Challenges ahead for Ainge in building C's roster

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Challenges ahead for Ainge in building C's roster

WALTHAM Danny Ainge has spent months preparing for this free agency period.

That doesn't make his job that much easier, however.

Ainge has a team that's three years removed from winning the franchise's 17th NBA title.

Their core group, with the exception of Rajon Rondo, are all on the downside of their careers. And Rondo has been the subject of more trade rumors than any other player in the NBA this offseason.

Oh, did we mention the C's have six players under contract?

And their only chips to play other than making a trade, will be a midlevel exception worth 3 million, and a slew of veteran minimum contracts.

"Every year is a challenge; brings different challenges," said Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations.

Ainge, taking a moment to reminisce on the not-that-long-ago good ol' days -- you know, 2009.

"A few years back, we had a target," Ainge said. "We went after Rasheed (Wallace). It was easy that way. We don't have the same flexibility this summer to do some of those things."

Ainge has a list of players that he would love to bring to Boston.

But he understands that it won't be easy building the C's into a team that can compete with Miami and Chicago for Eastern Conference supremacy.

"There's a lot of money out there, teams with cap space," Ainge said. "So players are waiting for the big pay days. We have to be patient in this process."

In the meantime, Ainge will spend a good deal of time working the phones as well as taking calls from other GMs to see if the best way to bolster the Celtics' roster is via trade.

"There's a lot of GMs out there that are anxious for the season to start," Ainge said. "And so there's been a lot of conversation. That's my job, to field all the calls from all the teams and to find the value of my players. That's what I do."

Those conversations have centered around Boston's Big 4, but Rondo's name - more than any other Celtic player - has been the one that has drawn the most media attention.

But with teams unable to talk with players just yet, Ainge has not been able to speak with the players directly about the trade rumors.

"Usually I'm around when these things happen," he said. "This is a unique situation. I will talk to the players and share with them the truth about rumors and anything else."

Regardless of whether Ainge is looking to move players or not, trade rumors will not go away anytime soon.

"Trade rumors are part of the world we live in," Ainge said. "It's a media circus out there. Everybody's name has been in trade rumors, and everyone's name will. If you're worth your salt, you'll be mentioned in a trade somewhere along the line. So it's part of the business that players have to deal with as well."

WATCH: Celtics vs. Raptors

WATCH: Celtics vs. Raptors

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Celtics-Raptors preview: DeRozan, Lowry a challenge for Bradley, C's

Celtics-Raptors preview: DeRozan, Lowry a challenge for Bradley, C's

BOSTON – Avery Bradley doesn’t mind being a standout, but this is probably not what he had in mind. 

Injuries have ravaged the Boston Celtics’ starting five to the point where only one player, Bradley, has been with the first unit in all 22 games this season. 

Just like Bradley was looked upon to step his game up in the absence of Isaiah Thomas (right groin) at Orlando on Wednesday, he will once again be challenged to lead Boston (13-9) to victory tonight when the Thomas-less Celtics face the Toronto Raptors. 

Bradley’s emergence as a two-way talent this season has overshadowed at times what has been another season of elite play defensively. 

And he’ll need to be on top of his defensive game tonight against a Raptors All-Star backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. 

Both Lowry and DeRozan present a different kind of challenge for Bradley who will spend time defending each of them at various points during the game. 

Lowry has good size, strength and deceptive quickness in addition to an under-rated perimeter game that will keep Bradley on his toes for sure. 

This season he's averaging 20.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and a career-high 7.6 assists while shooting 42.9 percent on 3's which is also a career mark. 

And DeRozan is having the kind of season that might get him a few league MVP votes. 

His 28.0 points per game ranks fifth in the NBA, but making his numbers even more impressive is that unlike most guards DeRozan doesn’t generate much offense from three-pointers.

DeRozan averages 1.8 three-point attempts per game which is the fewest attempts among any player ranked among the league’s top-25 scorers.

The 6-foot-7 All-Star is the master of the mid-range game which accounts for 31.5 percent of the points he scores. And when he’s not shooting the mid-range, he’s working a defender in one-on-one iso-situations. 

That helps explain why 76.4 percent of his two-point made field goals are unassisted. 

But here’s the thing about Bradley. 

As much as we give him props for what he does defensively, it’s his offense that has put him on the map as a potential All-Star this season. 

Bradley is averaging a career-high 17.9 points while shooting 47.2 percent from the field. He’s also averaging a career-high 7.8 rebounds per game in addition to shooting a career-high 40.7 percent on 3's.

But for Bradley, individual accolades are only going to come his way by the Celtics winning games; preferably against above-average teams like the Toronto Raptors.

And that would make both Bradley and the Celtics stand out this season.