<
>

Danny Ainge: 'Lot of discussion, no deals' for Celtics

play
Celtics fans all boos after Zizic pick (0:29)

After selecting Ante Zizic with the 23rd pick, Celtics fans aren't silent about their disappointment. (0:29)

BOSTON -- Boston Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck managed to get to the stage quickly enough on Thursday night after his team drafted Jaylen Brown with the third pick in the 2016 NBA draft that the angry mob in front of him didn't have time to procure any pitchforks and torches.

The season-ticket holders and guests who filled TD Garden had arrived with lofty expectations and were worked into a full lather amid reports that the Celtics were exploring a variety of trades that might have secured more known talent. So when Boston's turn on the clock ended with the team picking Brown -- an intriguing but raw teenager who had an underwhelming freshman season at California -- fans booed as Grousbeck started to explain the selection.

"Fourteen years, that’s probably the worst [reception] I’ve gotten," Grousbeck said. "But I’ll view this as people really care."

Two years after Grousbeck famously expressed a desire for "fireworks," the Celtics still haven't produced the sort of pyrotechnics that fans are clamoring for. Entering Thursday's draft with eight selections, Boston snagged Brown, then utilized its other two first-round picks to secure what is likely to be a pair of international stashes in France's Guerschon Yabusele at No. 16 and Croatia's Ante Zizic at No. 23.

After trading pick Nos. 31 and 35 for a potential future first-round pick, the Celtics capped their night by selecting Notre Dame's Demetrius Jackson (45), Providence's Ben Bentil (51) and Iowa State's Abdel Nader (58) in the second round.

"Let's not do that anymore," deadpanned Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations. "Let's try to keep it to three [picks], at the most. Eight's a lot."

Ainge admitted that there were small sequences of chaos inside Boston's war room as the team tried to balance the incoming trade calls with making sure it was ready for the rapid succession of picks.

"I think that, overall, our staff did great. We regrouped, called a 20[-second timeout]," Ainge joked. "We had two 20s. We used one quick and we got it together."

The optimistic, green, Kool-Aid-chugging view is this: A 48-win team with one of the league's best young coaches added a top-three pick; utilized a pair of first-round selections on overseas stashes that might help develop talent for down the road; added another future first-round pick to its draft treasure chest; and grabbed some intriguing second-round players who could compete for depth spots this summer.

The not-so-optimistic view, one that left Celtics fans grumbling after the Brown pick, is that, on a day when the Eastern Conference rival Orlando Magic landed rim-protecting big man Serge Ibaka from the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Indiana Pacers landed Thaddeus Young at reasonable prices, the Celtics stood pat and settled for the less glitzy route of simply making their picks.

"We had a lot of discussion about even trading [the No. 3] pick and trading down in the draft and trading for future picks and so forth," Ainge said. "Ultimately, there wasn’t anything to our liking. We grew very fond of Jaylen. He’s a great kid -- 19 years old who has a man’s body, great athleticism, sort of a vogue, new type of player in the NBA, of the versatile players, the versatile wings, can play multiple positions defensively. And we think he has a lot of upside, but we think he’s a 19-year-old kid that can get on the court and play with the big boys right out of the gate."

After facing the team's impatient fans, Grousbeck was more staunch in his assurance that no reasonable trade offer existed for Boston.

"In terms of trades, we weren’t even close to any of the offers today," Grousbeck said. "None of them were even in the mix. So that’s just the way it is. If they were close, we might have stretched. We didn’t feel anything was close, and we would give counteroffers, and I didn’t feel it was close.

"I’ve been doing deals one way or another since I think 1986, 30 years -- not sports deals necessarily, but just making agreements with people. And this was not a day to make a deal. This was not the right thing in our view for the Boston Celtics to make any of these deals, so we didn’t. And we’re very happy to build with a piece -- and maybe an important piece -- Jaylen Brown."

If someone had told Celtics fans before the draft that Boston would walk away with a Providence guy and a Croatian teenager, they would have been salivating. The Celtics didn't get Kris Dunn or Dragan Bender. But Ainge liked what he got in Zizic and Bentil.

"I'm really excited about a lot of the guys we got tonight," Ainge said. "I'm glad we don't have eight new draft picks. Maybe there will be some playing in other leagues and we can focus on two or three maybe on our roster this year."

Ainge was asked if there was any frustration in not being able to find a more proven player via trade.

"Well, we'll see. Time will tell. [Brown is] not a cornerstone today. I would never put any pressure on a kid that young, but listen, that's how cornerstone players are made," Ainge said. "There are so many guys as you look all around the league, nobody on draft night knew what they were. We'll see. Time will tell."

Ainge has pleaded for patience throughout this building process and did so again after Thursday's draft.

"There was a lot of discussion and no deals. It was just that simple," Ainge said. "We pulled away from some; they pulled away from some. I don't think it was a lack of value [with the No. 3 pick]. But to find trade partners in those kind of deals, it has to be good for both teams. We just didn't find one. I'm confident we are moving in the right direction. We still have free agency and a lot of money to spend in the free-agent market to still build our team."