Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has accepted his share of criticism for his team’s pedestrian record thus far in the 2020-21 season.
But he’s not taking flak from his peers about how he approaches improving his squad.
In his weekly interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub, Ainge fired back at an anonymous league executive who challenged his trade tactics while addressing other topics around the team.
Specifically, Ainge addressed a quote from an unnamed Western Conference general manager who told ESPN’s Tim Bontemps this week that the Boston GM only makes deals if he can “bury” his trade partners.
“I think that’s ridiculous,” he told the Toucher and Rich Show. “I have conversations regularly, daily, with [opposing GMs]. It’s not about winning a deal, it’s about finding a partner that needs and wants what we have, and us finding and wanting what [they] have…I’m trying to make our team better.”
Recently, Ainge has expressed frustration both at the Celtics’ struggles relative to past seasons and with his own performance, saying the team may need to make a move before the March 25th NBA trade deadline to boost its title-contention chances.
Doing so would break a six-year drought of in-season trades for the Celtics, the last of which was his acquisition of popular guard Isaiah Thomas from the Phoenix Suns.
Ainge has since come under fire for being unable to swing trades to bring big-name stars to Boston as well as recoup value for departing players like Gordon Hayward, who signed a free-agent deal with the Charlotte Hornets after the Celtics’ efforts to trade him fell through.
For his part, Ainge admitted he hears league-wide opinions that he overvalues his players in trade discussions but noted the same thing could be said of every team.
“I really like my guys,” he said. “If anything, maybe I’m guilty of liking my people too much as people and knowing the fit and the culture that is created in the organization. But I don’t think that I’m trying to pull a fast one on other organizations or other people that I’m dealing with. They know what we have and they like them or they don’t.”
Despite the team’s struggles, Ainge does not see the Celtics’ title window with young All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown as closed and also has said he is willing to spend into the luxury tax bracket to give them enough support to compete for a championship.
“If there’s players we can get that can put us over the top and keep us under the hard cap, we’ll do a deal that falls into that category,” he told ESPN. “But we’re not going to do it for a band-aid, or somebody that maybe, maybe, will help us a game or two.”
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