With the trade deadline on the horizon (March 25) Boston Celtics president of basketball operations, Danny Ainge, spoke Thursday morning with 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher & Rich” about the Celtics timeline for making a move, and what kind of player they were in the market for.
In terms of timing, Ainge discussed the risk/reward of making a move sooner than later and indicated that he’s leaning towards waiting.
“I think [that] the sweet spot is latter March,” Ainge said. “I mean, we could do it now if we could make a good deal. But the challenge is anything you could do to incrementally change your team might be able to be done shortly here within the next week or two but are you passing up a chance that something comes along down the road that would be even better? That’s what we have to identify.”
Shooting With Size
On the heels of a disappointing 116-111 loss to the Sacramento Kings Wednesday night, during which the Celtics had a lead several times down the stretch, Ainge prioritized the need for defensive help alongside shooting prowess.
“I would say shooting with size,” Ainge responded when asked who they were looking for. “We could use shooting, we could use passing. But you always need defense. Our team is built on defense, we have been winning with defense the last couple of years. I know that we have not won a championship but we need defense. It is hard to find a shooter that can’t guard anybody and expect that person to make a major change on our team.”
Barnes and Aldridge Could Top List
Though Ainge didn’t name names, Kings forward Harrison Barnes and Spurs forward/center LeMarcus Aldridge are seen as potential targets. Both players carry contracts worth more than $20 million (Aldridge is an unrestricted free agent after this season) but the traded player exception would allow the Celtics to acquire one of them, assuming they traded away a few minor roster spots.
The 6-foot-8 Barnes is enjoying an offensive renaissance with the Kings this season, posting career highs in shooting percentage (49.8%), three-point percentage (41.3%) and points (17.2). His 6.2 rebounds per game are also a career-high and would lend help on the boards for a Celtics team ranked 22nd in defensive rebounds. His ability to guard multiple positions would provide some depth for a Celtics team struggling with injuries and a tightened schedule due to postponed games. Barnes dropped 24 on the Celtics Wednesday night.
The seven-time All-Star Aldridge, who has seen his minutes and overall numbers dip this season with the Spurs, would immediately add some beef defensively down low. And his ability to score both in and out of the paint would give the Celtics something from a big man they’ve lacked in recent years. Aldridge’s $24 million expiring contract is seen as a plus for the Celtics who are looking to win this season. He is also 35, too old to be part of the team’s future.
During the interview, Ainge, who played guard for the Celtics from 1981 to 1989, talked a little bit about his own trade from the Celtics to the Kings halfway through the 1988/1989 season.
“I think it all made sense,” Ainge said of the deal that sent him and Brad Lohaus to Sacramento for Joe Kleine and Ed Pinkney. “I really honestly was not angry and was looking forward to a new chapter.”
The next season, Ainge scored 39 points in his first game against the Celtics as a King, a fact he did not let go unmentioned during the interview.