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Garnett status won’t affect draft plan

By Frank Dell’Apa
Globe Staff / June 28, 2012
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Kevin Garnett’s status for next season will strongly affect the Celtics’ offseason plans. But Garnett’s decision about whether to return will not play a part in how the team makes decisions in the draft Thursday night, according to president of basketball operations Danny Ainge.

“We’re having conversations with Kevin but I don’t have any answers whether he’s coming back or not,” Ainge said during a press conference. “I don’t think it’ll happen quickly, no.

“There’s no deadline with Kevin. Kevin’s the only free agent we have where we can talk to him now. We don’t have to wait until July 1, because he’s eligible for an extension. But the rest of the players, we have to wait until July 1.

“Yeah, we can be on hold. The sooner we can get Kevin done, the sooner the better for us. The sooner we can know which direction we want to go. But we don’t want to rush him, we don’t want to pressure him. You guys know Kevin.”

Garnett is likely not considering other teams, Ainge said.

Asked if Garnett’s choices are the Celtics or retirement, Ainge replied, “I think so, as of right now, yeah. I’ll be in communication with him and have some sort of read on that, and a better feel [by July 1].”

As for the draft, though, the Celtics will take Garnett’s status into account “very little, especially since we only have four guys under contract,” Ainge said.

“I’ve said from the beginning this is a deep draft. I think this draft is not necessarily as top-heavy as some people think, but there are some good players at the top of the draft. And we’ll be able to find players to fill a role and contribute to our team in this draft. And even in the second round, there’s a possibility there, too.”

The Celtics have the 21st, 22d, and 51st selections.

“I think it is worth trading up, but it all depends on the price to get up,” Ainge said. “So, we’re continuing to have discussions and we will up until and as the draft goes on.”

The Celtics are not necessarily drafting for immediate help, according to Ainge.

“I don’t think it’s critical,” Ainge said. “There’s a lot of people that’ll be looking for work this summer, a lot of good players. If a player needs a year or two of development before he becomes a good player, we’ll certainly look at that, as well as ready-made players, in the draft.”

Ainge talked about the long-term benefits of a successful draft, using the examples of Tony Allen, Glen Davis, Kendrick Perkins, Rajon Rondo, and Delonte West.

“It’s always important to make good decisions,” Ainge said. “It can have an impact. I mean, as I look back on the drafts, I think they’ve been critical to our success.

“Drafts of Delonte, Tony, Big Baby [Davis], Rajon, obviously, Perk. Those guys contributed to winning, championship seasons, and they also helped us acquire players like Ray [Allen] and KG [Garnett]. So, it’s important to draft well.

“I don’t know what ‘slide’ means — we have our rankings and I’m aware of all the mock drafts and what people are prognosticating. But we just have our rankings and that’s all we care about.

“We have our rankings, so we consider who’s available for us. It’s happened in the past. Delonte, Rajon as examples. Those guys were still there, and we had them rated much, much higher. And, of course, we’re hopeful for that to happen this year.”

The Celtics have auditioned about 80 players, Ainge said.

“We’re here until midnight every night in preparation, sort of cramming for the test,” Ainge said. “But there’s been a lot of work that’s gone on in preparation for it. This is game time and it’s fun.

“We’ve probably watched 80 workouts. We all say there’s nothing to workouts and why do them? There are changes of opinions, and we’re still debating opinions up in my office, so I think there’s something to be said. A general rule is, who are these guys and who have they been throughout their lives? And not so much what they say in an interview or what they do in a workout.

“We might make a trade but, generally, I would expect to keep them. We’re preparing to keep them and also preparing to move up or back and there are future picks and all sorts of things that will be on the table on draft night. And I don’t know what we’ll do. Whatever we think is best.”

Ainge has been in contact with Allen, who underwent ankle surgery after the season.

“I have had conversations with Ray, not contract-specific,” Ainge said. “On the future, what he likes about our team, but we haven’t had any conversation about specifics. And, on July 1, we’ll have more talks with Ray.

“I think Ray’s open to coming back but I don’t know. I won’t even get into details talking with players, other than the exit interviews, and Ray was getting rehab here. So, we’ve talked and so I have a feel of where his head is. But I’ll know more in July.

“Our team is unsettled, so I understand their position, they’ve worked hard and they’ve earned a right to be a free agent and explore opportunities. And it’s our job to get them or find replacements.”

Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at f_dellapa@globe.com.

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