Celtics still on the phones, but nothing imminent

Celtics still on the phones, but nothing imminent
March 14, 2012, 3:38 am
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LOS ANGELES With the NBA trading deadline less than 48 hours away, word around the NBA is that the Boston Celtics are still having lots of conversations but no deal is imminent.

Danny Ainge, who is traveling back to Boston today, told CSNNE.com on Monday night that he thinks his team won't change much, if at all, between now and Thursday's 3 p.m. (EST) trade deadline.

"It's not because of a lack of trying or having conversations with other teams," Ainge, the C's president of basketball operations, told CSNNE.com. "We just haven't come across a deal that we feel good about, that will make us a better team."

The Celtics are trying to do the seemingly impossible right now.

They want to upgrade their roster, particularly in the frontcourt where they are painfully thin. They could become even thinner depending on the news Ainge receives from the Celtics' medical staff about Chris Wilcox and Jermaine O'Neal.

But at the same time, they don't want to tinker with their core group (which has been banged up all season) or make a deal that will hamper the franchise's flexibility in the near future.

In addition to having a roster in which just about every player is potential trade bait, the Celtics also have a pair of first-round draft picks in this year's draft - their own pick and one from the Clippers that they received in the Kendrick Perkins trade - that they could use as enticements to get a deal done.

However, Ainge appears reluctant to part with either pick right now which makes sense when you consider this year's draft will likely be one of the deepest in years.

"We would like to do something that can help us in the short-term, obviously," Ainge said. "But we don't want to necessarily do that at the cost of our long-term goals, either."

The Celtics player whose name has come up the most in media reports involving the C's and trade talks has been Rajon Rondo, the 26-year-old point guard who is far and away, their most valuable asset because of his age, experience and ability.

But multiple league sources on Tuesday said that Ray Allen remains the one Boston player that's most likely to be traded, although there has been a "significant" amount of interest in Avery Bradley as well.

One Eastern Conference official was told inquiring about Bradley's availability was pointless because, "Danny loves that kid, and now that he's playing and playing well . . . he's worth more to them to keep, then to flip."

In terms of the Big Four, Ainge has made it clear that he expects a significant return for moving any of them.

Former Celtic Larry Bird, now the GM of the Indiana Pacers, told ESPN.com's Jackie McMullan that Ainge offered Allen for Tyler Hansborough and a future draft pick.

Bird said he rejected the offer.

"If that's the value Danny's putting on Ray, he ain't getting it," Bird said.

The only Celtics player who appears to be safe, is . . . Rondo?

Ainge told CSNNE.com on Monday that he will not be trading Rajon Rondo prior to Thursday's deadline.

Of course that could change if a team like, say New Jersey, were willing to part with Deron Williams which a Nets source said "ain't happening."

Short of landing that kind of player, Rondo's future beyond Thursday with the C's appears pretty solid.

But with all the injuries and out-of-nowhere health concerns (Jeff Green, Chris Wilcox, for example), you would think the Celtics would be eager to shake up things.

That might have been the case if this were not such a condensed season, which has forced GMs like Ainge to draw condensed conclusions about their respective teams.

"I feel I have a pretty good grasp on how each of the guys is playing, and what our holes are," Ainge said. "There's a lot of good things going on. Our offense has been a lot better. We've been playing small ball, and we've been getting beat on the glass but our defense has remained good and our offense has gotten better. So we have to find different ways to win. We have to play to our strengths."

Boston (22-19) is 7-2 since returning from the All-Star break, but has been outrebounded by 9.2 rebounds per game during that span. Over the course of the whole season, they've been outrebounded by five rebounds per game.

Poor rebounding may very well be the price the Celtics have to pay, in order to win.

And that's why the idea that this trading deadline could come and go without the Celtics getting a deal done, isn't that big a stretch.

"I like our team a lot," Ainge said. "Of course we'd like to be healthier and have a few more wins, but like I said, you can see we are getting better in a lot of areas. The biggest problem we have now is rebounding. And depending on what the doctors say on Wednesday about Chris and Jermaine, I'll have a better idea after that about what we may need to do with our bigs situation."