Danny Ainge’s public speaking does not always inspire confidence. When he described Jeff Green as Boston’s most efficient player during the playoffs, I cringed before checking the stats to make sure my intuition was correct. It was—Green finished the playoffs a few thousand miles from leading Boston in efficiency. Later, when Ainge said Avery Bradley would have been a top-five choice in this year’s draft, my stomach did a similar somersault. Thankfully, the Celtics did not have a top-five pick this season, or else they might have taken the second coming of Mr. Bradley.
Most times, I suspect Ainge has ulterior motives for his comments. By hyping Green’s efficiency, he could potentially sway the opinion of the gullible fraction of Celtics fans, and perhaps even boost Green’s trade value among miserable GMs (note: I understand it would take an Isiah Thomas-ian GM to believe that Green was so efficient). Similarly, I doubt Ainge even believed his own Bradley comments. They were likely said for other reasons, probably to take the heat off a draft selection that, after one year, seems ill-fated. You see, Ainge owns a fiercely competitive disposition; he does not like to admit mistakes, at least publicly.
But sometimes, Ainge’s words fail to stoke my insecurities and instead cause confidence to surge within me like lava in an active volcano. Today, Ainge spoke freely about Boston’s plan this offseason, and his plan echoes everything I would have hoped for. Here are his beliefs (WEEI):
- The Celtics can contend for one more season, but only if they build a superior supporting cast
- After one more year, the championship window will close on the Big Three era
- The Celtics will look everywhere for big men this summer
- E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson are solid, well-schooled players who will contend for playing time next season
And, most importantly:
- Ainge has a strategy for building next year’s team, and that strategy is to balance contending next season with maintaining cap space for the summer of 2012
Ainge did not entirely rule out the possibility that the Celtics could trade for or sign a player with a long-term contract. But for the first time, he noted the Celtics will avoid any long-term contracts this summer unless the right player comes along.
“I shouldn’t say it’s not going to happen,” he said. “It depends on who that player is, but our objective is to not have that happen.”
Ainge added, “The challenge this summer is going to be to try to win a championship and to not jeopardize that cap space that we have for the following year. That’s going to be a real challenge for us. If there is some opportunity to do a good deal that might jeopardize our opportunity to ‘start fresh,’ for lack of a better term, I think that that’s going to be the biggest challenge, that we maintain our patience and stick with the plan through that process.”
We now know Ainge’s mind is in the right place, a place that consists of maximizing the present while also planning for the future. Now, let’s just hope he knows what to do with Jeff Green and Glen Davis go (hint: let them go, or better yet, sign-and-trade them for expiring contracts who will help next year).
The present still matters, of course, but transitioning to the future beckons as Ainge’s biggest challenge yet.