Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge maintained Thursday morning that his team is "all over the map" while exploring potential deals as the trade deadline nears, but reaffirmed his team's desire to be patient and make wise decisions.
Making his weekly appearance on Boston sports radio 98.5 the Sports Hub, Ainge said a lot of the team's conversations recently have been focused on future salary cap flexibility and acquiring additional assets while suggesting the team desires to keep its young core intact. Ainge said the Celtics are more likely to do their heavy lifting in the summer, but admitted the team needs more individual talent moving forward.
Maybe Ainge's most noteworthy comments came when he hinted at the team's position regarding rumors that suggested the team's interest in Phoenix's Goran Dragic, who could be moved Thursday after voicing displeasure with the Suns' overcrowded backcourt.
The Celtics have been rumored to be interested in Dragic, though reports suggest they are not on his list of teams that he would consider re-signing with when Dragic explores free agency this summer.
"We're also looking to acquire players that are already under contract. We really don’t want to get rid of multiple draft picks for players with uncertainty in the free-agent market -- a situation like we were in with [Rajon] Rondo," Ainge said of the team's philosophy about pursuing established talent at the deadline.
Later he added, "We’re looking for more certainty. It’s more likely that we will be busier in the summertime and actually get more accomplished in the summertime than we will here at the trade deadline."
The Celtics have also reportedly expressed interest in one of Dragic's backcourt mates, Isaiah Thomas, who has a longer-term deal at modest dollars. Ainge's comments suggest the team would be more interesting in pursuing that sort of player than rolling the dice with someone like Dragic or Oklahoma City's Reggie Jackson who could walk away in the summer.
Ainge did note that Boston's young talent at the guard spot -- players like rookie Marcus Smart and fellow starter Avery Bradley -- wouldn't preclude the team from adding more skill.
"We really like [the team’s young guards] a lot, but you need depth and you need a lot shooting and scoring at the guard position to be a great team," said Ainge. "We like our young kids, also. But we don’t have enough. The talent level that we have right now is not good enough at this moment. We do believe that most of our young players aren’t even close to reaching their prime, so that’s a very encouraging thought. And we also have James Young, who we like very much and we haven’t seen a lot of yet this year. Hopefully he’ll get a chance to get more playing time as the season goes on."
A few more takeaways from Ainge's radio appearance just six hours before the 3 p.m. trade buzzer (which included multiple attempts for callers to beep in while he was talking):
• Ainge suggested that no player on the roster is off limits at the deadline and said it's his job to gauge the value of all his players. ""There are a lot of players that I really don't want to trade and that we want to keep," said Ainge. "But until we become a team that is contending for a title, we have to look at every opportunity and possibility."
• Ainge said he has maintained communication with his players and their agents while acknowledging that it's impossible to avoid rumors in the age of social media. "I actually communicate with the players on a pretty regular basis. I think everybody knows where they stand," said Ainge. "At the same time, there’s often surprises, and things that happen that I have no idea this morning [that might] happen and something could come up. But those are very very rare."
• Overflowing with future draft picks isn't always a luxury. Ainge noted how teams seeking picks have called with laughable trade proposals trying to secure them, while also suggesting that, when Boston has called about players that interest them, teams sometimes request more picks than normal because they know Boston has a surplus.