To blow it up or to hold the course and hope for lightning in a bottle during one last potential run come early summer? That is the question facing Danny Ainge, the embattled general manager of the Boston Celtics. No need to rehash the perceived mess Ainge has gotten himself into — it begins and ends with his decision to unnecessarily tinker with the Celtics’ battle tested chemistry when he dealt Kendrick Perkins, a locker room favorite amongst the close-knit Celtics squad, for Jeff Green. Though no fault of his own, Green was lost for the entire season with a heart condition, leaving the Celtics with little more than an aging Big 3 in Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, and a mercurial floor leader in Rajon Rondo that can’t seem to escape the rumor mill.
Ainge joined WEEI in Boston with Dennis and Callahan to talk about whether he was surprised that Rajon Rondo received a two-game suspension, Rondo sticking around with the team rather than returning back to Boston during its recent road trip before the All Star break, the ugly play of the Celtics as of late, what he thinks is ailing the Celtics, what he thinks the identify of his team is at this stage of the season, whether he thinks he’ll need to be active before and on the NBA trading deadline, and how he’d characterize the state of the franchise and the roster at this point compared to when he took over back close to a decade ago.
Whether he was surprised that Rajon Rondo was given a two-game suspension:
“I didn’t know what was going to happen, I thought he might get suspended. But I thought it would be one or two but he got the worst of it.”
On the speculation that Rondo wanted to stay with the team during his suspension so that he could attend a party being thrown by Kendrick Perkins of Oklahoma City:
“Honestly, I don’t know the whole scenario there. I wasn’t in the loop. I was out traveling watching college games, and just heard of it. That was in Doc and Rondo’s court.”
On the ugly play of the Celtics as of late:
“I think what’s been ugly is offensively. We’ve been turning the ball over, we haven’t been able to score. Defensively and effort — you don’t get second in the league on defense at this stage with our record if you’re not competing. And that’s one thing that I’ve noticed. Now, the other night when Oklahoma City went on a 30-3 run, I don’t ever recall seeing a 30-3 run. But they were on fire. It was a combination of our turnovers and them just catching fire. But I think our effort has been there, and it’s a credit to Doc and the players how hard they’re competing with all this adversity that’s come up.”
On what he thinks his team is all about at this stage of the season:
“Well, right now we’re, I don’t even know, we’re a seven or eight seed. That’s who we are. There’s no denying that. Every team has plunges in this sort of crazy season, so that’s who we are right now. But do I think we can be better? Yeah. We haven’t played to our capabilities yet. We haven’t been at full strength. I’m not sure who our team is honestly at this stage. So we’re waiting to see that. But we need to get to the playoffs and find out. But I’m not really afraid of who we play in the first round, or the second round. It’s going to be tough no matter who we play. And I’m not afraid of playing the best teams in the first round.”
Whether he thinks he’ll need to make a deal before the trading deadline in order to position the Celtics better to compete this year or in the future:
“It totally depends on what opportunities are there. I don’t feel like I have to do something for the sake of doing something. If there’s something worth doing, we’ll do it.”
If he thinks the team is better off than when he took over in 2003:
“I like our roster better than in ’03 quite honestly. I mean, looking back, we had one terrific player in Paul Pierce. I like our position here better.”
Does he feel the Celtics have more flexibility currently:
“Yes, absolutely with the cap situation, it’s much better. And with young players, I think we’re in a better situation.”