Danny Ainge: 'We want to stay in the game'

Danny Ainge is waiting for the opportunity to land a big name. Russ Isabella/USA TODAY Sports

Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge doesn't know when the opportunity to add top-tier talent to his team's roster will arrive, but he knows the Celtics will be ready when it does.

During an interview posted on the team's website, Ainge reaffirmed his belief that Boston has positioned itself to be a legitimate bidder should any big-name player become available on the open market.

"We've tried to put ourselves in the game -- to have those options and to have some opportunities to make big moves,” said Ainge. “So I guess that if they're big moves that we like, we do them. If they're big moves that we're not in love with, then we hold off and we wait. Those are the challenging ones. Some of them are very easy to determine; some are very challenging and take a lot of investigation, thought, debate and discussion on our side. But I think you can't just determine that you're gonna wait or you're gonna do it -- it all depends on those opportunities.

"An example of that would be, when [Kevin Garnett] and Ray [Allen] became available to us, we were in the game, and we had an opportunity to do something quick and something special. When James Harden became available, we weren't. We didn't have the assets, we didn't have the opportunity to get in that game. So just because we have assets, just because we have young players, just because we have draft picks and we have cap space, it means that if there's one of those situations that becomes available, it just means that we have an opportunity.

"It doesn't mean that there's any guarantee that something like that will happen. So we want to stay in the game until we can do something significant."

The Celtics laid the groundwork for the acquisition of Garnett in 2007 with a draft-night trade that secured Allen from Seattle (for Jeff Green, Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West). With Paul Pierce and Allen in place, Boston then packaged some of its remaining young talent with a pair of future first-round picks to land Garnett from Minnesota. Eleven months later, they were clutching the Larry O'Brien trophy.

Boston didn't have the necessary assets in October 2012 to even get in the conversation when the Oklahoma City Thunder traded Harden to the Houston Rockets for Jeremy Lamb, Kevin Martin and a pair of future first-round picks.

Ainge has admitted there's probably not another Garnett-caliber move out there, but the team certainly hopes it can fetch a star with the assets it has. With the potential to free plenty of cap space this summer, Boston can also pursue the free-agent route for the first time in recent history, but has its picks and young talent as a backup means to also maneuver for that next star via the more familiar trade route.

As Ainge noted, the Celtics are happy to be in the game. They'd be even more cheery if they could find an opportunity.