Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge addressed the media before the final game of the regular season. Here’s a transcript of his press conference (with a few notes sprinkled in between).

Danny Ainge

Danny Ainge

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge addressed the media before the final game of the regular season. Here’s a transcript of his press conference (with a few notes sprinkled in between).

On the season: “It was a long season — I guess not that long — but it was a tough, tough year, and I saw a lot of positive things from individuals. I thought our team gave good effort most nights. I think consistency was our biggest challenge, and I don’t think the team was a great fit, great mix, but individually I like what I saw in almost every player. I just feel like we didn’t have the size inside to protect the rim. I thought that was a big factor that cost us a lot of games. And we didn’t finish a lot of games down the stretch.”

(Notice Ainge liked what he saw from “almost every player.” One comes to mind. His name rhymes with Ref Mean.)

On the personnel: “I think we started the season out very concerned with the personnel. I thought Vitor [Faverani] gave us some size at times; his injury hurt us some there. He was a rookie and playing inconsistent, but showing signs of being a presence inside. I think all the way up the trade deadline we looked at opportunities to make our team better, but we wouldn’t sacrifice draft picks to make us better for just this year. But we look for opportunities to make our team better in the longterm.”

(Take note that Ainge offered the caveat of “just this year” in regard to trading draft picks.)

On Brad Stevens: “I think Brad did a great job this year. He’s a special person and a great coach, and the players see it. The players see his work ethic, they see his integrity, and they see his intelligence, so I think he’s earned the respect of the team in a really difficult situation this year. And I know he’s going to get better. He’ll be better next year, and he’ll be better the next year. He’s a sponge, and he’s very intelligent with a great work ethic, and I couldn’t be happier. … I have no worries about Brad. Brad is maybe the only thing in this whole organization I’m not concerned about.”

(As for those “rumblings” that were reported recently, it doesn’t sound like the coach is going anywhere.)

On the future: “I don’t know. How does anybody know that? What do you want me to like make a prediction or something? I don’t know anything about what we can do. I’m hopeful. I’ll work my tail off to duplicate what we’ve done in the past, but there are no guarantees.”

(That “I don’t know anything about what we can do” is a little reality check, huh?)

On Kelly Olynyk: “I think Kelly had a really good second half. I think he gained some confidence when he went to the All-Star break and represented the rookie team. I think I’ve been really happy with how he’s improved. The coaches did a good job of getting him stronger, a good job of teaching him the game, and I think he’s a great, great player. It’s just like all young players. We say this every year. Consistency is the challenge, and Kelly has gotten more consistent as the year’s gone on. And if you get three really good games out of 10, that’s not bad for rookies. You hope he gets seven out of 10 good games as they progress, and I feel that Kelly will get more consistent just with experience.”

(“A great, great player” might be excessive, but you have to like what you’ve seen from Olynyk down the stretch.)

On Rajon Rondo: “I think that Rajon will have the best year of his career next year. I think he’s sort of in a phase of his life where he’s matured. He’s just smarter, the game has slowed for him. I think he’ll be really healthy and fresher with a summer of strength. You sort of bypass the mental anguish from coming back from the knee surgery and the ACL, and that’s been sort of the pattern for guys in the past. The first 20-30 games is an adjustment period, so I’m confident he’ll have the best year of his career.”

(One key takeaway other than the obvious: Ainge made it a point to note Rondo’s maturation this year.)

On Jared Sullinger: “Sully had a good year this year. I think that he wants to be in better shape, and we talked about that all year. And I think that he can [be a totally different player next year]. … I think that Jared is still very young, and I don’t think he understands, yet, how good he is. He’s heard it. He’s heard it from a lot of people — his father, from his anent to his coaches — how good he can be. But until he believes how good he can be and really puts in the time — and I really do believe that Jared will this summer and is going to be in better shape next year.”

(Not holding any punches there. Sullinger’s minutes have suffered this season as a result of his conditioning.)

On free agents: “I’m not talking about free agents right now. I don’t know the answer to that. There’s not very many difference-makers in the free agent class right now. We also don’t know — there’s a lot of players with player options and team options, and so let’s wait and see who the free agent class is until we comment on it.”

(Read: If Carmelo Anthony doesn’t use his early termination option, then trades are the way to go.)

On Jeff Green: “I think that this has been a transition year for us. I think Jeff had a good year. Jeff has been consistently a very good 3-point shooter and very good in transition offense throughout his whole career, and I think that he got even better at that this year and he got more versatile. He shot the ball over the 3-point line, he shot the 3 off the dribble, things that we wanted and we encouraged him to do to expand his game. He became more of a focal point of the offense, and he had his ups and downs with that, but I think his game is complete and I think that Jeff is improving as a player. I think he still has a lot of growth still left in his game, and I think he’s going to have a better year next year than he had this year.”

(Ainge is probably really hoping opposing general managers are reading this right now.)

On Avery Bradley: “Avery had a good season. I’ve seen improvement in Avery this year, and the biggest issue with Avery has just been health. He plays hard, and he’s had some injuries, but none of them are injuries that should prevent him from becoming a great player.”

(And he’s probably hoping Bradley’s agent keeps that first part in mind during the negotiating process.)

On Rondo’s market: “Listen, there’s no one person that’s more important than the whole organization. We need to be good, because we all want to be good. I want my coach to stay, I want Jeff Green to want to be here, I want free agents that are out there looking at us play to want to play here. I want fans to want to come to the game. Everybody wants to win, but not just for one player, not just for one person. We all want to win, and that’s what we are trying to accomplish.”

(Even Rajon Rondo is tradable this summer. And that Jeff Green line was a little strange, no?)

On offseason fireworks: “I think the Fourth of July we’ll have some fireworks. I don’t know. We’re hopeful. I have some ideas and some plans that I’d like to do, but there’s just no guarantee that we can do it. We need to find good trading partners. We always are trying to make fireworks every summer. We try to do something that’s unique and special, and we will definitely try this summer.”

(Well, that should make you feel a little better about the “I don’t know anything about what we can do” line earlier.)

On acquiring assets: “That depends on what else we can accomplish, what other options we have. I could see that possibly happening, acquiring more assets. I could see giving up our assets — our young assets and some draft picks — for players as well. And everything in between.”

(More draft picks! Less draft picks! Younger! Older! It’s all on the table.)

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach

This is the second in a series on the parallels between Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge‘s last team to miss the NBA playoffs and this year’s lottery-bound squad. A deeper look at the C’s player personnel, potential trade packages and financial flexibility should offer insight into whether or not Ainge can recreate the 2007 magic of acquiring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen seven years later in 2014. (Hence, Double ’07.)

Part 1: Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Celtics captaincy

In order to justify holding Pierce on ice as a keeper, Ainge needed to land a big fish who could restore a winning culture to the Bay State’s once proud basketball franchise. Garnett did that and then some. Now, seven years later, the C’s president must reel in another catch, and the solution may reside in the Land of 10,000 Lakes once again.

For all the bellyaching about whether or not Kevin McHale helped steer Garnett to his former team, the Celtics offered the best package at the time. In the end, the deal centered around a double-double machine in Al Jefferson, and it’s not Ainge’s fault the Timberwolves drafted Jonny Flynn over Stephen Curry.

Come to think of it, Minnesota’s failure to capitalize on that Garnett trade may ultimately force the T-Wolves to deal Kevin Love. If David Kahn had played his cards right in the draft since 2007, he could have revealed a starting lineup of Curry, Love, Jefferson, Paul George and DeMar DeRozan within three years.

But, alas, the Timberwolves aren’t an uber-exciting All-Star squadron. They’re a .500 team. In the Western Conference, that gets you a lottery pick, and it doesn’t sit well with a perennial NBA All-Star. Just ask Garnett. Like KG in 2007, Love is nearing the end of his contract (Garnett had two years left, Love has one) and would require some convincing to sign an extension in Boston beyond his current deal.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, Ainge must ask himself two questions: 1) Is Kevin Love the kind of franchise-altering player who can help return the Celtics to their former glory, and 2) Do they have enough to get him?

Garnett Love

As good as Love has been — ranking among the league’s top five in scoring and rebounding in his last two healthy seasons — any comparison to Garnett is premature. A perennial All-NBA and All-Defensive selection, KG in 2007 was already well on his way to one of the greatest power forward careers in basketball history.

The current Timberwolves power forward, however, is only 25 years old and has almost 25,000 fewer minutes on his legs than Garnett did at the time the Celtics traded for him. Needless to say, he will be in high demand.

Statistics aside, it’s impossible to measure Garnett’s heart. From hurling medicine balls against a wall at practice to smashing his head into a stanchion before games and pumping out knuckle pushups during them, he accepted nothing less than maximum from anyone who shared the floor with him. Keyon Dooling once called him “the greatest teammate in the history of the NBA,” and it’s hard to imagine Doc Rivers disagreeing with that sentiment.

Still, all of Garnett’s desire didn’t translate into much team success in Minnesota. His Wolves sandwiched seven straight first-round playoff exits and three consecutive lottery seasons around a trip to the conference finals. At the time, he seemed destined to join Charles Barkley and Karl Malone among the greats never to win a title.

While Love hasn’t quite entered that conversation yet, he’s the subject of a similar discussion. As The Wall Street Journal pointed out last week, he currently counts himself among the game’s best players never to appear in the playoffs. If that doesn’t make a basketball player hungry for victories, then it’s time to change professions.

Come July, it will have been two years since Love declared, “Something has to happen in Minnesota,” and little has changed. As one of the few elite 2015 NBA free agents in his prime (Rondo is another), Love could force Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders‘ hand by internally stating his desire to sign elsewhere next season. As was the case with KG, The T-Wolves won’t want to be left with nothing in return.

Whether Love would want to sign an extension with the Celtics is an entirely different matter. Pierce and Garnett shared a bond that went back to junior high, and Rivers helped discredit KG’s perception of Boston, ultimately convincing him to wear the green he came to love. It remains to be seen if Rondo and Brad Stevens can have the same influence on superstar talents, but first Ainge must outbid the competition for Love’s services.

Jefferson Sullinger

Last season, Jefferson recalled the fledgling 2006-07 Celtics fondly. ”In the time we were here, when we were losing, we hardly ever got blown out,” he said. “It was always close games, but we were just such a young team, we didn’t know how to finish those games. I knew if we could’ve stayed together, things could’ve got better for us.”

The same can be said about this year’s edition. These young C’s rarely leave the locker room without discussing plans to get together, and they’re record of 7-34 when trailing by five or less in the final five minutes is the stuff of legend. But that didn’t stop Ainge from trading Jefferson, and it shouldn’t stop him from dealing Jared Sullinger.

Heck, Jefferson has now twice declared, ”€œIf I were Danny Ainge, €œI would’€™ve traded me for Kevin Garnett, too.”

The similarities between Jefferson and Sullinger go beyond their jersey number. Both late-round draft picks and 22 years old at the time, Big Al and Sully respectively averaged near identical numbers per 36 minutes in 2006-07 and 2013-14 (Jefferson: 17.2 ppg, 11.7 rpg, 1.4 apg; Sullinger: 17.3 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 2.1 apg).

Keep in mind, too, that Jefferson had just one year left on his rookie deal, and Sullinger is under control for two more seasons at short money. Other than Rondo, he is easily the C’s most attractive player on the trade market.

With Kris Humphries‘ $12 million salary coming off the books this summer, the Celtics don’t have the equivalent of Theo Ratliff‘s expiring contract to sweeten a Love deal, but they have plenty of young pieces a la Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair and Ryan Gomes and four times as many first-round picks to package around Sullinger.

If Sullinger, Jeff Green or Brandon Bass, Joel Anthony‘s expiring deal and two (or even three) first-round picks sounds too steep, remember that the hardest part of rebuilding in Boston is landing that next big fish, and Love is a heckuva catch. In the end, as Ainge says, it’s always better to be the team trading four quarters for a dollar.

Love, like those cold Minnesota winters, isn’t as much fun all alone. Partners help the seasons pass a little easier, especially one as unselfish as Rondo. Heck, Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck already promised the fireworks. It’s now up to Ainge and Saunders — who like McHale spent some time in Boston — to make the Love connection.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach
Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck joins Mut and Merloni to discuss and reflect on the Boston Marathon Bombings a year later.

The Celtics dropped their second-to-last game of the 2013-14 season, falling to the lowly 76ers in Philadelphia by a 113-108 count. Though Chris Johnson appeared to hit a game-tying 3-pointer near the end of regulation, the forward was ruled to have stepped out of bounds for a turnover. The 76ers added a pair of free throws to create the game’s final margin.

The Celtics dropped their second-to-last game of the 2013-14 season, falling to the lowly 76ers in Philadelphia by a 113-108 count. Though Chris Johnson appeared to hit a game-tying 3-pointer near the end of regulation, the forward was ruled to have stepped out of bounds for a turnover. The 76ers added a pair of free throws to create the game’s final margin.

Kelly Olynyk continued his scoring surge in defeat, with the center dropping in a career-high 28 points on 10-of-19 shooting. Jeff Green added 27, Avery Bradley scored 23 (though he shot just 9-of-22) and Rajon Rondo fell a bucket shy of a triple-double, scoring eight points, claiming 11 boards and distributing 14 assists.

The Celtics wrapped up the year with a 9-32 road record. All that remains between the Celtics and the end of the season is a home contest against Washington on Wednesday. The Celtics currently possess the fifth-worst record in the NBA; with one game remaining, they could finish with as “low” as the fourth-worst record and as “high” as the sixth-worst record.

For a full game recap, click here.

Blog Author: 
WEEI

The Celtics didn’t have Rajon RondoJared Sullinger, Jerryd Bayless or Kris Humpries, yet their undermanned roster still managed to claim a comfortable 111-99 victory over the Cavs in Cleveland. The win snapped the Celtics’ 13-game road losing streak.

The Celtics didn’t have Rajon RondoJared Sullinger, Jerryd Bayless or Kris Humpries, yet their undermanned roster still managed to claim a comfortable 111-99 victory over the Cavs in Cleveland. The win snapped the Celtics’ 13-game road losing streak.

Kelly Olynyk matched a career-high with 25 points and set a new career standard with 12 boards, while Avery Bradley likewise poured in 25 and Phil Pressey distributed 13 assists. For a complete recap of the game, click here.

Of course, the victory — the Celtics’ second straight — wasn’t necessarily the ideal outcome for a franchise in a pitched battle for ping-pong balls in the NBA draft lottery. The Celtics are now 25-55, the fifth-worst record in the NBA, with their victory having pushed them behind Utah (24-55 as of the end of the game in Cleveland) and neck-and-neck with the Lakers (25-54). A team that looked earlier in the week like it might be spiraling towards the third-highest number of ping-pong balls in the lottery for the top three picks is instead now in danger of falling to sixth, with an outside chance (if the Celtics win out and Kings lose out) of matching the Kings for the sixth-worst record (rather than claiming it outright).

Blog Author: 
WEEI

The Celtics coughed up a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter, but an inspired Rajon Rondo-less effort fended off the Bobcats in a 106-103 victory that snapped a nine-game losing streak. Meanwhile, Orland’s loss to the Wizards gave the Magic sole possession of the NBA’s third-worst record.

The Celtics coughed up a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter, but an inspired Rajon Rondo-less effort fended off the Bobcats in a 106-103 victory that snapped a nine-game losing streak. Meanwhile, Orland’s loss to the Wizards gave the Magic sole possession of the NBA’s third-worst record.

Avery Bradley led the Celtics (24-55) with 22 points. Jared Sullinger scored 20 while Jeff Green, and Brandon Bass each added 18. Kelly Olynyk (12 points) and Phil Pressey (10 points, 13 assists) also reached double figures. Pressey’s rebound tap to Bass in the closing seconds sealed the victory.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Avery good night: The real shame in Rondo’s absence was another missed opportunity for the Rondo-Bradley backcourt. While the two provided the few highlights (43 points, 14 assists, 8 rebounds, 6 steals) against Atlanta in their first game together in almost two weeks, Rondo was not in uniform to play Batman to Bradley’s Robin against the Bobcats. Not that it mattered, as the soon-to-be restricted free agent led the Celtics with 14 points by halftime.

Triple take: Almost everybody got in on the C’s 3-point shooting effort, but Bradley again led the way, draining his first three attempts. Pressey and Olynyk also buried a pair each during their 9-of-13 start from distance.

Fighter’s mentality: Led by the consistent effort of Bass and a surprising spark from Green, the Celtics closed the third quarter on a 12-0 run, snagging an 84-75 lead entering the fourth quarter. Pressey’s dive for a loose ball and pass from his behind to a breaking Olynyk drew a playoff-like response from the Garden crowd. While the C’s would have been better served with the loss, the fight they showed may also pay dividends down the road.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Rondo no go: While Rondo’s absence should have benefited the Ping Pong count, his late scratch surprised the Garden crowd. When Brad Stevens addressed the media two hours before the game, Rondo was slated to start the first night of the team’s final back-to-back, but he returned from  warmups with a bruised left shin. His status for Saturday’s game in Cleveland — originally a scheduled day off — remains uncertain. With Kemba Walker (groin) also sidelined, fans instead watched a starting point guard matchup between Phil Pressey and Luke Ridnour.

Big Al: As the Celtics have all season, they struggled against a talented offensive big man. This time it happened to be old friend Al Jefferson (32 points, 10 rebounds), who torched Sullinger & Co. with a variety of post moves for 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting in Charlotte’s 29-point first quarter. He signed a three-year, $41 million deal with the Bobcats over the summer, and while pundits criticized his move to a franchise in perennial peril, his 21.7 points, 10.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists for a team surprisingly ranked among the top defensive units in the league. Suddenly, that $41 million doesn’t seem so bad, especially when you consider the C’s are paying Gerald Wallace $30.3 over that same span.

Bumps and bruises: Jerryd Bayless suffered a right knee sprain in the fourth quarter and did not return. Additionally Sullinger rolled his left ankle and left for the locker room in the third, but returned after getting some tape on it. The last the Celtics want to see is injuries pile up in the last few games.

Blog Author: 
Ben Rohrbach