BOSTON – Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, addressed the media prior to Boston’s 97-91 loss to the Indiana Pacers.
Here’s a transcript of the Q&A with Ainge in which he addresses the trade deadline, the new Celtic Greg Monroe, the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers as well as Paul Pierce’s jersey retirement on Sunday:
Q: How much do you like your team right now, as you look down the stretch?
DA: “I liked our team before this stretch. Yeah, it’s been a fun year. It’s a good group of guys and I like all the guys.”
Q: What do you like particularly about this group?
DA: “I think they play for each other. They’re very competitive defensively. And, we’ve been inconsistent offensively, but I think we’re getting better.”
Q: Is there an idea behind sticking with this team?
DA: “Well, for sure there was an idea that we didn’t need to do anything. We really like this group of guys and obviously have been having success. We have a really good, young core group of guys, too, along with Al (Horford) and so we didn’t – we don’t really want to really make a mess out of that. But at the same time, you just never know when good players become available. And so we have to kick the tires. But I didn’t really feel a need to do much.”
Q: Did you come close to any deals yesterday?
DA: “You know, it’s like this – and I say this every trading period – but it’s hard to know if you’re ever close, right? You make an offer and you have no idea how close those – those things get sometimes. Don’t know.”
Q: What will Greg Monroe bring to the team?
DA: “Greg brings some experience; low-post play, and he’s a terrific passer from the perimeter. (Head Coach) Brad (Stevens) likes to run his offense through ‘bigs’ out on the perimeter a lot, so that can be helpful. And he’s been a good rebounder. So we think that his experience can provide something for us. But I think that we also have (Aron) Baynes’s been the starting center on the top defensive team and Daniel Theis has played fantastic and had a great game (against Washington) again. So, it’s going to be a tough juggle for Brad.”
Q: So why would you bring in Monroe, when you might need a roster spot?
DA: “Right. So, we needed that position, we felt, going into the playoffs. It’s a long season and, you know, we’re a Baynes twisted ankle away from playing undersized centers at center in Horford and Theis – which we’ve done this year but there’s some matchups that we’re going to need stronger bodies. And that’s why now we have Baynes and Monroe that can play that position.”
Q: How do you see Monroe complementing the other players?
DA: “He’s a good passer. And again, a good low-post player. A good low-post player. So you know, we need more scoring. And we need different options to go to. And having Greg can be a high-percentage low-post player against certain matchups.”
Q: What about this year’s team, versus where things stood last year at this point?
DA: “I don’t know as much this year. I think that our team – I’ll let them determine their ceiling and what their beliefs are in one another and our coaching staff believes. But I’m enjoying watching them play.”
Q: What did you think of Cleveland’s moves, and did their trades prompt you to think about doing other things?
DA: “No. No it didn’t really. We’d gotten a little bit of wind that they were making some big changes, without knowing the details of it, but, listen, we’ve got our own problems to worry about and we’re just taking care of the Boston Celtics.”
Q: Do you have any empathy for Isaiah Thomas, considering things didn’t work out in Cleveland?
DA: “I don’t really know what Isaiah’s wishes or dreams are right now, so I have no idea. I don’t know what to think.”
Q: Will you be further exploring the market?
DA: “Sure. We’ll look and see who gets bought out.”
Q: Would offensive needs still be a priority?
DA: “Well, we need two-way players. I mean, it’s hard to just put players in that can just play one way. Although, like I said, Greg Monroe fills a need for us. I felt like we needed size and experience, you know, going in for the rest of season and through the playoffs. But as we stand right now I don’t think there’s a big hole for us, so we’ll look for a good player that maybe is better than what we have.”
Q: Were teams coveting first-round picks more than in years past?
DA: “So, I don’t know the answer to that. Just because I know what we think of them. But I think that people are – I say ‘people’ – I think that teams are appreciating the value of first-round picks. I think it’s easy to justify their value away, because if you have a pick in the 20s there’s maybe a 10% chance of being the rotation player. But I think that people are understanding, our league is understanding the value of those players in roster-building. And most of the good teams around you look at have players in the draft in the middle-to-late first round and second round that are contributing.”
Q: What’s the situation with Marcus Smart?
DA: “I don’t have any more updates. Could be ready to play after the trade deadline is my – I mean, I’m sorry – after the All-Star Break is my guess. But that’s just a guess.”
Q: How much are you looking forward to the weekend with Paul Pierce?
DA: “Yeah, I’m looking forward to seeing Paul. It was great to see Paul, you know, at Jo Jo (White)’s memorial service this past week. Him and his wife flew all the way across the country. That was great to see them. And it will be good to see his whole family and all the other guys that are coming in, as well.”