AP Photo/Michael Dwyer
Danny Ainge continues to insist he didn't shop Rajon Rondo at the start of the offseason.Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge made his routine in-season appearance on sports radio WEEI's The Big Show on Thursday afternoon. Here's a handful of highlights from the 13-minute interview (listen HERE):
Ainge: I was not trying to trade Rajon Rondo: Ainge tried to avoid rehashing the offseason trade talks involving Rajon Rondo, but did stress that he never shopped Rondo and insisted his name came up only as the Celtics pursued an available impact player in Chris Paul.
"I sat down with Rondo when he got back into town, when the lockout ended, and I just told him the truth of what was going on. And that was it," said Ainge. "I've had conversations since -- I told him exactly what was happening...
"There are stories that come out later that try to dispute what I said [about not trying to trade Rondo at a season-opening] press conference, but I stand by that. I was not trying to trade Rajon Rondo. There's a big difference between trying to acquire a player and trying to trade a player. I know that some people say, 'Oh, that's just semantics.' No it's not. Rondo knows what I was trying to do, and he knows I wasn't shopping him around and trying to trade him, like has been reported. There's a big difference."
Ainge likes what he's seen from Rondo this season, but downplayed the idea of the feisty point guard using trade chatter as motivation.
"Rondo is just maturing right before our eyes -- he's just incrementally understanding the NBA, and the whole process," said Ainge. "I'm sure that -- as we all are brought to that conclusion at some point -- we really are in a business. You can't get emotional, and then get your feelings hurt. Rondo should take these [trade] conversations that we had this summer as a compliment to who he is as a player. I don't think he uses it as a major motivation. I think he was very motivated. We had received reports all summer how hard he was working this offseason. He showed up in great shape and he came out of the gates playing fantastic basketball for us. He had a great training camp and he has the right mindset when he goes out there on the court."
Pietrus debut on Jan. 11 vs. Dallas?: Ainge cautiously pegged next Wednesday's visit from the Dallas Mavericks as the earliest possible date that veteran Mickael Pietrus could debut with the Celtics. The 29-year-old swingman signed on Christmas Eve, but said he needed another two weeks to rehab his right knee after offseason surgery. "I'm not certain on that, as far as that's going to be the day [Pietrus debuts]," cautioned Ainge. "I haven't even heard the report of how he did today and how much he practiced today."
Not exactly Russell, but C's like Stiemsma: While Tommy Heinsohn has already compared rookie center Greg Stiemsma and his shot-blocking abilities to Celtics legend Bill Russell, Ainge noted there was a time when the Celtics were uncertain if Stiemsma would even make the regular-season roster. Ainge credited his son, Austin, who coached the Maine Red Claws of the NBA D-League the last two seasons, for identifying Stiemsma as a potential roster candidate. "We watched tape on him and we watched him play this summer in Mexico for the US team, [after] a group of D-League guys went down there to represent the country. We liked what we saw. We were hopeful for him, but we were not putting a lot of eggs in his basket -- we were not even sure he would make our roster -- but he was a guy that we were intrigued by."
Quick hits: Season objectives and bench chatter: Ainge said the team's goal in this compressed season is simple: "Just keep getting better -- mental toughness, be persistent, have some resolve, and fight through some of the bad times, because every team is going to have them in this short season." ... Ainge stressed the Celtics will need contributions from every player on the roster this season. "We need to have all 15 players contribute, not just the top eight or nine like in some years, in more normal seasons." ... Ainge likes how quickly Brandon Bass has made himself at home in Boston. "You always wonder how it's going to fit with our system, with the coach, [and] with the personalities. With basketball, that's real challenging. It's not like you're putting a guy into the [No.] 2 slot in a baseball lineup."