For C's, it's together or never
Amid trade talk and rebuilding rumors, team uses important road trip to regroup
LOS ANGELES -- It might not be too hard to believe given his penchant for making deals, but Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge very much enjoys this time of year.
Even as he navigates Thursday's approaching trade deadline knowing his team has been frustratingly inconsistent and uncertain of what the future holds for two of the team's centers, Ainge chuckled a bit when asked about the stress surrounding this week.
"It's all fun time. It's basketball. I mean, c'mon," said Ainge. "I think these times are probably more stressful on players and coaches trying to figure out what's going to happen. And there's a lot of talk. It's more stress on them than me."
Ainge said Monday night that nothing was imminent with the Celtics on the trade front and stressed that he felt no need to make a move, short of adding a big man, but cautioned that might not necessarily come via a trade.[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Elise AmendolaPaul Pierce and Kevin Garnett show the rest of the team how it's done.
It appears Ainge is comfortable in letting the calls come to him and, unless he's bowled over by an offer for a player that makes the team decidedly better and does not sacrifice the financial flexibility this team has worked so hard to set up this offseason, he might be content to let the deadline pass with little to no activity.
"I don't feel like we have to do anything, other than we eventually have to get another big body," Ainge said. "But I don't think you have to make a trade at all."
Outside the Celtics' locker room after Monday's gritty win over the Clippers, Boston coach Doc Rivers reaffirmed his belief that the Celtics won't make a splashy move before Thursday. And he kept his sense of humor about the stressful situation.
"I just hope I don't get traded," quipped Rivers. "I think we're good. Listen, obviously we're going to try to improve our team, but we don't want to lose anybody on our team, and I don't think we will."
Rivers inserted the disclaimer that "you never know," leaving the door just ajar enough in case a Kendrick Perkins-like jaw-dropper came down the pipeline. But particularly in a condensed season, the Celtics seem to understand the value of continuity and chemistry (maybe something hammered home by dealing away Perkins last year; even if the deal made all sorts of sense on paper for the team). It's just another reason to keep the core intact.
Rivers sees his team starting to play with a greater sense of urgency and told anyone who would listen over two days in Los Angeles to not count his aging team out. The Celtics know they must continue to iron out the inconsistencies that have plagued them this season before the playoffs arrive, but if they can play in the postseason like they did in topping the Clippers on Monday, Boston is not going to be a fun draw for anyone in the East.
"We understand that, with all the injuries we've had, this has been tough," said Rivers, who also pointed out how the team came back in poor shape, contributing to a slow start. "We just feel like if we can get through this and get bodies back, we'll be OK."
Rivers kept things playful any time the topic of the deadline or breaking up the core arose during the LA doubleheader. As feisty as he had been previously in denying the rumors that swirled around Rajon Rondo earlier in the month, he stressed this weekend that his guys are somewhat oblivious to all the chatter.
"I don't think our guys worry about it a lot -- they only get asked about it 15-to-30 times per day, so that's it. But I don't think it bothers them that much. If you're human, it bothers you a little bit, but a lot of the guys have been through it. For me, as a coach, I can't wait until Friday."
Ainge acknowledged that his team has been sporadic and inconsistent, but is quick to point out how spectacular they've looked at times as well. The key for Boston is figuring out how to be spectacular more often by the time the playoffs arrive.
But the focus of the team as this road trip shuffled up to San Francisco on Tuesday afternoon wasn't necessarily how it could be broken apart by Thursday's deadline. Instead, the team is putting a greater value on coming together as a group during this eight-game road trip.
"I think you find yourself on the road," said Rivers. "I think teams do most of the time. It's tough to find yourself at home -- you're with your wife and your kids. But when you get on the road, you're out there with each other. I do think it's a good way of getting to know each other."
Echoed Ray Allen: "The road can be very unkind to you, but it can also be very special because you spend time together more with each other. Now, we don't go back to our families, we go back and hang around each other. Those are moments to grow."
The Celtics were left frustrated by Sunday's loss to the Lakers, letting a five-point lead slip away in the final three minutes. On Monday night, they slammed the door on the Clippers. After the win, Brandon Bass declared that this was "the new start to the road trip."
Echoed Paul Pierce: "Right now it's about gathering some momentum... we marked this trip on our calendar, it's a big two weeks for us. We gotta take this trip somewhere and [Monday night] was the start."
The 2011-12 season has already been a wild voyage, but the Celtics seem to think that, if they can stick together, they might just be able to make something happen when the games matter most.
Chris Forsberg covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.
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