Celtics president of basketball operations went on WEEI’s Big Show Thursday afternoon and said his team was not close to making a trade but that he’d been open to discussing any deal that would make the Celtics better.
“We are open and listening, but we don’t feel pressure to do anything,” said Ainge. “Whether we win every game or whether we struggle, I think it all depends on what opportunities are presented. We want to make some change to help improve our team.”
The player who would seem to have the most value on the open market is Paul Pierce. He’s a veteran who can help a contending team win now, and only $4 million of his $15.3 million contract for next season is guaranteed. Ainge said he has not received any offers for Pierce, but he said that he would inform his veteran forward of any potential trade discussions.
“Nothing has been talked about with Paul,” said Ainge. “Nothing is close to being done. I too would like to see Paul retire as a Celtic.That would be great. We’re all attached to Paul. He’s been great for the city, the franchise, and he’s been a true pro. Having said that, if something came up I would talk to Paul. My job is to do what’s in the best interest of our team, regardless of my personal ties or my personal feelings with the players.”
Ainge was also adamant that he was not currently in the market to pick up another point guard to replace Rajon Rondo.
“Not right now,” he said. “There’s a lot of reasons why we’re not just jumping out and doing something.There really is nobody that you can find to replace Rondo, either through a trade or free agent acquisition, at this time of year. We like the guys — Barbosa’s been dying for a chance to play, and Jason Terry, and Avery Bradley at the point. I think all those guys are looking for an opportunity.”
The Celtics have won their last two games with Rondo, and talk radio was filled Thursday with fans calling in suggesting that the team might be better without its All-Star point guard. Ainge quickly shot down notion.
“He single-handedly carries us every night, and I don’t know how people don’t see that,” said Ainge. “It’s silly. He’s a great, great player, and he’s proven that time and time again. The guy’s been MVP of probably four or five series over the last five years. He’s been the best player in a series against LeBron James. He’s been the best player in a series against Derrick Rose. He’s been the best player in three games in a Finals series. The guy has done too many good things. The question is, ‘Are the pieces right around him?'”
One criticism of Rondo is that he dominates the ball too much. Another is that he cares too much about his statistics. Ainge called the entire notion of double-doubles and triple-doubles “nonsense” and said he understands the criticism of Rondo’s attempt at keeping his streak of consecutive games with double-digit assists alive earlier this season vs. Detroit. But he says most of Rondo’s triple-double performances have transcended the stats.
“The rebounds he gets, most guards can’t get,” said Ainge. “The assists that he gets, a lot of people can’t get.”
Ainge sounded relatively happy with his current team. He did not sound like a GM looking to make drastic changes for this season.
“I think I’ve been pretty consistent on this team the last couple of years,”he said. “I said I like the individuals. Obviously I don’t like 20-23, which we were when Rondo got hurt. I didn’t like any part of that.
“But what I particularly said is I like what these guys are made of, especially our core guys. When it comes down to playoff basketball, I know what they’re made of, and I know that they have the gear to take it to another level.”
Ainge said he expected the Celtics to make some kind of move, but not necessarily a major one, before the Feb. 21 NBA trade deadline.