Around and around we go.
Every week I listen to Ainge's appearance on T&R partly because I like self torture, but also because I know that sometimes you have to read in between the lines. He'll never come out on the radio and flat out tell the world what he's going to do so I'm not sure what people expect, but there were a couple of interesting nuggets from today's appearance that has me thinking.
Look, we all know the TPE is a big deal. What they do with it and when they use it is pretty monumental when you talk about the next wave of the Jays era. I've said it before but I change my mind every day on what I want them to do. I can see all sides and everyone has a point. Use it now, use it later, use part of it now, all that shit. There are obviously financial implications depending on when Ainge pulls the trigger that also has to be considered. The one thing we can all agree on is that he HAS to use it and can't let it expire. That would be a disaster, to say the least.
Which brings me to today's appearance. Once again, Ainge has repeated that it's most likely he uses the TPE in the offseason. That should surprise exactly nobody. It's all we've heard from Ainge and Wyc every time they've been asked. Is it real? Is it a smoke screen? Who the hell knows. So that part didn't really surprise me. But some of his other quotes did
“We will do a deal if we think our team is going to be better, but we’re not going to do a deal that is too expensive and a Band-Aid for the here and now, or will jeopardize anything to do with our young core at this moment,” according to Ainge. “I wouldn’t eliminate the possibility of doing a deal for this year as long as I didn’t have to jeopardize the people that I can’t jeopardize.”
I hear that and I think of the name Marcus Smart, and maybe even Robert Williams. That's important for a few reasons. If he's not going to use TPE money at the deadline, it's going to be very hard to trade for a "big" name player unless you're giving up someone like Marcus Smart and his $13M salary. This doesn't mean he won't do anything, but it does mean you should recalibrate your expectations in the event they actually do anything.
For the record, I'm fine with that. Add around the edges. Upgrade backup point guard and find a cheap wing. That can help the now and not mortgage the future or mess with the young core or TPE.
I also found this little nugget interesting
“I’m not eliminating those other possibilities,” Ainge continued, “but some of the names that are mentioned out there and the price to get them and the likelihood of re-signing them make it silly to do any sort of trade just for the next two months.”
This stood out because it made me think of any player that might be in the last year of his deal. Maybe someone like Lonzo Ball. The price is high, and who knows what he'll get in RFA this summer. This also fits with someone like John Collins. Huge price, and a huge dollar amount on the open market. That's my takeaway there. He's basically saying no shot on either of those two names that you hear a lot on Twitter.
But the biggest thing Ainge said that had me a little confused was when he talked about the market this summer
“The free agent money this year is huge. There may be more free agent money than there’s been in maybe ever. And the free agent list – most of the significant players have signed contract extensions leading into this summer,” he explained. “So the free agent list is not hugely great or franchise changing. Which means a lot of players that are on the free agent list – and there’s a lot of money out there, there’s more money than there are quality players. And so there’s probably going to be a lot of money spent and overspent or on a lot of free agents. And so that makes it less likely to be able to re-sign players at a fair value for them as as players leading into next summer.”
So wait. They want to save the TPE for the summer, but then once you get to the summer a big impact guy isn't really franchise-altering? Then why wait. Just get someone like Harrison Barnes who is good, and under contract for 2 more years. I think what he's saying is that guys are going to want to hit the market to secure the bag, and that limits who they think they'll be able to re-sign. That makes some sense, but I keep going back to if all the players this summer stink, why wait?
As we know, any sort of move that comes in a sign and trade this summer with the TPE, is going to potentially cost you someone like Smart. That's an issue considering Ainge said he doesn't want to mess with his core. Maybe the "at this moment" is a tell. Why blow your assets now when you could use them later in a bigger deal. That makes sense to some degree.
I did love this quote though
“I think everybody – you guys are living in a world where other teams and agents are filling people’s heads up with rumors about what’s happening, and they’re being used,” Ainge said. “I live in a different world than the world of Twitter where it’s just ‘the Celtics and the Lakers and the Miami Heat and the Pacers are all trying to get player X’ and it’s not even true. Those things just exist to – those are the things that make fans’ heads explode that are not even real.
I mean this is true. Every single day we hear a "source" about how Ainge is in on someone. Same shit with the Heat and Lakers. I'm not kidding, this thread is fantastic
It's not an accident. You mention certain teams, it goes viral or gains traction on Twitter. People get to make their "Almost Ainge" jokes. Even when some of these things are not even real. The game is the game.
There are two ways to look at this situation the Celts are in. Is their 4 game streak a sign that this team is turning things around and it's worth adding around the edges in areas of need? Or, did this stretch convince Ainge that he doesn't have to do anything and just get healthy. Remember, he openly called this roster not good enough to contend for a title. To me, that means he has to then fix things, even if he doesn't want to use the TPE. He can still add. He can still upgrade.
We have exactly 14 days until the deadline. Rumors are going to swirl, sources will leak things, it's basically lying SZN in the NBA right now. It's been 6 years since we've seen Ainge pull the trigger on an in season deal, and I can't think of a better time than now to end that streak.