BOSTON – Even with the best record in the Eastern Conference for most of this season, Danny Ainge said he has still been both taking calls - and making them - in search of a possible deal to be made prior to the Feb. 8 deadline.
But if a deal doesn’t come about, Ainge says he’s totally cool with that.
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“We’re on the phone all the time,” Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, told NBC Sports Boston. “We don’t have to do a deal. We’ll do a good deal. We don’t feel we have to do something because we have some glaring weakness. We know our team is not perfect, but I like the guys on the team.”
NBC Sports Boston has learned that the Memphis Grizzlies expect to strike a deal involving Tyreke Evans prior to the trade deadline, and the Celtics are on the short list of teams under serious consideration.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Grizzlies plan to shut down Evans to ensure he doesn’t get hurt prior to being traded.
Of course, Boston has an $8.4 million trade exception the NBA granted Boston following Gordon Hayward’s dislocated left ankle injury on Oct. 17.
But they have something else that might entice the Grizzlies: a 2019 first-round pick that the Grizzlies owe the Boston Celtics.
If Boston included that pick plus a player – Terry Rozier’s name was one that two different league executives mentioned to NBC Sports Boston on Wednesday night – that might be enough to get a deal done.
Memphis guard Mike Conley is going to undergo season-ending heel surgery and is expected to be back prior to the start of training camp next season.
Adding Rozier would provide some additional depth once Conley returns, as well as a fill-in starter if he doesn't come back as quickly as expected.
Ainge, who did not comment on any specific player the Celtics are interested in or on current Celtics he’s open to trading, said there’s a myriad of factors that he and his staff have to take into account before doing any deal.
Among them is the team’s youthfulness which has not gotten in the way of winning.
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Despite having the fifth-youngest team in the NBA, Boston (36-15) has the best record in the Eastern Conference and third-best overall.
“That’s a big factor,” Ainge said. “There’s all sorts of things that factor in whether we do deals or don’t do deals. Some of it is balancing your roster. Some of it is, the upside of some our players and being patient. Some of it is payroll. All of those things are major factors.”
Another factor is need, which Ainge says isn’t quite as cut-and-dry and some might believe.
“It depends,” Ainge said. “It’s not like other sports where we need a defensive back that does this one thing, or we need a second baseman. Basketball is different. There’s lots of different ways we can play. It all depends on the “who” more than the actual needs.
Ainge added, “What do we have to give up? Who is it? What is their long and short-term abilities with us? All those things are considered in what we have to give up. We like our young guys. Our young guys have played really well.”