DENVER — It’s stunning how Dealing Danny basically conceded that nothing will happen over the next 48 hours in terms of major deals for the Celtics.
It was Tuesday morning at the Pepsi Center, and Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge sounded pessimistic about making a trade that would significantly upgrade the roster.
Ainge said he has no plans to surrender his best players. He said he’s not dealing rookie Jared Sullinger for anything less than market value. He’s not looking to move any of the Big Three. He’s not going to give away his cornerstones and prospects for late first-round draft picks.
Yet there is time for Ainge to conjure up something that will invigorate a fan base uncertain about this team’s potential. The trade deadline is Thursday at 3 p.m., and by then the Celtics will be only two games into a treacherous five-game road trip. A lot will be known by the time it is over.
There is a part of Ainge that wants to reward what’s remaining of his roster for its arduous work and perseverance through three major injuries. This is where his personal affection for his team gets involved, and in some ways it should.
He is loyal to those who are loyal to the Celtics, and so far those 10 players — soon to be 11 when Terrence Williams is cleared by his Chinese team to play — have been dedicated.
“It looks unlikely that anything will be done,” Ainge said. “It doesn’t look like our roster will have much change other than adding some players to fill in.
“There’s been a lot of conversation around the league, and we’ve certainly been very busy at it, but yeah, trades are very challenging to make. And then on top of it is we like our guys.
“I like watching this team play. I like the personalities of our team. We just need to find a way to give them the best chance to win with the resources we have.”
Even during the difficult times, when the Celtics were losing by 22 points to the Sacramento Kings, Ainge pledged confidence in his team. And after they won eight of nine games and zipped past the Milwaukee Bucks into the seventh slot in the Eastern Conference, he feels almost obligated to ride with this crew and then return next year with Rajon Rondo, Sullinger, and perhaps Leandro Barbosa along with some offseason additions.
“Oh yeah, this year there’s been much more [trade talk],” Ainge said. “We wouldn’t have been talking as much had we not had so many injuries. And we’re looking to give it a run.”
Ainge basically declared that if the Celtics decide to make a deal, they will be buyers and not sellers. That’s significant.
All-Star Weekend in Houston was peppered with rumors about Kevin Garnett going to the Clippers — so much so that Garnett asked reporters Saturday whether their entire interview session would be trade questions.
Ainge feels the same way.
“When trade rumors come out, that leads to a lot of conversation, too,” he said. “Rondo’s name comes out and Paul [Pierce’s] name comes out, KG’s name comes out, and you have to field a lot of wasted-time calls from media and from other teams.
“Sometimes the teams just try to predict what a team’s trying to accomplish. Are the Celtics trying to win a championship this year? Or are they going to retool? And because we’re sort of in that middle, we could go in either direction. That leads to a lot of calls.”
Ainge has no delusions. He fully understands that the Celtics’ chances of winning the Eastern Conference are nearly nil without Rondo, Sullinger, and more reinforcements — mainly because of the possibility of fatigue.
It seems Ainge feels an obligation to give Garnett and Pierce at least a fighting chance to compete this season.
So maybe he will refrain from any major moves. But it’s still too early to tell, despite assurances from Dealing Danny.
“My first choice is always to try to win and try to win now, especially when you have unique players like KG and Paul,” he said. “That’s the best option, always.
“But I think that the injuries have at least allowed me to ponder other possibilities.
“But it’s still going to be tough to convince me that [rebuilding] is what we need to do.”