With the wheels already starting to turn in what is expected to be a long and busy offseason, Celtics president Danny Ainge made the last of his regular appearances with WEEI’s “The Big Show,” clearing up rumors that the Phoenix Suns would be interested in his services, setting a tentative timetable on working something out with Paul Pierce, explaining that he’d like Doc Rivers to take as much time as he needs to decide whether he wants to return, and adding that the Celtics have explored moving up, down and out of the first round of tomorrow’s draft.
Ainge shot down the notion that the Suns could lure him away from Boston.
“They have not,” said Ainge, a former Sun, adding that he doesn’t own a home there even though he still owns property there. “I have a contract and I love what I’m doing and I love the people I work with. I have a great relationship with the ownership and we have still things to accomplish here. So that is just a rumor that has no substance whatsoever.
“Obviously, there comes a time when I may need to walk away or they may need me to walk away and do something new. We know how this business is, but I love what I’m doing and again the people is what makes it the most fun.”
The most pressing issue the Celtics face is Rivers’s future. Ainge, however, said the best scenario is for Rivers to not feel pressured in any way. Ainge said he and Rivers have talked each of the past three days. Rivers was reportedly in Waltham today watching players work out. Ainge said Rivers will have his entire family with him this weekend to weigh his options and expects Rivers to come to a decision by “next week or shortly thereafter”
“I don’t want him, personally, to make a decision too soon,” Ainge said. “Doc is one of the greatest competitors around and I think that it’s really tough on him with the loss. He sees the bright side of what the team accomplished and it accomplished more than we probably thought a few months ago. But I know that it’s still really hard. A coach invests so much more than players in my opinion and he invested a ton and left it all out on the table. So he needs some time just to get himself right before he even makes a decision.
I think he feels an attachment to some of the players on the team. I think he knows they want him back. His loyalty to them – you don’t just walk away when everything’s not looking rosy. You fight through it and Doc is a fighter.”
Bracing himself for the possibility of Rivers leaving, Ainge said he had a running list of coaches in mind, but that he too would take as long as he needed to find a replacement even if it meant months. Former Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau was introduced today as head coach of the Chicago Bulls.
“Just like with players, you always have coaches in the back of your mind as well,” Ainge said. “But this situation is really unique. We were in the middle of the Finals and Thibs would have been a candidate for us. Someone that we would have spent time and discussed and figured things out with the coaching.
“If [Rivers] chooses to move on, I will take a long time to make that decision. I don’t think that decision needs to be made quickly. It needs to be done right. And we will take months if we need to.”
Ainge said he wants to bring back Ray Allen, and that the team needs to make smart decisions in order to do so.
“I think that that is the most likely scenario with Ray,” Ainge said. “I know Ray has basketball left in him. We just have to make wise financial decisions moving forward knowing that Ray is going to have other options but knowing that Ray has basketball left in him.”
With Paul Pierce in a position to opt out of the final year of his contract, Ainge sounded less certain about how that situation would play out. Pierce has until June 30 to decide whether he wants to pick up the $21 million option.
“I don’t know the answer,” Ainge said. “I do have doubts. I’m not certain of what Paul may do. I don’t know, because he may able to get a long-term contract somewhere else. It may be better than what we have. I don’t know the answer. We haven’t gotten to that point. That’s something that we’ll address next week once the draft is over.”