Thursday, April 11, 2013
Ainge quick hits: Face big-time challenge
By Greg Payne
Quick hits following Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge's weekly appearance on Boston sports radio WEEI (93.7 FM).
On what went wrong in Wednesday's loss to the Brooklyn Nets: "Well, so first of all, you've got to give credit to Brooklyn. I honestly believe that we played really well in the first half and the game was intense, and I thought both teams were very focused. But you've got to hand it to New Jersey. I think New Jersey would have beat any team in the NBA last night the way they played. They were really into it. Deron Williams was spectacular in the game, Lopez played a fantastic game, as did Joe Johnson. They made a lot of tough shots, you've got to give them credit, and that happens in the NBA often. They're a very good team that was really on their game."
On whether the seventh seed is a representation of the kind of team the Celtics are: "I think that there are teams that are ahead of us in the standings that we can beat. But, at the same time, I think whether we finish six, seven, or eight, in the playoffs, playing one of the top three seeds is going to be a big-time challenge, and whoever we play, we will have less room for error than they will. We will have to play our best basketball in order to win a first-round playoff series."
On what gives him confidence in his team heading into the playoffs: "Well just because I know what our guys are made of. I know how they've stepped up in the past. There's been years where -- what was it, 2010, when we finished the season 27-27 [over the] last 54 games? I was not real confident going in and I was in awe of watching our team play the best basketball they have played in this whole KG era in that stretch, against Cleveland who had the leading record in the league, and against Orlando, who had the second-best record in the East, and I was in awe of what they were able to step up and do. In order to do that, you've got to have guys playing on all cylinders and I think the good news is that our team is getting healthier. Unfortunately (Rajon) Rondo and (Leandro) Barbosa and (Jared Sullinger) aren't coming back, but I feel like KG is moving well and I think Paul is getting better and moving well. But I think that, by the time the playoffs roll around, I think we will be in good shape."
On why Kevin Garnett is still wearing a walking boot if he's supposedly 100 percent right now: "So, first of all, there's no such thing as 100 percent for anybody right now. But KG, you can see how well he's moving on the court. Last night he didn't have one of his better games on the court, but he was moving very well. You can see his defense laterally and he was rebounding and he was very active. The walking boot is just precautionary. It's just, some guys keep ice on their legs after every game, sometimes their legs are sore, sometimes they're not, they do it as precautionary. The walking boot, he has some inflammation in his foot, so every time he's not playing, he has that walking boot on. He doesn't wear it all the time, but he just wears it, like, after games to make sure that his foot isn't moving any more than it needs to. So, it's just precautionary right now."
On whether he thinks Jeff Green and Kevin Garnett play well together: "Well all of the numbers suggest that they play well together, so I don't understand why people would say that they don't. I mean, Jeff and KG are terrific players. So much of it is matchups. I hear a lot of people saying, 'Jeff Green can only play when KG's not playing,' or, 'He has certain matchups.' But so much of it is it's a difficult thing to set, and is it better to have Jeff start? Now he's starting, basically, as a two guard in some cases, now that KG has come back, and that's my biggest concern going into the playoffs, just we haven't been healthy all year and playing this lineup, which I think is a good lineup -- and I think it's a lineup Doc has wanted to play more throughout the course of the year -- with Jeff and Paul both on the wing with KG. But now it takes a little from our bench and Jeff was able to come in and give us a spark off the bench and try to find a matchup where he could really exploit. So, it's a different way of playing and I think it's probably the right thing for Doc to do, but can we mesh this last week and the practice time coming up to the playoffs will be the question."
On missing Rajon Rondo in the playoffs: "Well you don't replace Rajon Rondo. ... Rondo has been a most valuable player in at least a few, but maybe even more than a few, maybe a handful, of playoff series over the last few years, with some of the best players in the world in those playoff series. He has been the most valuable player in series against Chicago, against Cleveland, against Orlando. I mean, he has had spectacular playoff series -- legendary. Last year against Miami, he was by far the one that gave us an opportunity to beat Miami and put us ahead 3-2 in that playoff series, so I think it goes without saying that we're going to miss Rondo. But nobody's going to replace Rondo. We just have to find a different way to win."
On whether Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett can carry the Celtics in the playoffs: "Well, we need them to have some flashbacks for sure. But, I think that we need a balanced effort. We need production out of Jeff, we need production out of Jason, we need production out of Avery, Courtney, Brandon Bass. We need a full team effort. We need to have those games where we have six or seven guys scoring in double figures. We're not going to get guys that are going to be scoring 40 in one playoff game. We need balance and production out of our whole team."