Danny Ainge on Celtics draft: 'We tried hard to trade up'

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BOSTON -- Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge knows he might have set some unfairly high expectations for his team when he pledged earlier this week to attempt to move up in the 2015 NBA draft. A ceaseless rumor mill didn't help temper the hopes of his fan base, one that salivated at the prospect of adding impact talent.

So when the Celtics failed to shuffle up on Thursday night, Ainge admitted he was disappointed. But he's adamant it wasn't for a lack of trying.

The Celtics made multiple efforts to move up the draft board, including a spirited run at Charlotte's No. 9 pick when Duke's Justise Winslow lingered on the draft board. Boston ultimately settled for utilizing the four picks it entered the night with.

The Celtics selected Louisville guard Terry Rozier at No. 16; Georgia State guard R.J. Hunter at No. 28; LSU center Jordan Mickey at No. 33; and William & Mary guard Marcus Thornton at No. 45.

"We tried hard to trade up," said Ainge, his cell phone ringing repeatedly as he met with reporters around midnight. "We spent the last couple weeks trying to move and, really, today was the only time that we had any indication that we could move up. But we were trying.

"At the end of the day, it’s like Red [Auerbach] used to say, ‘Sometimes the best trades you make are the ones you don’t make.’ Maybe we were going too hard at it. There was a time when I thought, ‘Whoa, this is getting a little out of control.’ We’re putting a lot of eggs in one young player’s basket. So I’m not frustrated. In the long run, maybe it’ll be the best."

That'll come as little solace to a fan base that got sucked into the hype. On draft day, rumors swirled continuously including one that suggested a potential "mother lode" offer for the No. 3 pick if Duke's Jahlil Okafor was available, as well as speculation that Jared Sullinger could be dealt to the Hornets after it was noted he recently started following the team on Twitter.

Boston entered with a particular need for size and adamant it couldn't carry four rookies on next season's roster. The Celtics then selected three guards -- ballooning their backcourt depth chart to nine guards for the moment -- and coach Brad Stevens said he can envision at least three of these rookies competing for a roster spot.

All of which will leave Celtics fans scratching their heads after draft night.

"The fans, they feed into what’s being written and said a lot, too," Ainge said. "But I did say that we would try to move up. The price was way too high. There’s so many rumors out there. There’s so many things that are being said and written that are not even close to being true, that are just made up stories -- no sources and fake sources -- and people get caught up in these rumors and their expectations go even higher."

How might Ainge sell his fan base on Thursday's picks?

"Listen, it all comes down to how good the players are that we have and it doesn’t matter what I say about it -- we’ll just wait and see how good they are," Ainge said. "We like the guys we have and I think our fans are going to enjoy them."

A quick hit from Ainge on each of the team's top selections:

  • Rozier: "He’s really athletic and he’s really tough. And I love those kind of guys. I think our team will love him, I think our fans will love him -- I think he has a great upside as a two-way player. He’ll live in the paint, he can get where he needs to get. He’s got great speed, athleticism, length, and he’s a terrific defender. I believe his shooting numbers will continue to improve as well. He has great form, great mechanics, and we had him in for a couple of workouts, and we really grew to like him."

  • Hunter: "R.J. has a really good feel for the game. He’s a good shooter, good pick-and-roll player, he can shoot deep, he has great length. He’s a real basketball player and he’s a good all-around player."

  • Mickey: "Jordan is a very good athlete. Very bouncy, long, long arms, terrific shot-blocker in the SEC this year. We think he has some offensive potential. We’re very excited about Jordan. I think he’s the best athlete now in our frontcourt."

    Near the end of Ainge's media conference, his phone rang again.

    "Sorry, that’s Jordan Mickey calling me," Ainge said before sending the call to voicemail. "I’ll call him back."

    Ainge admitted to being a bit sleep-deprived, but said he wasn't frustrated by the way the draft played out. With the draft in the rearview mirror, the team must immediately focus on finalizing its plans for free agency when it begins on July 1.

    Not to restart the hype machine, but the Celtics are hopeful it's another chance to add the impact talent that evaded the team on draft night.

    "We’ll finish our roster this summer and, obviously, there’s holes in the [frontcourt] spots, and not so much in the guards right now," Ainge said. "Our roster isn’t complete. If you’ve learned anything, that’s one thing you should know: What you see today is not what you’ll see tomorrow. We’re a team that’s building for a championship, and we’ll continue to do that by trying to find the best players we can."