Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge just wrapped up one of the busiest seasons in franchise history, executing 10 trades in the past 10 months during the 2014-15 season.
While speaking at the Celtics’ practice facility in Waltham on Thursday, Ainge suggested that trend could very well continue heading into the team’s offseason.
“I feel we need to have a busy summer,” Ainge told reporters at his end-of-season press conference. “We will have a busy summer. Hopefully we can get some things accomplished that we need to. I think we need to upgrade our talent level on our team, and at the same time I’m very excited about a lot of the individuals we have. Actually, all the individuals, I thought, played the best basketball of their careers in a lot of cases. So I’m excited about the players we have, at the same time I feel like we’re not at the same level as a team like Cleveland. We found that out.”
The Celtics head into the summer with 11 players under contract, including the team’s entire young backcourt core of Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas.
Midseason additions such as Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebko and Luigi Datome, along with veteran forward Brandon Bass, will be on the short list of Celtics hitting the free agent market. Ainge did not dismiss the possibility of bringing back any of them next season.
“Rather than going individual by individual,” Ainge said when asked about his interest in the free agents, “I would just say that we like all of them to some degree. Some of it’s going to be dependent on numbers and roster spots and draft and trades and everything else. So you just can’t emphatically say anything about anybody, other than I can emphatically say that we will definitely qualify Jae Crowder, which I think is pretty obvious. But other than that, the unrestricted free agents, it’s uncertain. But we do like each one of them and would welcome any one of them back at the right price and in the right role.”
By extending a qualifying offer (worth $1.2 million) to Crowder, the Celtics will make him a restricted free agent. Boston will have the right to match any offer he receives from another team on the open market and Ainge spoke with optimism about holding onto the gritty small forward.
“I think Jae is a player that was improving with the opportunity that he got to play for us,” Ainge said. “And I think he’s got a lot of upside still. I think he can still get better over the next few years. But we’re excited about Jae, and we’re excited about what he brings to our team, and his versatility, and his defensive ability to play a few different positions. We think he has a very bright future.”
Jerebko and Bass will be unrestricted free agents, but the Celtics will maintain Bird rights on both players. The Celtics could also extend a qualifying offer to Datome, but Ainge declined to say whether he would do so.
Here are a few other highlights from Ainge’s comments:
On exploring the free agency market: “I think free agency is hard…we’re going to go after every and anybody that we think is a significant player to upgrade our talent roster. You know when I say upgrade our talent, you got to be pretty good to upgrade our talent because we have good players. We’re going after all the top names on the list and we’ll see what happens.”
On whether Boston can attract free agents: “Some players look at the Celtics organization and the tradition and think its something special, some don’t. Some prefer hot weather to cold weather. Most players prefer good contracts and good opportunities to play and hopefully to win, and in that order first. We have to prove to people that we [can offer that]; the opportunities to be paid, to play, to reach their full potential, and to win. I think that Boston will be a good destination for some.”
On the value of the playoff series vs. Cavs: “I think the playoff experience helps us because, you know, Cleveland’s a team we’re going to have to deal with for years to come. I think it gives our guys some confidence, I think they feel like maybe they’re not as far away as the world thinks. I think that they feel more confident today after four straight games against them than they might have been before the series.
“I think it’s also a reality check, you know how those guys are, for us, organizationally. But you know, following a game plan and playing against the best team in the East I think is great experience because the playoffs are a different level of intensity…I think its important for our guys to see how hard it is to win.”
Ainge on summer league plans: Marcus Smart and James Young will play with the team in both summer leagues (in Utah and Las Vegas) the Celtics will participate in this summer. Kelly Olynyk will be suiting up with the Canadian national team in August so he will not take part in any of Boston’s summer league action.
It is uncertain whether second-year point guard Phil Pressey will take part, as Ainge indicated the franchise would like to get Smart “additional reps” at point guard spot during the summer.