By A.Sherrod Blakely
WALTHAM It's that time of year again.
The NBA trade deadline is just a couple weeks away (Feb. 24), and the Boston Celtics are looking around sort of.
Every year, Danny Ainge does his due diligence to pursue any deal that he believes will bring the C's closer to winning a championship.
And with all the injured Celtics, you would think he would be even more pro-active, right?
"Right now, we're a little bit depleted," acknowledged Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations. "But we have three games to go before we have the (All-Star) break. We feel not too far after the All-Star break, we'll have most of our team back intact. So that's encouraging."
On Wednesday, injuries limited the Celtics to suiting up just 10 players for practice.
The roll call for injured Celtics includes: Marquis Daniels (spinal cord bruise); Semih Erden (right adductor strain); Jermaine O'Neal (left knee surgery); Shaquille O'Neal (right Achilles tendon) and Delonte West (right wrist).
All but Jermaine O'Neal are expected back before or shortly after the All-star break. The timetable for his return is late-March or early April.
While Ainge's intention may be to keep this core group together, there is a wild card of sorts in his plan: Marquis Daniels.
The Celtics are optimistic that Daniels will return to the floor in 1-2 months.
However, that timetable might be adjusted after the C's get more up-to-date results.
Because of that uncertainty, Boston may be forced to pursue trading for a backup small forward.
"The Marquis situation is still a little bit up in the air," Ainge said. "We'll probably know more in another week or so of what's going on there, what's going on in Marquis' mind, get some opinions of different doctors."
From there, Ainge will determine if the C's need to stay their current course and let players heal, or pursue a potential trade.
If Ainge decides a change has to be made, it doesn't necessarily have to come about via a trade.
There are a number of players who are currently seeing little to no playing time that might be in line for a buyout that might make them more attractive to the Celtics.
However, the Celtics would have to waive someone currently on the roster, in order to sign a player who has accepted a buyout elsewhere.
And while Ainge doesn't rule out any method that will improve the C's, the most likely course for the Celtics to take will be either to stand pat with the group they have, or pursue adding a player via trade.
But between now and the trading deadline, the Celtics will keep looking around sort of.