Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said he has not spoken yet with the core members of his team about their future plans, but suggested Thursday that he anticipates that both head coach Doc Rivers and center Kevin Garnett will be back with the team next season.
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."
Rivers signed a five-year, $35 million contract extension with the Celtics following the 2010-11 season. That hasn't stopped his name from dancing in rumors about other vacant jobs and a report by ESPN's Stephen A. Smith that suggested there were whispers around the league about a potential deal that could land Rivers, Garnett, and Paul Pierce with the Los Angeles Clippers as part of a blockbuster swap.
Said an amused Ainge: "Hey, listen, those things are silly. Those are a waste of time to even acknowledge."
Pressed on Smith's suggestion that there could be lingering friction between Ainge and Rivers, Ainge added, "Well, you’d have to ask Doc what he thinks, but what I think is that I have the best coach in the NBA and I’m not the least bit tired of hearing his voice. We have a great relationship from what I feel, and what I perceive, and so I have no idea where that’s coming from. But it’s certainly not coming from my side of the table."
When the conversation swung to Garnett, Ainge said he approaches that situation very similar to Rivers.
"I do the same thing as I do with Doc: I give him some time away and I’ll touch base with KG probably sometime next week," said Ainge. "He’s put so much into the game, he invests as much as any player I’ve ever seen. And he just needs time to chill and contemplate his life and then we’ll talk at some future time. But I do anticipate that KG will play. Just like I did last year, I feel the same this year. I don’t know for sure, but we’ll know more in the next couple weeks."
Ainge admitted the first decision as far as team personnel will likely start with Pierce, who is set to enter the final year of a deal scheduled to pay him $15.3 million for the 2013-14 season. The deal is only $5 million guaranteed and the Celtics have their amnesty clause in play if they desired to move on from Pierce. Ainge was asked about what goes into deciding Pierce's future in Boston.
"Conversation with my coach, conversation with Paul and his representatives," said Ainge. "Opportunities that may present themselves. There’s a lot that will go into it, but it hasn’t even started yet, we have until June 30 to make any decision. Listen, Paul’s been one of the greatest Celtics of all time and that will play a part in it. We love what he’s done for us, but ultimately we have to do what we think is the best for us from this point forward. And I think that Paul still has a lot of basketball left in him."
Ainge also offered a positive update on point guard Rajon Rondo, who is rehabbing from ACL surgery in February.
"So far he looks good; him and [Leandro] Barbosa [whom the Celtics also lost to an ACL tear in February] have both been rehabbing and both have looked good from their ACL [surgeries]," said Ainge, who later added, "From everything our medical staff has told us, Rondo is doing great and he should be ready by training camp."