Danny Ainge was in Boston when the Celtics had a huge decision to make on Boston’s original Big Three. Ultimately, the Celtics decided to stand pat and keep Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parrish together even though they were aging. That decision to keep them together showed to be the wrong one and the Celtics went on a playoff drought that lasted nearly a decade. The franchise is once again at a crossroads and this time, instead of being an observer and a player, Danny Ainge is the man responsible for making the decision on Celtics latest version of the Big Three. Ray Allen is 36, Kevin Garnett is 35, and Paul Pierce is 34.
The Celtics look older and slower every time they take the court and they have yet to beat a playoff caliber team. The Big Three’s time has come to an end. They can’t win the Championship this year and they have the look of a one-and-done playoff team in the Eastern Conference. Maybe there is not much of a market for any of the Big Three or maybe Ainge will just wait for the cap space to free up as both Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett become free agents at the end of this year, but watching the Celtics this season, one thing has become crystal clear: The window has closed on Boston’s Big Three and it’s time for the Celtics to look to the future. Danny Ainge joined WEEI in Boston with the Big Show to talk about how the team is playing lately, if he is trying to motivate some of his players by the comments he has made recently, on the possibility of pulling off a big trade and how difficult that is to do nowadays, what things he will weigh when thinking about a potential trade, on the possibility of having cap space but nobody wanting to come to Boston because the team is past its prime, if he regrets trading Kendrick Perkins.
How the team is playing lately:
“I still don’t think our team is playing like we are capable of but I see some good signs. There’s some encouragement there but not by the result of the win or the loss. That’s a team that we should beat on our home-court so I won’t get overly excited but I do think there’s some good things happening.”
If he is trying to motivate his players by saying some of the things he has been saying:
“First of all I don’t really try to motivate my players through the media and second of all I don’t think I could. Our guys have been around and they get the whole business and they get the whole thing. These guys don’t even really care about that kind of stuff. They’ve been through this before so that wouldn’t even be possible if I wanted it to be possible and they wouldn’t be discouraged by the process of discussing what could happen because they know it. They know the business and what goes on. They also know the expectations in Boston and know our objective is to win. I was just answering questions and the questions that I get constantly. It’s almost like Mitt Romney answering the question about how much tax does he pay? He says 15 percent in capitol gained and it becomes this huge story when he’s stating the obvious.”
On the challenge of pulling off a trade:
“The thing is it’s a different era. The rules are different so you always have to weigh what opportunities come through having cap space versus a trade. Do you want to take back trade and contracts? Because you have to trade contracts for contracts nowadays. It’s not the same where you can trade anybody for anything. There’s salary cap, there’s luxury tax, the cap is getting harder, all those things. It’s a different world that we live in today then in that day. We’ve all known that there is a window for this group and we’re constantly evaluating that and have been evaluating that for the last couple of years. But I don’t have anything on the books. I don’t have anything imminent. There’s nothing out there that I’m actively doing. I’m being patient with this group of guys and they believe that they are much better than they’re playing right now, Doc believes they’re much better than they’re playing right now, and I believe that too. I wish they would’ve come into this situation and this season a little more prepared mentally, spiritually, and physically but they didn’t. Now we’re dealing with a bad start. In Doc’s tenure, the thing that Doc has been amazing at in his last five years is boy we’ve come out of the gate strong. This year we haven’t and it’s certainly not Doc. He was very, very prepared for this year. We’ve had injuries, we haven’t seen our team yet. Our players believe in it so we will see what happens.”
What factors he will weigh when considering a trade for any of the Big Three:
“It’s obvious Glen. What is the value in return and what can we do? Like how good can we be this year? (Host: If you don’t think you can win a championship at that point do you still ride it out?) If I don’t have any choices then sure. If there’s no good option. That’s the thing. You don’t just take anything back because there is great value in having flexibility next summer. You don’t want to mess that up at the expense of taking something back you don’t want just because it’s something.”
Weighing the potential of cap space against a quality team that players would want to be a part of in free agency:
“That’s the danger and that’s why I’ve said all along that cap space a little bit overrated but with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement it does provide opportunity and again there’s not a quick fix unless you can get franchise players to come in for your salary cap space like what happened in Miami. There’s not a quick fix.”
Whether or not he regrets trading Kendrick Perkins:
“I don’t. No. I love Kendrick. I drafted Kendrick. I feel like I helped raise Kendrick and I’m a big fan but no I don’t. I don’t think the struggles that our team had during last year during the playoffs had much to do with that. I’ll never change that opinion. I’m not defensive I look at it objectively but listen things don’t go well, I remember when I was traded from the Celtics, that was the beginning of the demise of the Celtics. Was it because they traded Danny Ainge? (Host: No.) Okay but listen. I agree with you that no but I was an NBA All-Star, I was playing as good of basketball as I had ever played up to that point and they took me away and I went and played for another team. But it had nothing to do with it. It had to do with the demise of the other guys that carried the team forever.”