I've heard pretty much everything when it comes to Ainge's regularly scheduled interview on T&R. You listen to enough of them and you understand how sometimes you have to read in between the lines and hear what he isn't saying to really determine what Ainge means or feels. It's an art so to speak.
That was not the case today.
I don't really consider what Ainge said all that shocking. I mean, at 14-14 and playing like dogshit for the last month, who would actually this Celts team as constituted is good enough to win a title? Not even I could say that with a straight face. You know how good you have to be to win a title?
He covered a lot, I took notes, so let's go through it.
1. He admits his players are not respecting their opponents
This is a no brainer right? Twitter loves to talk about how the Celts lose to bad teams because Brad doesn't "motivate" guys. We've now had Tristan Thompson
and now Danny Ainge tell the truth when it comes to their issues with lesser teams. It's a player problem. They aren't taking their games against shitty teams seriously which is weird because they themselves are playing like a shitty team. Under no circumstances should they be looking down their nose at anyone or thinking they can get by without playing hard. We're seeing what happens when they do that.
The word "accountability" gets thrown around a lot by fans, well this is Ainge holding his players accountable. Publicly calling them out about not respecting opponents is certainly a step in the right direction. He's not going on the radio and making excuses for them, he's straight up calling them out for it. That's a positive.
2. He admits this team needs a piece or two
Again….no shit. If we're being honest, I feel like this is the first time in a long time we've heard Ainge say something like this ahead of a trade deadline. He usually either gives you a "no comment" or dodges the question entirely. We all have eyes, we can see the issues with the depth on this team, and Ainge later said he even knows the depth has been mostly dogshit. The fact that he's going on radio and admitting that tell you that things will probably be different in 5 weeks.
What I didn't agree with was when he said things are "not that simple" when it comes to addressing it. That can't possibly be true and it felt like he was building himself a little bit of a safety net. It's not complicated to cut a veteran minimum player and bring in literally any other warm body. They are loaded with three different trade exceptions and picks. Teams are able to make deals every trade deadline, so it is something that is actually possible.
3. He's not wrong when he talks about health
Yes, every team is dealing with something. It doesn't excuse their poor play or their inconsistency, but it DOES help explain it. Their 5 best players have played 21 minutes together on the SEASON. 21. Again that's not an excuse, it's the reality of the situation.
But what I did like was he still didn't dodge the fact that his team is struggling and put it all on health. There are two ways to look at this situation in my opinion.
Big picture, the health impacts the ceiling of this team. You can't scream for them to blow things up because they are losing without their best players playing. But in the short term, it is not an excuse for you to do nothing in an effort to improve your roster. The health issues should be what motivates you to fix your depth problem.
Does that make sense? The health conversation matters when you want to talk about what this team can do in a playoff series. It doesn't matter when you talk about the immediate issues that need to be addressed.
4. He feels like Kemba can play back to backs, but they are choosing not to
Anyone who disagrees with this strategy is missing the big picture. Is it annoying when you don't have Kemba on a B2B against a bad team and you lose? Yes. But having him right for the playoffs is all that matters. If that means biting the bullet and sitting him then that's exactly what they should be doing.
5. As constituted he does not think they are a championship caliber team right now
Again, who would debate this? Not even I could say that with a straight face. It's the truth. The fact is you don't have to be a championship caliber team on February 18th.
What I liked about this answer is Ainge was honest. He didn't spin it with a "well ya know, we could be if". He just flat out said no. I go back to that accountability thing. That's on him, but maybe he's also doing his best to get it through to his players that they are not as good as they think they are, and nobody is safe. If he said something like "we have the talent to be but we aren't playing like it" that would scare me because it would give me the sense Ainge doesn't feel the need to add. That is not what happened. He couldn't have been clearer.
6. He was dead silent when Isaiah's name was mentioned
Read into this what you will. I will continue to hold out hope. That was a solid like 15 second pause. Probably didn't want to say no, but he technically didn't say no sooooooo
7. I didn't love the 2009-10 comparison
He mentioned the 2010 team that was 27-27 over the home stretch and still made it to Game 7 of the NBA Finals. I get what he was trying to say, but this team does not have that Big 3. Or that team's depth. I don't think we've seen enough from this team to think they can flip a switch like the prime Big 3 years team did.
8. He kept going back to trades
This was maybe the most intriguing part of the whole interview for me. I counted like 4 or 5 separate times where Ainge talked about improving his team through trades. I cannot ever remember that happening. He would say things like internal improvement is one way, but there are also trades. Numerous times when talking about improving he kept saying trades "might be" the path they have to go down. It was by far the most open we've ever heard Ainge be to making a move at the deadline I'd say in the last 5 seasons.
All in all, I thought Ainge told it like it is. He didn't spinzone anything or sugarcoat things while also sneaky calling out his players. That's what everyone wanted right? But it's a two way street. He can't do stuff like this today and then do nothing on his end at the deadline to fix the issue that he is responsible for creating. That's the next shoe to drop. If he's admitting that this team isn't good enough, and he has the power to do something about it, well then let's see it.