NBA trade deadline

The NBA's post-deadline pecking order in the East

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The NBA's post-deadline pecking order in the East

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Ainge: Celtics' East rivals could face post-trade adjustment periods

Ainge: Celtics' East rivals could face post-trade adjustment periods

BOSTON -- Milwaukee. Toronto. Philadelphia. 

All made moves at the trade deadline to bolster their teams that were already among the best record-wise in the NBA. 

Still, adding more talent doesn’t necessarily mean better days are on the horizon immediately. 

“What a team looks like on paper doesn’t matter,” Danny Ainge, the Celtics’ president of basketball operations, said in his weekly call-in to 98.5 the Sports Hub’s "Toucher & Rich"  show. 

He knows this better than most, because his Celtics team (35-20) - on paper - was expected to steamroll past anyone in its path towards what many predicted would be a smooth ride into the Eastern Conference finals. 

Instead, the Celtics struggled out of the gate with at 10-10.

And while the team certainly had its share of issues, the overall talent was not one of them. 

“I think that, one thing we really found out this year...sometimes having a lot of talent is hard to figure out how it all works,” Ainge said. “We like our team and it’s not about what the team is on paper. You gotta figure it out on the court. Some teams it works easier than others. Some teams come together very quickly.”

It remains to be seen how quickly the top teams in the East will adjust to their reconfigured rosters. 

Ainge’s only deal at the trade deadline was shipping out Jabari Bird and cash to the Atlanta Hawks, a move made to clear a roster spot for a potential buyout candidate.

But even with that, Ainge admits it’ll be tricky to incorporate another player on to this roster for this end-of-the-season push into the playoffs. 

“I like our team,” Ainge said following the Celtics’ heartbreaking 129-128 loss to the Lakers. “Last night’s [Lakers] game...We did not play good. We did not play as hard as we need to play to be successful.”

That shouldn’t diminish from what has been strong play by the Celtics for the past couple of months. Thursday’s loss to Los Angeles was only Boston’s second defeat in its last 12 games. 

And their improved play has not gone unnoticed by Ainge. 

“I have liked how our team has played over these last two months,” Ainge said. “And I like how our offense and our defense have been getting better over these last two months and how our bench has been coming around and getting a lot of good play out of a lot of different players.”

One of the keys to Boston’s stronger play has been the familiarity that players now have with one another, which wasn’t as apparent or as solidified earlier this season. 

And that’s likely to be among the early challenges for some of the other top teams in the East that made moves at the trade deadline; trying to figure out how to navigate establishing that familiarity while continuing to stockpile wins for the highest possible playoff seeding. 

“It’s important; continuity is important,” Ainge said. “We have a lot of players that have been with us through the playoffs last year. Brad [Stevens] can go back in the playbook, can call something at the drop of a hat and our guys would know what it is.” 

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Danny Ainge confirms "a lot" of trade chatter around one Celtics player

Danny Ainge confirms "a lot" of trade chatter around one Celtics player

The Boston Celtics didn't move any of their core players before Thursday's NBA trade deadline, but according to Danny Ainge, it wasn't due to a lack of conversations.

The Celtics' president of basketball operations admitted Friday he spoke to one player on his roster whose name popped up in trade chatter prior to the deadline.

"I do speak to some of the players based on some of the false reports that were out there," Ainge said during his weekly interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Toucher & Rich." "I just try to get their head in the right place just to focus on what they need to.

"But there were really no close deals. There was one player in particular that there was a lot of discussion with and he's well aware of it.

"And I was honest with him on that and why we didn't do it, and what he needs to focus on for his career and for us finishing this year strong."

While Ainge didn't reveal who that player was, we still can speculate, and a few clues point to backup point guard Terry Rozier.

Rozier is a talented player in a difficult situation who will be a restricted free agent this offseason, so it makes sense why teams would call about him. And a pre-deadline report that Boston wouldn't be trading Rozier seems to suggests other clubs at least did their due diligence.

"I didn't go into this deadline ... looking to make any certain deals," Ainge added. "There were some things that I was listening to more than others.

"I don't know if this player's agent might have heard, got wind of it from a few other teams that were trying to make some deals for him, but I just felt it was important just in case -- the thin veil of information that exists in our world, like, I just wanted to be the first one to tell him and I wanted to be straightforward with him about what was going on because there was a chance he might have heard it anyway."

When asked what the "mystery player" thought of the discussion, Ainge responded, ""He took it great. I think they appreciate that honesty."

Ainge also was forthright about his conversations with Kyrie Irving, describing their relationship as an "engagement" rather than a marriage.

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