Will Trader Danny Ainge be more active this season for the Celtics?

Will Trader Danny Ainge be more active this season for the Celtics?

BOSTON -- One of the main reasons Danny Ainge has been reluctant to make any major changes to the Celtics roster the past couple of years, is because the team he assembled when healthy was good enough on paper to compete with the upper echelon in the NBA. 

This season? 

Not so much. 

Compared to the past couple seasons, there’s a heightened level of uncertainty as to what this Celtics team is capable of and because of that, the specter of a potential trade looms a lot larger now. 

Ainge, in a recent conversation at WBUR’s CitySpace, talked about the trade potential for this season. 

“I don’t think our team is like a perfect fit,” Ainge said. “I don’t think Brad [Stevens] knows who his starting lineup is, who his first sub off the bench is, and what each guy is going to bring to the table.”

The Celtics lost a pair of All-Stars in Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn) and Al Horford (Philadelphia) to free agency.

Marcus Morris, a key reserve and part-time starter the past couple of seasons, signed a one-year, $15 million deal with the New York Knicks. 

Boston also traded Aron Baynes to Phoenix.

With a clear lack of bigs, Boston signed Enes Kanter, who will likely be the team’s starting center to begin the season. They also re-signed Daniel Theis, along with 7-foot center Vincent Poirier from France, to join a big-man contingent that also includes second-year center Robert Williams.

Boston also selected Tennessee forward Grant Williams in the first round of the draft and signed 7-foot-6 center Tacko Fall to an Exhibit 10 contract. 

As far as what the new guys meshing with the returners will bring to the table, that’s going to be a process of sorts for sure this season. 

Still, the X-factor in all this is the Celtics’ depth at the wing position which includes Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Beyond those three, the Celtics also have Semi Ojeleye, who can play both forward positions, 6-6 Romeo Langford, who was the Celtics’ lottery pick from in the draft, in addition to summer league standout Javonte Green, who has a partially guaranteed contract and is in the mix for Boston’s 15th and final roster spot. 

Well aware of the team’s depth at the wing and dearth of proven talent in the frontcourt, Ainge admits that he might have to move one of his wings in order to shore up the team’s frontcourt. 

“So the question is, do you trade for need or do you trade for talent?” Ainge said. “Because I think we have some really talented wings. And we have some uncertainty at the 4 [power forward] and the 5 [center]. So, let’s hope our fours and fives can play as well as we hope they can and we can keep our talented wings because we need a lot of them.” 

Ainge knows trading players is a reality that comes with the job. 

That doesn’t make it any easier, though. 

“I invest a lot emotionally with the kids … trading is hard,” Ainge said. “Trading a player that you drafted, that you develop a relationship with, root for every second, get to know their families, that’s really hard. That’s a really hard process. But that’s just part of the job. It’s a hard job and that’s the hardest part of it, is trading away players. But ultimately we have to do what’s best.”

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Celtics' Semi Ojeleye gives positive reaction to reported NBA return proposal

Celtics' Semi Ojeleye gives positive reaction to reported NBA return proposal

The NBA's Board of Governors reportedly is expected to approve a 22-team return plan during Thursday's meeting, which would pave the way for the 2019-20 season to resume later in the summer.

Under the reported proposal, each of the remaining 22 teams would play eight more regular season games before a 16-team playoff commences. 

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The Boston Celtics currently are the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race. They also are one of three teams in the East that's already clinched a postseason berth. It's not a perfect plan, but it does allow players some regular season games to get ready for the grind of the playoffs. The proposal gives teams on the playoff bubble a chance to earn a postseason berth as well.

Boston Celtics forward Semi Ojeleye joined Wednesday night's "Arbella Early Edition" to discuss the proposed return plan and the challenge players will have in getting ready to restart the season.

"I think it's a good plan," Ojeleye said. "Obviously, the entire pandemic we've been focused on keeping people healthy, and keeping the players and the fans healthy, that's why we shut (the season) down. I think what we're doing now, easing back into workouts with a few people in the gym is a good plan. Hopefully, going forward we keep people healthy as well."

What has Ojeleye been doing to stay in shape?

"I've been blessed to have a little outdoor space," he said. "I got my hands on some indoor equipment -- some bikes and weights. From there, it's really just about not skipping days. There have been a lot of days where I'm like -- I can't hoop, but I knew I could try to get my cardio in and try get my lifts in. That's what I've been focused on, and hopefully it pays off."

There's been a lot of debate over how much time players need to get into game shape. Some people think a month or even a few weeks is too much, but the long layoff hasn't been like a normal offseason where players are able to play pickup games and train however they choose. Many players have had limited access to workout equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic as gyms and team facilities have been closed.

Ojeleye explained why players need plenty of time to prepare their body and mind for the remainder of the regular season and the ensuing playoffs.

'It's going to be tough. Different guys have different access to weights and facilities," Ojeleye said. "And guys are at different stages of their careers. Some guys are coming off injuries, some guys have had nagging injuries during the year and they've taken a break. Everyone is going to need a little bit more time. I'd say, at least a few weeks at minimum for everyone to get back in shape and to get that feel. As a team, we need our chemistry, and that's going to take time as well."

The Celtics, despite making several roster changes before the 2019-20 season, quickly developed a strong chemistry. While there are reasons to be optimistic the C's will find this chemistry again soon, the process doesn't happen overnight, especially when these players have been unable to play basketball with their teammates during this pandemic.

What NBA's return-to-action plan means for the Celtics

What NBA's return-to-action plan means for the Celtics

When the NBA season was put on pause in March, the timing could not have been much better for the Boston Celtics. 

Wins were getting harder to come by (they had lost three of their last five), the jacuzzi-hot play of Jayson Tatum was starting to cool off some and Kemba Walker was headed towards a stretch of “strategic rest” days off because of knee soreness. 

And just like the rest of the NBA is fired up about the potential return to play reportedly as early as the end of late July, the Celtics are an eager bunch to restart the season as well. 

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And they should be for a number of reasons. 

First and foremost, there’s a very real chance that they can move up in the standings if the league adopts the reported return-to-play model which includes eight regular season games before the playoffs. 

Currently third in the East, the Celtics would begin the postseason against Philadelphia if the league went straight into the playoffs — an idea that hasn’t garnered a ton of support from owners or players. 

An eight-game slate of games would provide Boston with enough opportunities to potentially move ahead of Toronto and secure the No. 2 seed in the East. 

The way the standings look now, the potential for movement is great for many teams. 

Boston (43-21) trails the Raptors (46-18) by three games in the standings. Behind the Celtics you find the Heat (41-24) who are 2.5 games back.

The next closest teams to Boston beyond those two are Indiana and Philadelphia (both 39-26) who each trail Boston by 4.5 games. 

For the Celtics’ sake, moving up from their current draft position and avoiding a first-round matchup with Philadelphia would be the preferred path to take this postseason. 

The Sixers, one of the bigger disappointments this season, will feature a healthy Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, making them a much tougher foe come playoff time. 

For the Celtics, the alternative if they move up would be a Brooklyn Nets team that’s expected to play this postseason without Kyrie Irving or Kevin Durant who have both been out recovering from injuries. 

There’s also a chance that Boston would face the Indiana Pacers in the first round if the C's remain as the Eastern Conference’s No. 3 seed which, similar to facing Philadelphia, would provide a tough first-round matchup. 

The reboot to the season also allows more time for the Celtics to adjust to what’s shaping up to be a new pecking order. 

While Walker is the team’s most proven, most decorated talent, there’s no escaping the inevitable rise of Tatum as the face of the franchise (if he’s not already there). 

As the season wore on, his ascension was undeniable. Tatum began the season as a player the Celtics were hoping to see blossom into a big-time talent with the departures of Irving (Brooklyn) and Al Horford (Philadelphia).

Following his first All-Star appearance in February, Tatum averaged 29.9 points, 7.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists while shooting 47.2 percent from the field and 46.8 percent on 3’s. His ability to pick up where he left off would go far in Boston’s quest to build off the successes they had this past season. 

As for Walker, he had missed some games and played limited minutes in others shortly before the season was paused thanks to knee soreness.

The extended downtime without games or practice should allow Walker to return to action revived and refreshed.

And him being healthy combined with Tatum’s improved play gives the Celtics a potent 1-2 punch as they inch closer to rebooting the system and in doing so, restarting their journey towards what they believe will be a deep postseason run.