Boston Celtics: Danny Ainge
As part of his challenges, Ainge called out Celtics owners Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca, while also challenging former teammate Kevin McHale.
It's been a busy couple days for Celtics-related Ice Bucket Challenges. Jeff Green also posted his Ice Bucket Challenge on Wednesday.
"I think Tyler was a good get for us," said Ainge. "We are short on centers and we like the way he runs the court. He can make shots, complement our guard play. A 7-footer that knows how to play, is very good.
"Marcus can bring us some scoring -- probably a bench scorer -- and can really get hot in stretches; he had a 42-point game last year. He’s a guy that can shoot the ball from the 3-point line and adds shooting and depth to our team."
Ainge hinted the team had other potential options for the exception, which was set to expire this weekend, but thought the team got a quality haul for jumping into the three-way deal.
"We’ve had other opportunities, and we had other ideas on how we would utilize our trade exception; this wasn’t like No. 1 on the list," said Ainge. "But getting a draft pick and a good young player will always be a good option. There were other options out there as well that we contemplated that we just weren’t able to do."
Ainge stressed the team was patient and would have been OK had the exception expired without use.
"I think if you just look around the league, a lot of trade exceptions go by the wayside," said Ainge. "You can’t force trades; you have to find partners and we found one. It may or may not have worked out, but it did this time. But it was not burning a hole in our pocket. This was a perfect situation where we were, at a time and place, and it worked."
While the Celtics were lauded for bringing back assets for virtually nothing in return, Ainge is, like the rest of the NBA world, interested in how Cleveland utilizes the cap space it generated as part of the swap.
"It’s a good deal for us and who knows what’s going to happen with Cleveland," said Ainge. "It could end up being a good deal for them. We’re all waiting to see what’s going on with their cap space. I wish I was in their position."
Ainge said that the free-agent market should loosen up as star players choose their destinations. But the Celtics will soon have 17 players under contract and will be above the luxury-tax line. One of those moves in the offing is finalizing the four-year, $32 million extension with guard Avery Bradley.
"Avery is a big part of our future," said Ainge. "We have every intention of getting something done with him in the next day or two -- we're just working out the final details. Avery has always been a big part of us since the day we acquired him."
Ainge said the Celtics were still finalizing the signing of rookies Marcus Smart and James Young. He also noted that no decisions have been made on the team's nonguaranteed players, including second-year guard Phil Pressey, whose 2014-15 salary ($816,482) becomes fully guaranteed on July 15.
With increased depth at most positions following the draft and the early portion of the offseason, Ainge was asked about the growing crowd at the guard position.
"We have a competition everywhere," said Ainge. "We have, I don’t know, 17 guys now under contract -- maybe more. So we’ll see how that goes."
Wait, did he say 'more'? Are the Celtics close to adding even more bodies?
"I don’t know," said Ainge. "It’s 17 or 18. I lost track."
He dutifully fielded seven minutes worth of questions without tipping the team's draft hand. Since much of this will be outdated shortly, here's some highlights from the Q&A:
Do you still feel like picking at Nos. 6 and 17 is the most likely scenario?
A: "I do."
Has there been any talk of movement with those picks?
A: "There’s been a lot of conversation over the last month, and a lot of discussions regarding trades and trading of the picks. Trading up, trading back, trading for players; Big deals, little deals. We’re ready for some different scenarios... I think, probably, it looks most likely we’ll keep [the picks]."
Has the medical staff had a chance to review information on Joel Embiid?
A: "We have processed the information and I believe in my medical staff. And that’s all."
You said before that this draft is overhyped? Do you still feel that way?
A: "I think, early in the year, I said it’s a little bit overtyped. I think midway through the year, I thought it was still overhyped. Part of that is just maybe the player in me, where, ‘C’mon, let these kids be kids.’ None of these guys are franchise-turners, and I still believe that. I think everything I said about the draft, I still believe. I think that, I’ve always believed that, just like in every draft, there’s going to be players that are good, guys that can start, guys that can play in rotations on championship teams. And there will be a couple of them, two or three or four maybe that become NBA All-Stars -- I wish I knew which one of those [the draft hopefuls] would be. I think when we start making the comparisons of LeBron James and Kevin Durant, with kids before they even played a game in college, that’s sorta unfair. And that was what the hype was that I was referring to as overtyped. Let’s let them prove it before we start making the comparisons, but I do feel like we’re going to get a good player at 6, a player that I think can be a starter in the NBA. How good they become, time will tell. But players that we will be excited about adding to our roster, but players that I’m not expected to turn us into an immediate winner -- by themselves."
Have you formed a consensus about what you guys might take at No. 6?
A: "I think we have a consensus. Over the last couple weeks, I make it my job to know everybody’s perspective on players and what they think and how they rank players. So I meet with them individually, we go through film, we talk through their opinions. We meet collectively. But, yes, I do believe at this point, today, for sure, with our first pick we have a consensus order and it’s really close calls. There’s been different opinions that we’ve come together on. And at 17, it’s probably a little bit more not as much of a consensus. There’s just so much uncertainty."
Is it a really close call between players at No. 6?
A: "I think we’ve gone through whatever scenario, and whatever scenario comes forward, we’re prepared for it with a consensus is what I’m saying."
Ainge received five total votes, including a first-place vote, in balloting among his peers. League executives voted their top three choices.
San Antonio Spurs general manager R.C. Buford won the award. Ainge's former assistant Ryan McDonough finished second in balloting after his first year in charge of the Phoenix Suns.
Ainge started Boston's roster overhaul last summer by trading Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn in exchange for three future first-round picks. While Boston labored through a transition year with a flawed roster, Ainge made two more moves in January aimed at unclogging the team's salary commitment and adding future draft picks.
Ainge's 2013-14 moves are likely to look better down the road when we know the full extent of the return haul from the moves he made. For this year at least, Ainge finished one spot ahead of Brooklyn's Billy King.
Read on for the full voting and past winners.
Coach: Brad Stevens
Final grade: B+
Teacher's notes: There are those that will argue that coaching is a bottom line business and 25 wins deserves a much harsher grade. To that, we wonder what in the world could have been expected from a first-year coach operating with a heavily flawed roster. Boston made it a habit of taking games to the final buzzer, even if it lost most of those contests. Stevens kept this rebuilding team, one that endured it share of injuries this season, engaged for longer than your typical non-playoff team. He's his own harshest critic and admitted the other day there's plenty he'll look to improve on next season, but he put together a nice rookie campaign considering the circumstances.
General Manager: Danny Ainge
Final grade: B+
Teacher's notes: We won't know just how much of a heist the Brooklyn deal is until five years down the road, but early indications are encouraging, particularly given the growing value of first-round picks. Ainge was quiet at the February trade deadline, but made two moves in January, clearing Courtney Lee's cap clog and moving Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks (two players without futures here) for what will likely be a collection of second-round picks. Ainge still has plenty of work to do, but Boston is well positioned with its treasure trove of draft picks, tradable contracts (hey there, Keith Bogans), and trade exceptions (like the $10.3 million one received in the Brooklyn deal).
Honor roll: Click HERE to read past report cards.
Don't agree with teacher? Just want to sound off on the 2013-14 season for Stevens and Ainge? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.
Ainge, having already made two trades a month earlier, is at ease with the approaching deadline and correctly predicts his team's inactivity at the February swap buzzer. Ainge seems more focused on the draft and the offseason that lies ahead, when he knows the real heavy lifting will be done.
Even still, he's reflecting on his trade history -- deals that went through and deals that didn't; deals that were real and deals that were media creations -- and an inquisitor wants to know if he's ever gotten cold feet about a potential franchise-altering swap.
"It's just basketball," Ainge said coolly as that familiar smile reappeared.
Two months later, as his team prepped for its season finale against the Washington Wizards, Ainge reaffirmed what he did that February day: The 2013-14 season hasn't been easy to endure, but he plucked positives from individual player development and always kept his focus on what the team was building toward in the future.
No matter how much Ainge, first-year coach Brad Stevens and the team's players braced themselves for the potential of losing games, it was never easy to endure. But the final buzzer of Wednesday's 57th loss essentially closed the book on the 2013-14 campaign. The Celtics bid good riddance and immediately turned their attention to a 2014-15 season and the unbridled optimism it provides.
Armed with a treasure trove of assets, Ainge enters a pivotal time in his team's future. With the right moves, and some friendly bounces from the pingpong balls, his team could launch right back into contender status. Ainge is brutally honest when he says he doesn't know if there will be the much-ballyhooed "fireworks" that has become the buzzword for the approaching summer, but he's hopeful.
He's far more certain of one thing, saying, "I'll work my tail off to try to duplicate what we've done in the past."
(Read full story)
Rondo, who wasn't scheduled to play on the second night of a back-to-back as part of his recovery from ACL surgery, elected to stay behind in Los Angeles (where the Celtics had played the Lakers) and celebrate his 28th birthday while his teammates lost to the Kings.
Ainge confirmed Wednesday that Rondo had told both him and coach Brad Stevens of his intent to stay behind and was told that would be frowned upon.
“He let Brad know and he let me know that he was going to stay in L.A. an extra day,” Ainge said in his weekly interview on 98.5 The Sports Hub. “We didn’t think that he should, but [told him], ‘It’s your choice and there may be consequences if you stay.’ It’s that simple.”
It does not appear there were any consequences, at least none that were revealed publicly.
“In the end, him and I had a long talk about it. This was all happening over the phone,” Ainge said. “He had planned it before and he had reason to believe that it would be OK. I understand his reason to believe based on where he’s been and what he’s grown up with and what he’s seen and witnessed. You won’t see it happen again, and we’ve just moved on from it.”
In Rondo’s eyes, he was still playing by the rules of the previous regime. “We’ve had a culture here that’s been a little bit different," Ainge said.
He added, "These kind of things have happened. We had a head coach [Doc Rivers] that lived in a different city and would take different planes to different cities. We’ve had [Kevin Garnett], who I think Rondo has probably learned more from as a leader and a basketball player and a pro than any other players because he was so young in his career playing with KG. KG didn’t sit on the bench when he didn’t play, and Rondo’s been doing that every game except that Sacramento game and the Milwaukee game, which we held him back [in Boston] because we wanted to do therapy there.”
Ainge says all parties have put Birthdaygate behind them, and maintains he not only has a good relationship with Rondo but has “no issues whatsoever with Rondo being our captain.”
“I think that now Rondo understands more clearly what we want out of him as a captain, that we want him on the road with the team,” Ainge said. “His leadership on the bench is important, whether he plays or doesn’t, unless there’s a reason physically to not be with the team.”
Ainge was also asked what it would mean to him if his number (44) is retired by the Celtics, which owner Wyc Grousbeck said the team would eventually do.
“Honestly, not much,” Ainge said. “I don’t think I should have my number retired. That’s nice of Wyc. Wyc has been a great owner to work with and we have a great relationship, but it wouldn’t mean that much to me because I don’t think my number deserves to be retired.”
Ainge spent nearly eight seasons in Boston as a player, winning two championships in 1984 and '86, and led the team to a championship in 2008 as president of basketball operations.
BOSTON -- Truth be told, the 3-pointer that stuck in Brad Stevens' craw wasn't the one that referees took away, but the one his team allowed Paul George to make with 76 seconds remaining in a one-possession game.
But as the Celtics took the league's top team to the wire, watching three points come off the board certainly didn't help matters and the Indiana Pacers emerged with a 102-97 triumph at TD Garden.
The Celtics and Pacers were tied at 90 when Rajon Rondo banked in a late-clock 3-pointer with 4:37 to play. Referees signaled to review the play, but that wouldn't come until the next stoppage two minutes later. When the referees determined the shot came after the shot clock expired, it left the Pacers out front 94-90.
Two free throws from Jared Sullinger pulled the Celtics within two, but the Pacers called timeout and George hit a 3-pointer for a 97-92 lead with 1:16 to play.
"It let the pressure off of [Indiana]," Sullinger said of the overturned 3-pointer. "They had a lot of pressure, and that kind of let them sit back. They were playing frantic when the score was like that."
Across the hall, Indiana coach Frank Vogel playfully celebrated the referees' decision.
"I love instant replay," deadpanned Vogel. "Just a big fan of it, always have been -- except for those couple of times where it went against us where I hated it. But tonight, it worked for us."
Stevens refused to use the overturned bucket as an excuse for not being able to pull out the win.
"You know, the biggest play of the game was they ran a nice little action that they run for Paul George quite often -- not quite often, probably once, maybe twice, a game -- and they didn’t run it before, and they just set a nice little cross-screen/down-screen with good movement before that, and he made a big shot," explained Stevens. "And that’s why he is who he is. He gets that chance, and you give a guy like that a chance, and you just know it’s not going to end well."
Echoed Rondo: "I don’t think it changed momentum. We were still only down four. They came out of the timeout and Paul George hit a big 3. The end of the game, we have to find a way to get stops. Regardless, I think we went 1-for-10 in the last five minutes. We have to start priding ourselves on defense and find a way to get stops. We knew they were going to Paul George or David West, and we just have to do a better job of containing them."
“We tried to do some things. We had some things we were hoping to accomplish at the trade deadline,” Ainge said Friday in an interview on Boston sports radio station 98.5 the Sports Hub. “It’s like you go shopping and you can’t buy [something because it’s] too expensive, you need to wait and get a better price at another time. That’s sort of how the trade deadline went for us.”
Ainge said the deals that were made Thursday were made mostly related to gaining salary cap room or improving team chemistry.
“There really weren’t any significant trades at all. There just really weren’t any good bargains,” he said. “In order to shed money it costs you assets. To get rid of contracts, you have to give up draft picks because the cap is such a big deal for a lot of teams.”
Asked specifically about whether he was ever close to trading star point guard Rajon Rondo, Ainge repeated that beyond a potential swap involving Chris Paul that fell through a few years ago, he’s never been seriously “tempted” to deal No. 9. At least part of the reason, Ainge said, is because many teams (20 out of 30, by his count) already have “franchise point guards that they really like.”
Ainge was also asked about the upcoming draft, which at one point had been billed as one of the best in years but whose stock has fallen as we’ve gotten deeper into the college basketball season. The Celtics’ boss thinks this draft class has been overrated and that he didn’t see any “transcendent players” coming out this season.
Fans have been conflicted this season about whether to root for this Celtics team in transition to lose in order to get a better pick in the draft or to win as many as they can in order to foster a winning culture. To Ainge, the choice is obvious.
“It’s important for these guys to develop in a culture,” Ainge said. “The culture isn’t just about how many games you win. You have to prepare to win. You have to be in the weight room. You have to understand and learn how to play defense.
“You can’t just turn a fuse off, tell guys not to win, not teach them how to play, then all of a sudden one day, ‘OK, now we’re really going to learn how to play.’”
Houston Rockets officials spent much of Wednesday considering Boston's offer of forward Brandon Bass, guard Courtney Lee and a future first-round draft pick in exchange for big man Omer Asik. The Rockets remain engaged in talks with the Philadelphia 76ers and have left open the possibility that other teams could still join the bidding. The team has a self-imposed deadline of Thursday to trade the 7-footer.
Appearing on Boston sports radio 98.5 the Sports Hub on Thursday morning, Ainge was asked about if any deal was imminent.
"I have no indication of that, other than the rumors,” said Ainge. “I have no indication, in my dealings with and calls with other teams, that we're close to doing a deal.”
Later Ainge added, “We’re just opportunistic. When you read our name out there, sometimes it’s true, sometimes it’s not. The reports are embellished for sure right now, but we are having discussions and seeing what opportunities there are out there."
Asked in general about the value of a defensive-minded big man, Ainge admitted it’s hard to find quality centers.
“I think it’s valuable,” he said. “I think that everybody is looking for big guys that can defend. You’re also looking for big guys that can score in the post, big guys that can shoot and pass, versatile players. There are no perfect players out there, but there are good pieces on all teams. The NBA is loaded with quality players. Big guys are much harder to find than small guys.”
As for parting with a draft pick, Ainge offered, “They are valuable. They are valuable in trades, as we’ve done before. We’ve thrown draft picks into deals to acquire players, and [we’ve used them] to draft. We just try to value each player and each opportunity and stay opportunistic.”
Ainge was asked at the end of the interview about Rajon Rondo’s progress. After being cleared for full-contact practice last week, Rondo engaged in a pair of weekend practices with the team, but Ainge noted that Boston’s game schedule has limited his chances for live action during those offday workouts. The team is not scheduled to practice on Thursday.
“We’re taking this week-by-week,” said Ainge. “Last week he was cleared to play, and we’ll see how much progress he makes over the next week. But he still needs a little bit of strengthening in his right quad. He’s getting close, I don’t see anything happening this month for sure. And we’ll see how next month goes, week by week.”
Information from ESPN.com's Marc Stein was used.
BOSTON -- Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said he's proud of the effort that point guard Rajon Rondo has put into his rehab and reaffirmed that he envisions Rondo as the foundation upon which the team will be built moving forward.
Speaking to a small group of reporters at the team's annual Shamrock Gala presented by New England Baptist Hospital, Ainge talked about his team's growing pains, his admiration for the way first-year coach Brad Stevens approaches his job, and offered praise for Rondo's effort in working his way back from ACL rehab.
"I think [Rondo is] doing great," said Ainge. "I think he’s working as hard as he can. I’ve been very proud of him of how he really wants to get out there and I think he wants to get out there, not for his own benefit, but he wants to really help the team. He sees how he’s missed and he just loves to play. He wants to get back for all the right reasons."
Asked if he still envisioned Rondo as the centerpiece for Boston's rebuilding process, Ainge offered a firm, "Absolutely."
Ainge admitted that, through eight preseason games, the Celtics have been inconsistent, but he believes they'll improve with time.
"We’ve been very inconsistent, which I think is typical of a young team that hasn’t played much together," said Ainge. "When they’ve played well, it’s been fun. When they have struggled, I think it’s to be expected, to be fair. Hopefully, they’ll get a little bit more consistent as the regular season gets going."
As Boston shapes its regular-season roster, Ainge suggested that, with the team virtually at the luxury-tax line, it's almost certain the team will carry only the 14 guaranteed contracts into the regular season.
"Right now we’re barely under the luxury tax, so we really have no choice," said Ainge. "If there are deals made later in the year, that would open up roster spots and open up to keep us under the tax. But we will stay under the tax this year. We have to. As we’re rebuilding, not just from a standpoint of the financial budget, but as a competitive advantage."
One thing that raised eyebrows was that, asked about the looming extension deadline for Avery Bradley, Ainge admitted he's been in negotiations with Bradley's camp but wouldn't comment further. That's a departure from last month when Ainge suggested that the team might wait until next summer, when Bradley would be a restricted free agent, to revisit his future with the team.
Read on for a few more quick hits from Ainge:
Coach: Doc Rivers
Final grade: B-
Teacher's notes: There's a very vocal mass (typically loitering in your favorite comments section) that believes Rivers deserves much of the blame for Boston's struggles this season. From this vantage point, it's hard to pin all of Boston's difficulties on Rivers when you consider the team lost three rotation players (All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo, rookie standout Jared Sullinger, and Leandro Barbosa) to season-ending injuries within a three-week span around midseason. This on top of Darko Milicic's request to be released early in the year. Rivers dealt with an insane amount of roster adversity (and underperformance, which falls on him a bit, too) just to get the team to the regular-season finish line and into the postseason. Yes, Rivers was stubborn at times with his rotations (Chris Wilcox got plenty of opportunities before Shavlik Randolph finally got a turn to prove himself) and a whopping 13 different players started at least two games apiece for Boston during a mix-and-match season, where roles player saw playing time come and go. In a less-than-ideal campaign, Rivers at least gave his team a chance to compete.
What's next?: Rivers returned to Boston earlier this week and, while he hasn't made any sort of formal announcement on his future, his co-workers insist that he'll be back on the bench for a 10th season in green. Rivers pledged to lead the team through any makeover process that lied ahead when he inked a five-year, $35 million contract in May of 2011. Now, more than ever, Rivers' presence is important to determining how quickly Boston can restore itself to true contender status while navigating a murky offseason.
General Manager: Danny Ainge
Final grade: B
Teacher's notes: Ainge offered Allen enough money and security to make it worth his while to stay, but hurt feelings and a diminished role left him fleeing for South Beach. Lee, added to offset some of what the team lost in Allen, might have been the most creative deal of the offseason (Boston flipping four end-of-the-bench players and a couple second-round draft picks for a mid-level-caliber player). Both Lee and Terry struggled in their first seasons, but Ainge couldn't have envisioned their woes when constructing the roster. Much was made about Boston's lack of a backup point guard after Rondo and Barbosa went down, forcing the Celtics to lean on China import Terrence Williams as their primary backup ball-handler at times. Ultimately, it was't enough to overcome all the adversity. You can second-guess Ainge on whether the team should have found another pure ball-handler and if it should have rolled the dice on a veteran big man like Kenyon Martin.
What's next?: Ainge's staff will look different after assistant general manager Ryan McDonough took over the GM gig in Phoenix earlier this month, but the philosophies remain the same and Boston will explore all avenues moving forward. Big decisions about the future of the team lie ahead and Ainge will have to consider trade options for the face of the franchise in soon-to-be 36-year-old captain Paul Pierce, while the return of Kevin Garnett remains up in the air. This is an important offseason for Ainge and how he handles the potential makeover process, trying to keep Boston competitive in the interim while ensuring it returns to championship contender status soon.
Honor roll: Click HERE to read past report cards.
Don't agree with teacher? Just want to sound off on the 2012-13 season for Ainge and Rivers? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.
Making his final weekly appearance of the 2012-13 season on Boston sports radio WEEI (93.7 FM), Ainge said he is giving both Rivers and Garnett space to make decisions about their futures, but has no reason to believe that, with both under contract with the team next season, they won't return.
"Doc is always unsure [about his future]," said Ainge. "Coaching is very, very draining. Every year with Doc, he’s had to go home and sort of recharge and ask himself that question, ‘Is this something that I’m passionate about and want to continue doing?’ I understand that. And we sorta give him time to unwind and relax, and after a couple of 92s on the golf course, he usually comes back."
Pressed further on what he believes Rivers will do next season, Ainge added, "I think Doc will be coaching the Boston Celtics."
On whether he expects Kevin Garnett to be limited, physically, in Friday's Game 3: "No, listen, I think KG expects to be at his best tomorrow night. I don't know, he looked good in practice (Thursday), he's moving well, and I expect KG to be good (Friday)."
On whether not having a true point guard is hurting the Celtics right now: "I think those are just excuses. We've known this. We've been preparing for the playoffs for a few months. I think that we have what we have and we've got to do the best with it. I guess that right now I just don't think that we've played like we were capable of playing. I mean, it's one thing to lose to a team that deserves to beat you and is a better team. But I feel like we've come out ready to play, and for whatever reason, I have no idea, but the beginning of the third quarter in the last two games has not been good."
On whether the Celtics are unsure of what plays to run without Rajon Rondo: "Well we've had an opportunity to play a lot of games without Rondo. But, listen, if you just look around, this has been going on for 30 years. It's no secret. Great players at this time really step it up and our guy that was our best player last year in the playoffs, a guy that had 44 at Miami, that got us to the position that we were, that has been the MVP of multiple playoff series over the last handful of years -- not just playoff games, but playoff series -- he's a guy that's certainly capable of being the best guy on the court on any given night. He's a terrific player and we certainly miss him. We've been saying that all year long."
Pressed on whether the Celtics are unsure of what plays to run without Rondo: "Right, but, you know, I think that that's a little blown out of proportion, just because, hey, we had these same challenges before. I mean, losing double-figure leads in the fourth quarter of games is not something that has just happened. This has been going on for three or four years and I wish I knew. Sometimes I think we put such an effort and emphasis on defense that our guys don't have the energy to keep cutting and moving and so forth without the ball in the fourth quarter. I don't know what it is, but it's not just a Rondo issue. Missing Rondo, like I said, he has the ability to take over games, as we've seen him do, against the elite players in the world, and we don't have a player like that. That hurts us. But, not knowing what to do or what plays to run, every team goes through that a little bit, but we should not be having that problem, no."
On whether the Celtics need to be tougher on offense or defense: "To me it's all an attitude. I think when you try to define whether your offense wins or your defense wins, it's attitude that wins. Your perspective and the way you play the game, and I think that offense takes care of itself, sometimes. So, both is the answer. You've got to create offense sometimes with your defense if you're struggling, and you've got to find a way. I'd liken it to a pitcher who doesn't have his best stuff. You've still got to get guys out. And we've got to find a way to get stops and get in the open court as much as we can. But, offensively we need to assert ourselves, we need to be more physical offensively."
On whether Paul Pierce is being asked to do too much and others need to contribute more: "Yes. I mean, I think Paul has taken four charges in two games. I'm not sure anyone else on the team has taken any. Paul is our leading scorer, he's carrying an offensive burden. Paul is, right now, our best player and our best scorer and he needs help. He needs other guys stepping up and he can't do it the whole game. It's a grind for him, and Paul, still, shows signs of being a great player. He's not as consistently great as he was five years ago, but he still is a fantastic player in this league and he's showing that in this playoff series."
On what the Celtics need to do to come back and win the series: "We've got to make shots. I mean, we've got to have contributions out of a lot of people. We can't do it with one or two guys like New York has done. We don't have that kind of scoring power, we don't have the leading scorer in the NBA on our team right now. So, we've got to get contributions out of a lot of people."
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."
Play Podcast Men's Journal's Paul Solotaroff weighs in on the characterization of Richard Sherman, the relationship between Sherman and Patrick Peterson and expectations for Darrelle Revis.
Play Podcast Adnan Virk talks to Tim Kurkjian about dominant pitching performances and the search for the next commissioner. Plus, Arash Madani on if the Blue Jays can make the playoffs.
Play Podcast NFL Films' Greg Cosell weighs in on whether the Browns should start Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel, the Jets' QB situation, Ryan Mallett's abilities and Robert Griffin III's development.