LOS ANGELES — The Celtics negotiated until the final moments before the 3 p.m. trade deadline Thursday, trying to work deals that would upgrade the current roster and add youth and talent to future ones.
But the only move president of basketball operations Danny Ainge could muster was a three-player deal that landed Wizards shooting guard Jordan Crawford — once renowned for his dunk on LeBron James at a Nike Camp while at Xavier — for injured guard Leandro Barbosa and veteran center Jason Collins.
The deadline passed without Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce being moved, although their names were discussed. An NBA source said that, despite rumors, the Clippers never made a formal offer for Garnett, who has a no-trade clause. Ainge also discussed a deal for Atlanta’s Josh Smith, but the price included Pierce and was too steep.
Ainge astutely used Barbosa’s expiring contract, along with Collins, to acquire a 24-year-old guard who has averaged double-figure scoring in all three of his seasons. Crawford comes as an inexpensive addition, playing on his rookie contract potentially until 2015.
Coach Doc Rivers was uncertain when Crawford would join the club.
The 6-foot-4-inch guard was drafted by the Nets in 2010 — the 27th overall pick, eight picks after Celtics guard Avery Bradley — and was immediately traded to the Hawks. Atlanta moved him to Washington in a trade-deadline deal that included Kirk Hinrich on Feb. 23, 2011. In 26 games after the trade, he averaged 16.3 points, becoming one of the league’s top rookies.
This season, Crawford averaged 13.2 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 3.7 assists in 43 games with Washington. With the return of John Wall and the development of rookie Bradley Beal, Crawford was reluctant to accept a bench role and clashed with coach Randy Wittman.
Rivers and Wittman are close, and the Celtics coach acknowledged Crawford’s attitude issues in Washington.
“I know he can score and that’s something we needed,” Rivers said. “Losing Barbosa [to a torn left ACL], I kept saying that’s hurt us. We don’t have that wild card off the bench, and I hope [Crawford] gives us that.
“I know about the other stuff, too. I’m hoping, obviously, [with] our staff, and we have some veteran players around him, that he can grow.”
In Washington, Crawford was known for being a streaky shooter, similar to Barbosa, but he was criticized for his lack of defensive intensity and soon lost playing time. He did not play in Washington’s last four games and hadn’t played more than 24 minutes in a game since Jan. 4.
“He wasn’t playing,” said Rivers. “The good thing and the bad thing I hear about him is his confidence. You rarely say that. It’s tough for him [there] to buy into a role because he looked at himself as ‘I’m better than them.’ I’m hoping that we don’t have that issue here. Obviously, if we do, then it will be a problem.”
The Celtics have a defensive structure that Rivers stresses, and he said Crawford will have to fit into that to gain playing time. Rivers has turned midseason acquisitions without reputations as defenders into capable defenders before.
“He hasn’t been a great defender, but he’s an athlete,” Rivers said. “The way I always look at an athlete is, if you’re an athlete, you can be a defender. That’s one thing I’ve had no problem with.”
The Celtics were hesitant to part with Collins, a hard-working center who had become popular in the locker room, creating a niche as Garnett’s backup.
Collins said he was informed of the trade through a text message from a friend, who read of it on a basketball website. Ainge called a few minutes later to relay the disappointing news.
“Yes, but that’s part of the NBA,” Collins said. “You’re not just making a commitment, but you’re making a commitment to yourself and then to the team and understand that there’s a business side to the sport. It’s not the first time I’ve been traded. Obviously, I understand everything that’s involved in it.”
Collins, 34, was signed in August and lost approximately 40 pounds. He developed into a solid defender and enforcer the Celtics lacked over the past few years.
Rivers wasn’t eager to part with Collins, even though he was only playing 10 minutes a night.
“Let me just say this: We lost a very important guy in our locker room in Jason,” Rivers said. “You take away that and then you add something else, you just never know with your locker room.
“That was very difficult for me. I protect my locker room. And to let a guy go like that out of your locker room, for me that was hard to do. Really hard.”
The coach also said more pressure will be on inconsistent center Chris Wilcox to perform as Garnett’s primary backup.
“Chris has struggled,” Rivers said. “We’re putting a lot of pressure on Chris. Chris is going to have to play well for us.”