Ainge on trades: 'This is to help us win now'


Ainge on trades: 'This is to help us win now'

By Phil Perry

Danny Ainge wanted to make it clear. The trade that sent Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City in exchange for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic was completed on Thursday to help the Celtics get their 18th NBA championship this season. Not later.

"This is to help us win now," said Ainge, the Celtics' President of Basketball Operations, appearing on Comcast SportsNet's Celtics Pregame Live show Thursday night. "I always have to have my eye on the future. We were able to get a Clippers' first-round pick in 2012, which I think is a real building block as some of our guys are getting a little bit older. That's a huge piece to get.

"But the players we're getting, a 24-year-old three man that's versatile Green, and a 27-year-old center on a playoff team Krstic, and to create three roster spots to add some veterans, that's good for us."

Green is the Celtics' prized acquisition from the deal, Ainge explained.

"I think Jeff Green is a terrific player," Ainge said. "We need his athleticism, we need his length. I think anybody that has watched us play knows that our bench has struggled. Jeff is a 16-point-a-game scorer . . . with a lot of energy, athleticism, youth, range, shooting, post-up ability, especially at the small forward position. I think he brings a big boost to our team."

Ainge believes Krstic, Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal should be able to handle the load at center for the Celtics now that Perkins is out of the picture. The team could acquire more help down low with three roster spots available to fill with who Ainge called "worthy veterans."

"Krstic should be here by Saturday and be ready to play," said Ainge. "Hopefully we'll have another few roster spots filled in the next week or so."

The Celtics tipped off against the Nuggets Thursday with nine players in uniform, but Ainge is confident that when Green and Krstic arrive, and when the three vacant roster spots are filled, the team will be better than it was on Wednesday.

"I think you'll see it all come together, and I think you'll like what you see with more veterans, more shooting on our team, a little bit more versatility," Ainge said. "There will be a little bit more of adjustment period, for sure. But I think overall we'll be more suited, and more ready for the playoffs."

Celtics-Hawks preview: C' defense looks to keep up historic pace


Celtics-Hawks preview: C' defense looks to keep up historic pace

As the wins continue to pile up for the Boston Celtics, so does the praise and adulation from others throughout the league. 

It’s a double-edged sword if you think about it. 

Acknowledging how good the Celtics are, is indeed a sign of respect. 

But it also means Boston plays every game with a large target on its back unlike any of Brad Stevens’ previous Celtics teams. 

And that means every game they play, even those like tonight’s matchup at Atlanta where they will be heavily favored, are dangerous matchups.

Because for some teams, the next best thing to competing against the champ (Golden State) is facing the team with the best record who just knocked off the champ. 

That will be one of the dynamics at work tonight when the Celtics (14-2) kick off a three-game road trip against a trio of sub-.500 teams beginning with the Hawks (3-12).

Boston has shown tremendous focus and attention to detail during their 14-game winning streak. But in that span, the Celtics have never had a trio of teams right behind each other that struggled as much as the Hawks, the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks have this season. 

Not including games played on Friday, Boston’s next three opponents are a combined 11-33. 

All three of those teams would love to be the one to knock off the Celtics, the kind of victory that could significantly shift the direction of their respective franchises from their current downward spin. 

Meanwhile, the Celtics will look to continue to play with the kind of defensive temperament that has catapulted them to the top of the NBA’s defensive standings in several categories. 

“The way they’re beating teams it ain’t pretty,” a league executive texted NBC Sports Boston. “But they win. Last I checked, that’s what matters most.”

And that success has to a large degree, put a bigger bullseye on the Celtics than ever. 

“Now that we have a reputation, I think everyone is coming for us,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Now we have to come play even harder, and I think we can do that. I think we are more than capable.”

Especially if they continue to defend at a level we haven’t seen in years. 

Boston has a league-best defensive rating of 95.4. A key component in Boston’s strong play defensively has been their ability to win the battle of the boards. They come into tonight’s game with a .530 rebounding percentage which is second in the league to Portland (.539).

And that defense, while praised for how it functions collectively, it also consists of some pretty good individual defenders as well. 

Among guards averaging at least 20 minutes per game, Boston has four players ranked among the top 10 in defensive rating (Marcus Smart, 93.5 defensive rating, 2nd); Jaylen Brown (93.6, 3rd); Terry Rozier (95.0, 5th) and Kyrie Irving (96.4, 8th). 

When you look at forwards, Brown headlines a trio of forwards that includes himself, Al Horford (94.2, 3rd) and Jayson Tatum (96.1, 7th). 

Aron Baynes has the best defensive rating (90.6) among centers, followed by Horford (94.2).

“Our guys are locked in and really trying and again we can really play some pretty ugly basketball at times,” Stevens said. “But I do think that we are competing which is really good.”