Celtics proceed with patience

Team waiting to fill in the gaps

Danny Ainge said the Celtics “have a lot of needs’’ to address after the lockout. Danny Ainge said the Celtics “have a lot of needs’’ to address after the lockout. (File/Josh Reynolds/For the Globe)
By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / December 2, 2011
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WALTHAM - Training camp opens in a week, the season kicks off 16 days later, and right now the Celtics have just enough players to run a layup line.

There are roster spots to fill, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has a list of names he’d like to fill them with, and since being allowed by the league to talk to player agents as of Wednesday, he has been on the phones.

It would be nice, he joked, to at least have five players for the starters to practice against.

“Hopefully we’ll be close on Dec. 9, but there may be some straggling players,’’ Ainge said. “But hopefully when we start training camp, we’ll at least have 10.’’

Everything is in the early stages.

“We have a lot of needs,’’ Ainge said. “We’ve got our whole bench. We have the point guard position, wing position, and big guys to fill.’’

The tentative collective bargaining agreement between the NBA owners and players hasn’t been finalized or ratified, but the league has allowed teams to start preparing themselves for the start of a 66-game season.

The Celtics are already over the salary cap, so Ainge will have to construct this team with little wiggle room, likely doing some bargain shopping to fill the eight roster spots.

“Every year’s a challenge and brings different challenges,’’ Ainge said. “A few years back we had a target and went after Rasheed [Wallace] and it was easy that way. We don’t have the same flexibility [this year] to do some of those things.

“But we’re just in the game. We have a list of players that we’d like to get. Right now there’s a lot of money out there, a lot of teams with cap space. So players are waiting for the big paydays. So we have to be patient in this process.’’

Team officials are standing by, awaiting word from the league on everything from the revised schedule to when they can begin communicating with players.

Ainge and coach Doc Rivers still can’t talk to players, although the Celtics practice facility in Waltham was open yesterday for players to work out. No one stopped by HealthPoint yesterday, but Rivers expects them to start trickling in.

“I think we have a really professional group - at least the guys we have - and they’ll be in the gym,’’ Rivers said. “I think they’ve been in the gym, quite honestly. Every time I go to dinner in Boston, I hear a story about one of them playing at some YMCA or something, and that’s a good thing. They’re going to work on their craft.’’

Ainge has already addressed his own free agents, reaching out to agents for Glen Davis and Delonte West.

“We’ve had conversations with their representatives, along with many other representatives,’’ said Ainge. “So that would indicate that we have some interest.’’

Ainge said he would like to bring back restricted free agent Jeff Green, who was offered a tender before the lockout began in July, and he shot down rumors of trading Rajon Rondo.

One of the most talked-about wrinkles in the new collective bargaining agreement is the amnesty clause that will allow teams to waive one player before the season and wash his salary from the books. It’s not an option the Celtics will use this season, Ainge said.

But because of the new provision, big-name players with large contracts will become the NBA equivalent of foreclosed homes, available at a discount for teams like the Celtics looking for a deal.

Ainge said it is unlikely that the Celtics will take advantage of those deals, but added, “We’ll keep an eye on it.’’

The core of the team will remain in place, Ainge insisted, and he is confident that with the right complementary pieces, it can contend for a championship.

“We think we’ll have a good roster, we like our guys, and the core group of guys are very special, and we think we’ll have a strong bench also,’’ Ainge said.

The Celtics are cramming a long process into a short time frame.

“This whole thing is just starting,’’ Rivers said. “We just have to be patient. I have to be patient. The whole process is just starting to work itself out.’’

Julian Benbow can be reached at

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