BOSTON – The third-worst season in Boston Celtics history is over, leaving Danny Ainge with plenty of problems as he continues to rebuild the team.
Rookie coach Brad Stevens isn’t one of them.
“I have no worries about Brad,” Ainge, the Celtics president of basketball operations, said. “Brad is maybe the only thing in this whole organization I’m not concerned about.”
Stevens will lead more rebuilding that began even before the season when the Celtics traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets. That and other deals brought numerous draft choices.
Yet the Celtics started surprisingly strong, going 12-14. But they were 13-43 the rest of the way as they traded veterans Jordan Crawford and Courtney Lee, lost Gerald Wallace to a season-ending knee injury and gave point guard Rajon Rondo, their only star, plenty of days off after he missed the first 40 games following major knee surgery.
They didn’t deliberately lose games to get a better chance for a high draft pick. But they weren’t as concerned with winning now as they were about winning in the future.
“All the way up to the trade deadline we looked at opportunities to make our team better,” Ainge said, “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.”
The Celtics tied Utah for the fourth-worst record and have a 33.7 percent chance of getting one of the top three draft picks and a 10.4 percent chance to get the No. 1 pick. Their first pick is guaranteed to be no lower than eighth. They also have a pick obtained in the Nets trade, the 17th or 18th depending on a coin flip.
Might Ainge package some of his picks with current players in a blockbuster trade?
After all, he gave up youth after the Celtics went 24-58 in 2006-07 and obtained Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. Boston won the NBA championship the next season.
Does Ainge expect more offseason “fireworks,” a word co-owner Wyc Grousbeck recently used in looking ahead?
“I think the Fourth of July we’ll have some fireworks,” Ainge said. “We’re hopeful. I have some ideas and some plans that I would 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.”
Trading Rondo, entering the last year of his contract, would fit that description.
Asked after Boston’s 118-102 loss to the Washington Wizards in the season finale Wednesday night if he would like to return, Rondo said, “next question.”
He can work out diligently this summer, something he couldn’t do following his knee surgery, and Ainge expects him to have “the best year of career.”