BOSTON -- The trade deadline came and went, and not a single Boston Celtics player who saw action this season was on the move.
It’s not the first time the Celtics have taken a whiff on making a deal at the trade deadline, but there was a different vibe about it this year.
In past years, the Celtics had clear areas in need of being upgraded and would leave the trade deadline either addressing that weakness, or disappointed that they could not strike a deal.
But this year?
The trade deadline passed and the Celtics by and large could not be any happier about it.
But as Danny Ainge points out, it wasn’t due to a lack of effort on the part of his staff.
“We spent a lot of time on the phone talking deals, looking for good ones,” Ainge, the Celtics’ president of basketball operations, said during NBC Sports Boston’s Trade deadline special Thursday night. “It was hard to find good ones this year just because we really like our team.”
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At no point was there a sense that the Celtics were looking to be active players at the trade deadline.
When Danny Ainge and the Celtics decided to bring back most of the players from last season, it was done to see whether this group, built to contend for a title with a healthy Gordon Hayward and a healthier Kyrie Irving, could do just that.
After a sluggish 10-10 start, the Celtics have gone 25-10 since then, which ranks them among the top teams in the league within that span of time.
“The (trade) deadline was a lot, for a lot of other people,” Irving said. “For us, we were pretty set. They made that very clear, management. So, I’m just happy we just have to focus on the rest of the season and have some fun doing so.”
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Second-year forward Jayson Tatum dealt with being the source of trade talks for the first time in his career.
While it certainly had the potential to be somewhat unsettling, you wouldn’t know it by the way he has performed.
And with the deadline coming and going with the Celtics still relatively intact (they traded Jabari Bird and cash to Atlanta for a conditional second-round pick), the plan for Tatum going forward isn’t all that different now than when his name was on the trade rumor mill.
“I just focus on what I can control,” said Tatum who had his fifth double-double of the season on Thursday with 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.
And that control centers around steady improvement both individually and as a collective unit which since their early season struggles, has been evident in the team’s success when it comes to wins as well as moving up the NBA charts in several statistical categories at both ends of the floor.
“I feel internally we still have another level to go to,” Ainge said. “And I think we’re moving in the right direction.”
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