Ainge: We'll add talent around Big 3
In season wrap-up, Celtics GM assesses current roster, hints at changes
WALTHAM, Mass. -- After opening his season-ending confab with the media with news that coach Doc Rivers had agreed to a five-year contract extension, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge spent the majority of the next half-hour discussing the rest of the Boston roster and whether an aging Big Three have another championship effort in them.
"I know this about the Big Three: They still have a lot of basketball left in them," said Ainge. "How much can they carry a team? Can they be 20-point-a-game scorers, all that kind of stuff, I don't know. But I do know that they're still very talented, but we need to add talent around them."
As for the possibility of trading a member of the core in order to keep Boston competitive, Ainge admitted he remains open to anything, but said it would be unfair to speculate.
"Those are hypothetical situations that probably aren't fair to bring up," said Ainge. "It's my job to find out the value of every player on the team and see what the options are, but I don't know [the] likelihood of it. My objective is to put people around them that are better."
Here are all the highlights from Ainge's conversation:
• No surgery, but Rondo's a warrior: Ainge said point guard Rajon Rondo will not require offseason surgery for the dislocated left elbow suffered in Game 3 against the Miami Heat, but earned even more respect from Ainge for fighting through the injury.
"I was in the back room when Rondo had the dislocated elbow, and he was in an amazing amount of pain," said Ainge. "I mean, he was trying to get back out on the court now. He didn't want to ice it, he didn't want the X-ray. He said, 'Pop it back, tape it up, let's go.' He was worried about the clock running down in the game and he was in excruciating pain and it was amazing what he was able to accomplish. He loves to play. No one can question Rajon and his toughness, and his desire to play."
• Wrist surgery for J.O.: Ainge said the only player likely to have offseason surgery is center Jermaine O'Neal, who tore cartilage in his left wrist during the preseason while taking a charge in Toronto, then further damaged that area taking another charge in the first round of the playoffs against the New York Knicks.
"Jermaine is sort of the quiet one through this," said Ainge. "Jermaine endured a lot this year, and Jermaine needs some pretty serious surgery on his left wrist, and he played. Jermaine is left-handed. Most people don't know this, but he dunks and finishes and drives and does everything with his left hand. He blocks shots -- he was able to do that still with his left hand, but ... his left wrist was seriously hurt, and fractured, and he needs surgery, and probably pins put in his wrist. So yeah, our guys wanted it, and I'll never question that."
O'Neal said after Wednesday's loss that he will take time this offseason to evaluate his future, but the 32-year-old center (with a lot of NBA miles on his tires) remains under contract for one more season at $6.2 million.
• Summer ShaqWatch: Ainge said it's wait-and-see mode with Shaquille O'Neal and whether the 39-year-old center can come back from the right Achilles/calf injury that sidelined him for all but 17½ minutes in three appearances after Feb. 1. O'Neal has a player option for the 2011-12 season at the veteran's minimum.
"[Shaq's future] doesn't matter right now, from any of our planning, at this minute," said Ainge. "I like everybody to just take some time off after emotional losses and get your heads together and we'll talk about that in a future time."
• To be Frank: Ainge said Celtics assistant coach Lawrence Frank, a finalist for a head-coaching job in Houston, deserves another crack at an NBA head-coaching gig. That could leave Rivers searching for a new top assistant for the second straight season.
"I know Lawrence is interviewing for head-coaching opportunities, and he should be hired as a head coach," said Ainge. "My guess is that he'll be hired as a head coach somewhere."
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• Interest in Krstic: Ainge went to bat for Nenad Krstic, who, after an initial honeymoon period, slumped badly late in the season. He did produce an excellent effort in Game 5 against the Heat, this after earning DNPs in the previous two games, and there's interest in bringing the unrestricted free agent back.
"So here's what happened with Krstic: Krstic played great when he first got here, and then he hit a slump. He wasn't playing well for a while, and then he got hurt," said Ainge. "He had the bruised [right] knee [suffered against San Antonio]; we were worried that it was something worse. With all of the injuries, it seemed like whoever was playing center for us this year got hurt. So he got hurt and he never really got his starting job back after he got hurt, and then he got hurt again on [the left] knee [during practice]. He had two bruised knees. And I think he was finally healthy about the time the Miami series started, but by that time, Jermaine was playing really well defensively for us, and Doc was trying to get [Glen Davis]' confidence back, and get something out of Glen Davis that he had given us the first half of the season. But we saw with Krstic -- in the last game -- that he was back ready, he was playing, his confidence was there, and he contributed in that last game."
• Pierce to the bench? OK, maybe Ray instead: Ainge clarified comments made on Boston sports radio WEEI on Thursday that suggested the possibility of a veteran sliding to a bench role to get Jeff Green more minutes next season.
"So I said that on the radio show [Thursday], just to get everybody sort of excited," joked Ainge. "Yeah, I'm sure I'll be hearing from Paul. But I don't know. That will be Doc's decision. Jeff playing a bigger role, if he comes back, I think that that will be the case if he were to come back. I think he would play a bigger role. I have no idea, maybe he'll start in place of Ray [Allen]. Now [I'll be hearing from] Ray. Who knows? I don't know the answer to that. But it's possible that there could be [changes] -- it isn't like this core group of guys doesn't have to play the exact same way or with the exact same players. There's some things that can be tweaked. That's my whole point."
• Year 2 for Bradley: Boston's rookies haven't had much on-court time to develop in recent seasons, but Ainge said he is expecting guard Avery Bradley to compete for a job next season. Bradley is one of only three players -- Rondo and Pierce the others -- under contract beyond the 2011-12 season.
"I'm looking for Avery to make some good improvement this summer and to really come into training camp ready to win a job," said Ainge.
• On the labor uncertainty this summer: Ainge admitted Boston's hands are tied a bit with a potential work stoppage looming.
"So when we learn what the new rules will be and we learn how much money we have to spend and what sort of things that we can and can't do, we'll be prepared," said Ainge. "We'll be preparing for lots of different scenarios, and following collective bargaining conversations, even now, hoping that nothing happens, and that we just go as is or move forward on July 1. But we'll be prepared for anything, and there's a lot of players out there that are good players, but we need to improve our team to have a crack at it next year, and we hope to be able to do that this summer."
Ainge couldn't speak to specifics on the potential new agreement, but said Boston's hands are tied under the current format.
• The rest of the bench: Names not invoked during Ainge's debriefing: Sasha Pavlovic, Troy Murphy, Carlos Arroyo and Von Wafer (short of an injury mention). It's fair to assume that, short of filling out the end of the bench with minimum contracts, the Celtics have limited interest in those free agents-to-be. All but Wafer were added off the buyout scrap heap late in the season, and Arroyo provided the only tangible playoff impact, trying to help read Miami's offensive calls after spending the first part of the 2010-11 season as a starter with the Heat.
Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com.
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