Celtics fill out roster
Ainge additions strengthen bench
WALTHAM - Quietly, Danny Ainge has reconstructed the Celtics’ roster and has tried to dissipate concerns from locals about whether Boston will be a legitimate contender for the Eastern Conference title.
It was accomplished despite the Celtics being a luxury tax team under a new collective bargaining agreement, which is more stringent for the richer teams.
He has signed Chris Wilcox, acquired Keyon Dooling and Brandon Bass through trades, offered a guaranteed deal to Sasha Pavlovic, and even plucked intriguing center Greg Stiemsma from the NBADL for a long look.
While dangling Rajon Rondo as trade bait for Chris Paul, Ainge added more pieces to supplement the Celtics’ bench and turn the team over after some disappointing performances from the reserves last season. Coach Doc Rivers said after yesterday’s practice he might use as many as 11 players in his rotation because of the wealth of talent and the aging veteran starters.
Ainge said yesterday he might not be finished, but likes the retooled roster.
“We knew coming into the summer that we had limited resources,’’ Ainge said. “And it’s proven to be very challenging. It’s been a very chaotic week and there’s been a lot of time put in and we’re still trying to build our roster, but we like the guys that we’ve signed and the team that we have.’’
Chaotic may be an understatement for Ainge’s week. He desperately tried to pry Paul from New Orleans for Rondo, Jeff Green, and two first-round picks, but the Hornets never warmed enough to the return. Ainge then switched his focus on acquiring free agent David West through a sign-and-trade deal.
The Hornets would have had to take back Jermaine O’Neal and a younger player for the contracts to match, but New Orleans did not want to keep O’Neal’s expiring contract for the season and was unable to find a third team as a taker.
So the Celtics appear close to a finished product, but they are without a legitimate backup center and a reserve shooting guard.
Ainge was able to work the free agency of Glen Davis into a sign-and-trade deal for Bass. It appears the Celtics were not prepared to commit long term to Davis. Bass has two more years on his contract, the next year a player option, meaning he won’t affect the Celtics’ long-term plans of signing one or perhaps two major free agents.
“We’re trying to have great success this year, next year, and his contract length sort of fits into our timeline,’’ Ainge said.
“The biggest challenge is we had limited resources with our collective bargaining agreement. We have a lot of money tied up into our four All-Stars and we didn’t want to make long-term commitments.’’
So the Celtics, according to Ainge, are built for a two-year run with the current crew. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen are free agents after this season, but that does not mean Ainge can’t re-sign them at reduced prices, then add a premium free agent in the strong class of 2012.
But to improve the Celtics’ chances of competing against the Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat, and New York Knicks, he had to address the depth issue. Delonte West, Von Wafer, Davis, Nenad Krstic, Troy Murphy, and Shaquille O’Neal have been replaced by Bass, Keyon Dooling, Stiemsma, Wilcox, E’Twaun Moore, and JaJuan Johnson.
“We feel like we needed to improve our bench with better shooting, so we’ll see what team we’ll put out there on opening night,’’ he said. “We may be done, but we may not be.’’
Ainge remains in search of a backup center, although he won’t chase one looking for a long-term or over-the-market deal. He appears content with the current squad, but not satisfied.
“I still think our guys feel they can win,’’ Ainge said. “It’s hard to know when guys are getting older how much they have left. They’ve surprised me over the last couple of years. I remember two years ago when it wasn’t looking very good the second half of the year and they got to Game 7 of the NBA Finals and these guys had a lot left in the tank.
“I think we’ll know more about that a month into the season.’’