Ainge finds positive signs in Celtics struggles

Ainge finds positive signs in Celtics struggles
April 17, 2014, 1:45 am
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BOSTON — Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, addressed the media prior to Wednesday's 118-102 season-ending loss to Washington to discuss a wide range of Celtics-related topics.

Here's a transcript of the press conference:

Ainge's thoughts on season as a whole:

Danny Ainge: “Was a long season, I guess not that long, but it was a tough, tough year and I saw a lot of positive things from individuals. I thought our team gave good effort most nights. I think consistency was our biggest challenge and I don’t think the team was a great fit, great mix. But individually I like what I saw in almost every player. I just feel like we didn’t have the size inside and to protect the rim. I thought that was a big factor that cost us a lot of games and we didn’t finish a lot of games down the stretch.”

Ainge on working on more flexibility for next season and not being too concerned with personnel?

DA: “I wouldn’t say that. I think that we started the season out very concerned with the personnel. I thought Vitor (Faverano) gave us some size at times; his injury hurt us some there. He was a rookie and playing inconsistent but showing some signs of being a presence inside. I think all the way up to the trade deadline we looked at opportunities to make our team better, but we wouldn’t sacrifice draft picks to make us better for just this year, but we look for opportunities to make our team better in the long term.”

Ainge on Brad Stevens improvements going forward

DA: “I think Brad did a great job this year. He’s a special person and a great coach and the players see it. The players see his work ethic, they see his integrity and they see his intelligence so I think he’s earned the respect of the team in a really difficult situation this year and I know he’s going to get better. He’ll be better next year and he’ll be better the next year. He’s a sponge, and he’s very intelligent with a great work ethic and I couldn’t be happier.”

Ainge on how long before this team can contend for a championship again

DA: “I don’t know. How does anybody know that? What do you want me to like make a prediction or something?”

Ainge on whether he's confident that he has the pieces to put together a contender quickly

DA: “I don’t know anything about what we can do. I’m hopeful, I’ll work my tail off to duplicate what we’ve done in the past but there are no guarantees.”

Ainge on Kelly Olynyk's season

DA: “I think Kelly had a really good second half. I think he gained some confidence when he went to the All-Star break and represented the rookie team. I’ve been really happy with how he’s improved. The coaches did a good job of getting him stronger, a good job of teaching him the game and I think he’s a great, great player.”

More from Ainge on Kelly Olynyk's growth

“Its just like all young players, we say this every year, consistency is the challenge and Kelly has gotten more consistent as the year has gone on and if you get 3 really good games out of 10 that’s not bad for rookies. You hope that he gets 7 out of 10 good games as they progress and I feel that Kelly will get more consistent just with experience.”

Ainge on Rajon Rondo

DA: “I think that Rajon will have the best year of his career next year. I think he’s sort of in a phase of his life where he’s matured, he’s just smarter, the game has slowed for him. I think he’ll be really healthy and fresher with a summer of strength. You sort of bypass the mental anguish coming back from the knee surgery and the ACL and that’s been sort of the pattern of guys in the past. The first few, 30, 20 games whatever is an adjustment period so I’m confident he’ll have the best year of his career.”

Ainge on Jared Sullinger saying he’ll be a totally different player next year

DA: “Sully had a good year this year. I think that he wants to be in better shape and we talked about that all year and I think that he can.”

Ainge on free agency

“I’m not talking about free agents right now. I don’t know the answer to that. There’s not very many, you know the difference makers in the free agent class right now. We also don’t know ... there’s a lot of players with player options and team options and so let’s wait and see who the free agent class is until we comment on it.”

Ainge on Jeff Green

DA: “I think that this has been a transition year for us. I think Jeff had a good year and Jeff has been consistently a very good three point shooter and very good in transition offense throughout his whole career and I think that he got even better at that this year and he got more versatile. The fact that he wasn’t more of a more below the crease or corner and 3 point shooter, he shot the ball from all over the 3 point line, he shot the 3 point shot off the dribble, things that we wanted and we encouraged him to do to expand his game. He became more a focal point of the offense and he had his ups and downs with that, but I think his game is complete and I think that Jeff is improving as a player. I think he still has a lot of growth still left in his game and I think he’s going to have a better year next year then he had this year.”

Ainge on where he stands with Avery Bradley as a possible top priority this summer.

DA: “I don’t have a list, they are all priorities, every player is priority. Avery had a good season. I’ve seen improvement in Avery this year and the biggest issue with Avery has just been health. He plays hard and he’s had some injuries, but none of them are injuries that should prevent him from becoming a great player.”

Ainge on how good Sullinger can be and setting goals.

DA: “I think that that’s a case I can say with a handful of our players I think that as you mature and you learn how to work harder and with more intensity and you learn how to push yourself to max effort I think the players can get better. I think that Jared is still very young and I don’t think he understands, yet, how good he is. He’s heard it; he’s heard it from a lot of people: his father, from his agent to his coaches how good he can be, but until he believes how good he can be and really puts in the time and I really do believe that Jared will this summer and is going to and be in better shape next year.”

Ainge on Jared Sullinger's conditioning

DA: “Jared was in very good shape for the draft and had a good year last year as we all know before his injury and then this year he was held back just because of the back surgery. During the season and trying to do the conditioning and strength and playing a lot of minutes after back surgery there was a lot of challenges that way and I’m not making excuses for Jared. I just feel like this first summer he’s ending the season with a slightly sprained ankle that will be fine in a few days. I think he’ll be able to go all out with just one focus and just focus on his conditioning and I think he’ll do a really good job of that.”

Ainge on trading Rondo who is set to be a free agent in 2015.

DA: “Listen there’s no one person that’s more important than the whole organization. We need to be good because we all want to be good. I want my coach to stay, I want Jeff Green to want to be here, I want free agents that are out there looking at us play to want to play here. I want fans to want to come to the game, ya know everybody wants to win, but not just for one player, not just for one person. We all want to win and that’s what we are trying to accomplish.”

Ainge on fireworks expectation

I think the 4th of July we’ll have some fireworks. I don’t know, we’re hopeful; I have some ideas and some plans that I’d like to do but there’s just no guarantee that we can do it. We need to find good trading partners, we always are trying to make fireworks every summer we try to do something that’s unique and special and we will definitely try this summer.”

Reporter: If fireworks not there would you pick up more draft picks

DA: “That’s a depends; that depends on what else we can accomplish, what other options we have. I could see that possibly happening, acquiring more assets. I could see giving up our assets, our young assets and some draft picks for players as well and everywhere in between.”

Reporter: Players having an injury history affect money offered to them: “It can, it can yea. Sure.”

Reporter: Coaching in Phoenix – what was the takeaway your first year coaching – thoughts for Brad going into this summer

DA: “I don’t know. I think Brad (Stevens) is a lot smarter than I am at coaching and he has a lot more experience than I did. But I remember in my first year of coaching I took away from the fact that I need to simplify the game rather than trying to do too much. I think Brad figured that out during the course of this year. I think that he simplified things, but I think that every team is unique and different as well. I have no worries about Brad, Brad is maybe the only thing in this whole organization I’m not concerned about.”