WALTHAM — The Celtics held a press conference Monday to introduce three of the players acquired in the deal that sent Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets. Right out of the gate, it was clear both the players and team management weren’t sure how long the players would be wearing Celtics green.
Flanked by veteran Keith Bogans and third-year player MarShon Brooks, the most marquee player in the deal stood up and introduced himself.
“Kris Humphries, 10th year, excited to be here,” Humphries said, his voice trailing off almost as if asking a question.
“It’s been a pleasure getting to know them real briefly,” newly-hired Celtics coach Brad Stevens said after meeting the players minutes before. “Looking forward to working together.”
With the first question, a local reporter asked Celtics general manager Danny Ainge whether he expected the trio, along with forward Gerald Wallace, to be on the roster by the time the summer ended.
“Sure,” said Ainge. “We have some work to do. We have a few too many guaranteed contracts. But yes I do.
“We have to make some adjustments. We’re very busy trying to put the best team on the court. There could be some changes in the summer, yes.”
While Ainge didn’t sound too convincing, Humphries in particular was even less so. Several of the questions were answered by all three players. After Brooks and Bogans gave their answers to one question, Humphries said, “Yeah basically all those cliched comments. I’m going to save you some time.”
When the players held up Celtics jerseys following the general Q&A, the natural question was to wonder, at least for Humphries, whether or not the team would ever make another one.
Ainge spoke at length Monday for the first time on the trade that sent Pierce and Garnett to Brooklyn. He said he wished he could have kept both players, and that they along with Jason Terry meant more to him personally than just about anyone else whose come through the organization. Ainge said if it were up to him, the numbers of Garnett and Pierce would hang in the rafters at TD Garden.
“Brooklyn showed a real interest in putting a dream team together, and at any cost, really,” said Ainge. “The chance to acquire a lot of young assets and move onto a different phase presented itself.”
Ainge said no other team expressed interest in acquiring both Pierce and Garnett.
“Where we were as a team, it seemed very difficult to be a championship contender,” he said. “It’s a situation that we needed to do. It was an opportunity for us to start fresh, to start over. Not completely start over, because we have a lot of good players returning, and a lot of good players we acquired in the trade. But start over as far as a new coaching staff, new players, and a new identity.”
Of the three players, Brooks most fits into the Celtics’ rebuilding plans.The third-year player out of Providence averaged 12.6 points his rookie season before falling behind Joe Johnson on Brooklyn’s depth chart last season. Bogans seemed like the player who was best adjusted to the whole thing. The veteran guard said he hoped to act like an extension of Stevens on the court.
“I know the fans in Boston appreciate hard work, playing hard, and that’s pretty much my game,” said Bogans.
“I definitely think it will be motivating, seeing some of the comments from the media, that we’re just going to come out and throw the season away. That’s not the case.”
Despite Bogans’s plea to the contrary, it was hard to sit through the press conference and imagine the Celtics doing anything but “rebuilding,” “starting over,” or “getting younger,” phrases that were used multiple times.
Even the light moments were strange. Before the press conference, an elephant in the room of sorts was the scuffle between Humphries and current Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo last season.
“I knew it was coming,” Humphries said of the question. “I haven’t talked to him, but I think we’ll have a good relationship. I think things happen within the game. When you look at it, it really was nothing. The media tries to blow things out of proportion. I need to do my part to earn his respect, in terms of playing hard.”
“It might have been a flop,” Ainge chimed in. “I don’t think Rondo could push this guy this hard.”
The player and the GM exchanged playful shoves at the table. Both looked uncomfortable. The press conference continued on. Afterward, Ainge said he saw no physical reason that Humphries’s play declined last season at the age of 28. He reiterated that the Celtics were still very much a team in flux.