WALTHAM, Mass. -- Danny Ainge got off the phone long enough
to say he probably wouldn't trade the fifth pick in the NBA draft.
Then he picked it up again.
Amid speculation the Celtics were hoping to add a talented
veteran like Kevin Garnett or Shawn Marion -- and a reported desire by Boston star Paul Pierce to leave if they don't -- Ainge was in a busy stretch drive to Thursday night's NBA draft.
He and coach Doc Rivers had just returned from Phoenix, where they were very impressed with three forwards: Corey Brewer and
Joakim Noah of Florida and Jeff Green of Georgetown, during a workout Tuesday.
At least two of them should be available, and the Celtics also
could go for forward Yi Jianlian of China. Ainge said he knows who he will take, depending on who remains after the first four choices.
"I think [a trade] is unlikely. I'm expecting to make our pick," Ainge, the Celtics executive director of basketball operations, said Wednesday. "I've felt that way from the beginning, that these trades are hard
to come by."
A trade would have been unthinkable if the Celtics had one of
the top two picks in the lottery. They had the second-best chance of getting the No. 1 choice after finishing with the second-worst record.
Still, Ainge said, he's confident the fifth pick will make a major contribution next season to a very young team that is seen as many years away from contending for a title.
That bothers Pierce, who has won just three playoff series in
nine seasons with Boston, but Ainge said he spoke to Pierce on Tuesday and there was no trade demand.
"It was a great conversation and Paul was very enthusiastic,"
But would Pierce be happy if the Celtics kept the No. 5 pick?
"It depends," Ainge said. "There's a lot of depends and it's a long time before October, so we'll talk about that later."
The Celtics could trade for a veteran between the end of the
draft and the start of training camp Oct. 1 in Italy.
Ainge was back home Wednesday morning to watch four other
players work out -- swingmen Nick Young of Southern California and Quinton Hosley of Fresno State, forward Joao Gomes of Portugal and
guard Blake Schilb of Loyola of Chicago.
Young is the only one who could be taken among the 14 lottery
picks, but the presence of the four could indicate the Celtics' interest later in the draft. Their other pick is the 32nd, but they could move up or down with a trade.
After the workout, Ainge spent considerable time on the phone.
Then he spoke to reporters for 14 minutes before returning to an office beside the court where he could be seen through the window with a phone to his ear.
"It's been a lot of work for everyone," Rivers said, "a lot
of film, a lot of phone conversations, lots of lying [about draft
plans] and a lot of bad rumors out there, too."
Ainge said he doesn't comment on rumors and pays "more
attention to what people tell me."
He did say "there's a lot of conversation" among teams
jockeying for position in the draft, but trades rarely are made
before draft day.
The Celtics' greatest need is a big man in the middle, Rivers
said, although there are few spots where they can't use help.
"This is going to come down to those three or four college guys
that we like and then Yi will be in there," Rivers said, "and
we're going to have to say, 'make the call.'"
Ainge will do that, unless he already made one to trade the