Ainge dealing in reality
No one untradeable but he likes lineup
WALTHAM - Danny Ainge is planning for the Celtics to open next season with the same starters they had in 2007 and last year. But he will entertain offers for anyone and everyone and said no Celtic is untradeable - though he considers a trade a long shot.
“That’s my job,’’ said the Celtics president of basketball operations. “We have to listen to what any team has to offer. It’s also my job not to stand pat. I encourage my players to get better in their game and my coaches to get better in what they’re doing.
“We’re trying to do the same thing. We’re trying to improve our team. We’re not trying to change our team, but we’re trying to improve it. We have a legit shot at winning it this season and we won’t jeopardize that chance to try and win a championship this year.’’
Ainge, speaking yesterday at a pre-NBA draft press conference at the team’s practice facility, has lately been occupied with potential deals as much as possible draft choices; the Celtics have the 58th selection in tomorrow’s draft. Ainge shot down reports of trades involving Ray Allen and/or Rajon Rondo.
“We love Rajon,’’ Ainge said. “I think everybody knows how good of a player he is and what sort of a bright future he has. It’s amazing, I hope each one of you can maintain your integrity through this world of media that we live in - it doesn’t even seem like you have to have any kind of source anymore, you just write stuff and print stuff, and things can just come out of the air.
“It’s a little bit frustrating sometimes, because I’ve got to manage those players. And their agents, and their mothers, and their wives, and, in some cases, their children. But the one thing I can assure you, I will never sit up here and say there is any player that is untradeable, ever.
“But the notion that we might be trading [Rondo] because of his contract situation, I’ve heard speculation, or that we’re dissatisfied with him, or his attitude. I mean, that stuff is so false. He showed up late for a playoff game, so we’re going to trade him - none of those things are true.
“We love the kid and we think he’s got a very bright future. I don’t anticipate any trades happening in this offseason regarding any of our core players.’’
Ainge said Allen inquired about a trade report that “was completely a fabrication.’’
Ainge added, “Like I tell all of the players that have been around - and I’ve talked to all of them - they are all curious when they hear things. But I pretty much tell them they’re all not untradeable. I’ll trade any one of you.
“We’ve won 128 games in the last two years. This year we won 62 and had major injuries. We’re a championship contender, for sure, in the last few years and we feel like we’re going to be better this year. We’ll have a better team on the court.
“If you look at a trade rumor, and if you think it makes us a better team and helps us to win a championship this year, that’s the first criteria that any trade rumor has to pass - that it has to help us win the championship this year. We’re certainly not doing anything this year to get a draft pick that’s a developmental project that is going to prevent us winning a championship this year.
“I’ve had many conversations. But conversations are far from anything close. I mean, we have conversations all the time. Every day there’s conversations. But a rumor that said lower-level executives are talking about a trade rumor pretty much means it doesn’t really have any merit or any value, if it’s not being discussed at the top.’’
Ainge reiterated the Celtics’ commitment to maintaining a core group of players, but left open a chance for change.
“Our starting five has been the best team in basketball, when healthy,’’ Ainge said.
“There’s an assumption we can move one of those guys and still be as good as we are now. This opportunity is unique. A lot of teams go 30 years drafting in the lottery, making trades, continually shuffling the deck and adding young player upon young player and never get anywhere.
“There’s no guarantees in this business but we have a pretty much guaranteed opportunity if we play well and stay healthy, to win, with this team that we have. We’ll take care of the future as it comes. If there was some deal that came along that we thought would make us better now and protect us in the future, we would have to consider that.’’
The Celtics are taking a low-profile approach to the draft and will conduct business from their North Station offices tomorrow night.
“We have not made any effort to get any of the top picks,’’ Ainge said. “We’ve had discussions. There’s a big difference between seeing what the price may be or seeing what it would take to get a top pick, but we have not tried to get a top pick. I think they would deal them for the right price but we’re certainly not willing to pay the price it would take to get a top pick.’’
Ainge considers J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker, last year’s draft choices, better prospects than nearly anyone the Celtics might have a chance of drafting. The Celtics are considering selling their choice because they hope to add a free agent, plus free up playing time for Gabe Pruitt, Giddens, and Walker.
Kevin Garnett’s recovery from knee surgery will be monitored by Celtic trainers Bryan Doo and Ed Lacerte in Malibu, Calif., Ainge said . . . The Celtics plan to make a qualifying offer to forward Glen Davis by Tuesday’s deadline, giving them the right to match offers he receives as a restricted free agent. Guard Eddie House is still considering opting out of the second year of his contract . . . Ainge did not have a progress report on Leon Powe’s knee rehabilitation . . . Working out yesterday were forwards Jeff Adrien (University of Connecticut), 23, Robert Dozier (Memphis), 23, and Geoff McDermott (Providence), 22; guards Aaron Jackson (Duquesne), 23, and Bryan Mullins (Southern Illinois), 22; and Ukrainian center Viacheslav Kravstov, 22.