Danny Ainge: “I feel like our guys are playing as well now as they have played all year”

April 2, 2010 – 6:00 am by Chris Fedor

Boston may be one of the most difficult teams to figure out in the NBA.  At the beginning of the season, I thought the Celtics were the best team in the Eastern Conference and up until Christmas, they looked the part.  However, since that time they have looked like a complete Jekyll and Hyde team as they currently sit behind Cleveland, Orlando, and Atlanta in the Eastern Conference.  It has been a season filled with ups and downs, a multitude of injuries, and a lot of frustration.  The Celtics have eight games to play before the end of the season so maybe they are just pacing themselves until the postseason starts, but with the way they have played coming down the stretch (6-4 in their last 10 games), they look more like a team that could be upset in round one than the Championship contender that they looked like in my eyes at the beginning of the season. 

Danny Ainge joined WEEI in Boston with the Big Show to talk about what problems the Celtics need to clean up, whether or not he thinks the team is too old to compete in the playoffs, and also chimes in about the Kevin Durant vs. Greg Oden argument when they thought they would get the number one pick in the NBA Draft a couple of years ago.

On what issues they have been having recently:

“I think the third quarters have been a tough quarter for us all year long.  We overcome it here and there but when we kinda collapse it’s in that third quarter.  Our third quarters have been awful.  We’ve gotta make a conscious effort to come out of halftime and the players have to get themselves in the right frame of mind.  I know the coaches are getting them in the right frame of mind and it’s not adjustments to what other people are doing, it looks to me like we are just kinda pacing ourself in the first part of the third quarter and that kinda gets us into trouble.”

On whether or not he feels the team is too old:

“No.  In fact I feel like our guys are playing as well now as they have played all year.  I think they’re starting to get in even better shape and better focus mentally.  That’s not a concern.”

On how he compares his team now to the team that took the court on Christmas:

“I think this team is better than that team.  We just have to play more consistently.  We’ve had some spectacular games over the last dozen games.  The other night, I thought we came out of the gate, it was good first quarter, a decent second quarter, it’s a one point game at halftime and all of the sudden, we’re down 10 points 30 seconds into the second half.  They had momentum and confidence.  Sometimes you can do everything right and you just run into a team that is hot and playing great.  (Manu) Ginobili is one of the best players in the league with the way he has been playing in the last couple of weeks and he destroyed us the other night.  We did not do a good job of stopping him.”

On whether or not it would’ve been a no-brainer decision to take Greg Oden in the NBA draft a couple of years ago had the Celtics gotten the first pick:

“Absolutely not a no brainer.  I had my opinions and strong opinions after the season was over after evaluating those guys a lot over the course of the year, but in May when we did not get where we hoped to get in the lottery ball, we didn’t go further.  We didn’t bring them in for workouts, we didn’t evaluate them anymore and we didn’t spend any more time at that point checking their medical records and going deeper into it.  I know exactly how I felt at the time and what I would’ve done.  (Host: How did you feel?)  I’m not gonna say.”

On his thoughts on Kevin Durant now:

“I think when he came into the league, he was a really special talent and everyone could see his great talent.  But I didn’t think he was a winning player his first year or two because he was a defensive liability and his body wasn’t physically strong, but boy did he have some amazing upside.  This year he has really taken a huge step forward of being a winning player.  He’s got a great attitude, work ethic, character, he’s a terrific shooter, can score against great defense with his size, length, and touch, and his defense is improving.  He’s just come from a good scorer to a great scorer.  He’s very consistent and he’s right there with the top three or four assets in the league right now.”

Listen to Danny Ainge on WEEI in Boston here

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