Q&A: Danny Ainge

Posted by C.L. Anthony on Sunday, February 22, 2015 with No comments
Courtesy of Adam Himmelsbach

How did you approach this week?
The timing was very interesting. I thought Phoenix was making some changes and I didn’t think we were going to have a deal going into [Thursday]. I thought we were too far apart on getting a deal done for Isaiah Thomas. But things changed and terms of the deal got more in our favor. They came more to what we were trying to do.
Did the frenetic finish around the league affect things?

I think that’s what happened. Some teams talk about a trade in terms of one team for one team, but when you have a whole bunch of moving parts happening, sometimes that changes things up. So I thought it was a good deal for both teams.

What was your focus in the days leading up to the deadline?
I think the days leading up to it were really, really busy. A lot of conversations, all of us in my camp, Austin [Ainge] and Mike [Zarren] and myself were all on the phone pretty constantly, communicating with different teams about different things. So there were a lot of conversations leading up, and then yesterday, it was quiet. It seemed as though there really wasn’t anything that was going to happen.”
Then at about 2 o’clock, about an hour before the deadline, it looked like there was a possibility of the Detroit deal happening. The Pistons had some things they were going through, their Reggie Jackson stuff, and maybe the fact that trade happened is why Detroit happened with us.
What do you like about Isaiah Thomas?
I’m excited. I like Isaiah. I’ve liked Isaiah for a while. This was a deal we would have done at any time to acquire him, so we are excited to have him. I like that he’s an efficient scorer. I like that he can run the pick-and-roll and that he is unafraid of big moments.
He can score with the ball in his hands and he can score as a spot-up shooter. And I like his personality. I think Isaiah is a big personality, and I think as he matures — he’s still a fairly young player — I think as he matures he has the potential to be a great leader.
How do you envision Thomas and Marcus Smart playing together?
I think both of those guys are good enough players that they can play with anybody. I think Isaiah can play with any group, and Marcus can, too.
I think they’re completely different types of players, and along with Avery [Bradley], I feel like we have shooting and scoring. What we didn’t have in the backcourt yet was a good pick-and-roll player that can actually get in the paint and score some baskets.
Even though he’s little, he’s a very good scorer, one of the best scorers in the paint with little floating shots, and so forth. He’s also a good 3-point shooter. I think Isaiah is better than anybody we have or have had in a while at scoring or creating offense in the pick-and-roll.
Do you have a sense of Thomas’ timetable?
When the trade was going down he was on a plane to Minneapolis yesterday. I didn’t get in touch with him until later. He was flying in today and I think he’s getting his physical tomorrow, and then we’re not sure where we’ll send him.
What was his reaction when you spoke?
He seemed very honored and excited to be a Celtic. He’s a high-energy guy.
What was the goal of the Tayshaun Prince trade?
We wanted to see how [Luigi Datome and Jonas Jerebko] fit with us. They’re players we’ve liked before that we watched play and develop, and we want to see how they fit in our system. We want to see how they fit with our coaches and mesh with our players. Datome is a great shooter and Jerebko is a bigger perimeter player who can do a lot of the things Kelly [Olynyk] does.”
Do you see James Young getting more playing time after Prince’s departure?
I think that’s a goal within our organization, regardless of who’s on our roster. There were no trades that we needed to do [to give Young more playing time]. I think James was earning minutes in camp right before he hurt his hamstring. He was earning minutes right as he had his shoulder injury, and he was earning them right before he had the flu. He’s been on the bubble. We’ve liked what he’s done in the D-League and what he’s done in practice.
What kind of stability and continuity might it bring the team now that the deadline has passed?
It’s obviously unfortunate that [Jared Sullinger] is out with an injury, because he’s been playing better and playing very well. But continuity is always something everybody strives for. But there was a lot of change all around the league yesterday.
Were you stunned by the number of moves?
Most of the things that did happen, I’m not surprised by any of it, because like I said, leading up to the trade deadline we talked to every team at some point. So I’m not surprised by the players that were traded, but at 1 o’clockl it didn’t seem like there was going to be that much activity. It was pretty crazy how the last couple of hours went.
What would be the biggest benefit of making the playoffs this season?
I think the benefits of making the playoffs are just playing in important games night in and night out, giving young players the opportunity. It’s a much better experience of winning and understanding what it takes to win, so that would be the benefit — better experience for them.
How will the team proceed without Sullinger?
The other guys just have to step up. Other players will get opportunities, so we’ll see. But every team goes through injuries.
Now that the trade deadline is over, where does your focus turn?
We’re just evaluating. We’re evaluating players in our team now, and developing our players right now is probably our No. 1 priority, because we have a lot of players we really like. And making a plan for free agency and the draft. We have obviously a lot of draft picks, so we’ll be talking to a lot of teams the closer the draft gets. We’ll be going to a lot of camps and watching a lot of college tournaments.
So last night, after everything was said and done, did you have a chance to unwind at all?
I think we got done with the trade part last night at 10:30. We communicated with all the people, the players that were leaving us and the players that were coming in. I thanked my guys on my staff for their hard work and then we all sat down in my office and had some pizza and were watching college basketball. Getting ready for the draft.
Then early this morning, scheduling all the physicals and trying to get all the travel and paperwork that goes with trades, and just the next phase, as we get ready for the draft and free agency coming up.