Celtics

Challenges ahead for Ainge in building C's roster

602082.jpg

Challenges ahead for Ainge in building C's roster

WALTHAM Danny Ainge has spent months preparing for this free agency period.

That doesn't make his job that much easier, however.

Ainge has a team that's three years removed from winning the franchise's 17th NBA title.

Their core group, with the exception of Rajon Rondo, are all on the downside of their careers. And Rondo has been the subject of more trade rumors than any other player in the NBA this offseason.

Oh, did we mention the C's have six players under contract?

And their only chips to play other than making a trade, will be a midlevel exception worth 3 million, and a slew of veteran minimum contracts.

"Every year is a challenge; brings different challenges," said Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations.

Ainge, taking a moment to reminisce on the not-that-long-ago good ol' days -- you know, 2009.

"A few years back, we had a target," Ainge said. "We went after Rasheed (Wallace). It was easy that way. We don't have the same flexibility this summer to do some of those things."

Ainge has a list of players that he would love to bring to Boston.

But he understands that it won't be easy building the C's into a team that can compete with Miami and Chicago for Eastern Conference supremacy.

"There's a lot of money out there, teams with cap space," Ainge said. "So players are waiting for the big pay days. We have to be patient in this process."

In the meantime, Ainge will spend a good deal of time working the phones as well as taking calls from other GMs to see if the best way to bolster the Celtics' roster is via trade.

"There's a lot of GMs out there that are anxious for the season to start," Ainge said. "And so there's been a lot of conversation. That's my job, to field all the calls from all the teams and to find the value of my players. That's what I do."

Those conversations have centered around Boston's Big 4, but Rondo's name - more than any other Celtic player - has been the one that has drawn the most media attention.

But with teams unable to talk with players just yet, Ainge has not been able to speak with the players directly about the trade rumors.

"Usually I'm around when these things happen," he said. "This is a unique situation. I will talk to the players and share with them the truth about rumors and anything else."

Regardless of whether Ainge is looking to move players or not, trade rumors will not go away anytime soon.

"Trade rumors are part of the world we live in," Ainge said. "It's a media circus out there. Everybody's name has been in trade rumors, and everyone's name will. If you're worth your salt, you'll be mentioned in a trade somewhere along the line. So it's part of the business that players have to deal with as well."

Moving to power forward 'presents a different challenge' for Horford

celtics_al_horford_101617.jpg

Moving to power forward 'presents a different challenge' for Horford

PHILADELPHIA – For the third time in as many games, the Boston Celtics will field a different lineup.

It will have a domino effect on Boston’s usual starters, but no one more than Al Horford who will slide over to power forward with Aron Baynes inserted into the starting lineup where he’ll be charged with trying to defend Sixers 7-footer Joel Embiid.

Meanwhile, Horford will be assigned to defend Robert Covington who is one of Philadelphia’s better perimeter scorers.

MORE:

“I feel like one of my strengths is being able to play multiple positions,” Horford told NBC Sports Boston. “It presents a different challenge for me, which is making sure I do a good job of covering him out on the perimeter, staying between him and the basket.”

In Philadelphia’s 120-115 season-opening loss to Washington, Covington led all Sixers with 29 points which included him going 7-for-11 from 3-point range in addition to grabbing seven rebounds.

While Covington will be Horford’s first defensive assignment, he knows he will also be called upon at times to defend Embiid who ranks among the best centers in the NBA despite having played just 32 games over the course of three NBA seasons.

In the loss to the Wizards, Embiid had a double-double of 18 points and 13 rebounds.

Horford’s defense will be critical for Boston (0-2) to get its first win of the season, but the Celtics will also need him to take advantage of scoring opportunities as well.

“We have some guys down, but that creates opportunities for other guys to step up and contribute,” Horford said. “It’s going to all of us, the veterans, the young players, all of us to get that first win.”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens agreed.

“I think that’s how we have to look at it,” Stevens said. “We’re going to have to make a few tweaks on how we do things, obviously. Hey, it’s gonna be something that we’re going to have to do really, really well on the fly.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE