If that's really the case, then Ainge will not be swayed by the Celtics post-All-Star break renaissance, their admirable resolve to stay together for one last run or Kevin Garnett looking like he swapped Gatorade for the healing waters of Lourdes. He will ship Ray Allen out of town for the best deal he can make, whether it's a first-round pick or a promising young player. It probably won't be a popular deal or appear to be commensurate value at the time, but it will be an asset that can jump start the rebuilding process.
That doesn't appear to be the way Ainge is leaning, listening to his interview this morning on WEEI.
"I have no desire to move anybody on our team," Ainge said on WEEI. "It's just I have to look and so far I have nothing. We don't have anything that we're really excited about right now. If somebody steps up and ups their offers today, who knows what might happen by the trade deadline. But I am prepared and comfortable with letting the season play out, and if somebody wants to throw in first-round draft picks or give quality young players, that's something we have to consider."
The Celtics have given Ainge an obvious and easy out here. He can take a pass on dismantling this team, and not appear to be contradicting himself, even though he would be.
No one would blame him if he takes the out, but it would run counter to what he's always maintained -- that when it was time to turn out the lights on the New Big Three Era he would flip the switch without hesitation. But it's much easier to let this team play it out and then point to the cap space you'll have this summer from the expiring contracts of Allen ($10 million) and Garnett ($21.2 million)
Other than Miami and Chicago, who is there for the Green to fear in the East? Orlando? Dwight Howard is so indecisive he makes Mitt Romney look dogmatic. Indiana has a nice young team and has played well against the Celtics, but the playoffs are a different deal. Who is the crunch time scorer for the 76ers?
With 25 games to play, the Celtics enter the day just a half-game behind Atlanta for the No. 6 seed in the East and 1 1/2 games behind Philadelphia for the Atlantic division lead and at least the No. 4 seed. If the Celtics can avoid Miami or Chicago in the first round, there is a very good chance of them getting to the second.
But this franchise isn't built on winning playoff rounds. It's ethos is hanging banners. Unless LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook all come down with polio, that's not happening.
Ainge had to know that KG, Paul Pierce, Allen, and Rajon Rondo were going to make a compelling case for him not to break them up. These guys are the anti-Red Sox. When the pressure and criticism mount, they play their best. A team with the personalities of Garnett, Rondo, and Pierce is naturally going to be a defiant bunch.
They've made it both harder for him and easier. They've provided him with both pause and a built-in excuse.
"I think our team has great chemistry and our team is maximizing its talent level," Ainge said. "I don't think that there's necessarily a change that's needed, other than we need to bolster our front line just to eat away minutes. KG and Brandon, they're playing a ton of minutes."
That doesn't sound like a GM who plans to enact a rebuilding plan today.
Trading Allen now would be the boldest move of Ainge's career. Some would argue that he already proved his audacity when he shipped Kendrick Perkins out of town at last year's NBA trading deadline.
But that was different. Ainge was breaking up the starting five of a team that had won an NBA title and come excruciatingly close to another. However, Ainge made that deal when Perkins, a pending free agent, was out of action and hurt. His team was 41-14, and had built most of that mark without Perk.
Plus, Ainge believed that Shaquille O'Neal and his heel were going to heal. The Celtics were famously 27-9 with Shaq in the lineup.
The deal blew up in Ainge's face like a trick cigar, but it did not require the same level of cold-blooded conviction that dealing away Allen would now.
We're about to find out just how bold Danny the Dealer really is.
...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.