He’s got some swelling in his elbow also. So I don’t know how long he’s going to be out. Right now we’re just saying day-to-day. I’m guessing he’ll be out at least a week, but he wants to play so bad.

“We need him, and we’re very blessed to get a win last night. Big shots from Avery [Bradley], Marcus [Smart] and Jae Crowder down the stretch, but Isaiah will be back soon. It’s nothing long term, but we want to get that swelling down. We don’t want to take any chances with him.”

Listen below for the full conversation, including Ainge blaming Toucher & Rich for the failed JaVale McGee signing:

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Hear every game of the 2014-15 Boston Celtics season on 98.5 The Sports Hub — the flagship station of the Boston Celtics. Pregame coverage with Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell begins 30 minutes prior to every game! Occasionally a scheduling conflict will arise, in which case the Celtics can be heard on our sister station 100.7 WZLX.