Celtics Executive Director of Basketball Operations and General Manager Danny Ainge, in an interview on WEEI’s Big Show on Friday afternoon, clarified some of his recent comments about point guard Rajon Rondo earlier in the week. While Ainge has been portrayed as having been critical of Rondo during an interview on the Dennis & Callahan Show — in which the G.M. acknowledged that Rondo had been fined for the “unacceptable” act of having been late for practice during the playoff series against the Magic — he insisted that any concerns about the point guard’s behavior were isolated, and that the team has moved on from them.
“I think we value Rondo more than anybody else in the league values him and we know everything about him — all the good and the bad that comes with a 23-year-old kid who’s been put in a pressure kicker,” said Ainge. ” I don’t know if we said he had a bad attitude. I think he needs to mature, like we talked about. But I like Rondo’s attitude. I like Rondo’s competitive spirit. I think the kid, he’s late for a playoff game — we’re not going to condemn him for the rest of his life. We took care of it and it’s over…I’m amazed at how people want to take the little things and blow them out of proportion.”
Ainge also said once again that he does not plan — or want — to trade the 23-year-old.
“We never had any intention of trading Rondo — or Paul Pierce, or Kevin Garnett, or any of our core players, Ray Allen — unless something absolutely blows you away. It is my responsibility to listen and take calls and have discussions to see what those conversations may be,” added Ainge. “He’s going to get better. He’s going to get older, and get more experience. And he’s going to be a terrific point guard for the Celtics in the NBA for a long time.”
Below are some excerpts from the rest of the Ainge interview:
ON TRADE RUMORS
“I think we value Rondo more than anybody else in the league values him and we know everything about him — all the good and the bad that comes with a 23-year-old kid who’s been put in a pressure kicker in Boston. The kid has 40 playoff games under his belt, he’s got four Game 7s under his belt as a 23-year-old point guard. Rondo is not perfect. It seemed like the subject of the day a couple days ago was Rondo – it was not Paul Pierce or Ray Allen or Kendrick Perkins or anyone else – because of all the trade speculation, most of which was bogus.
It’s my job to listen and inquire as you get ready to possibly sign a player to a long-term contract or develop strategies within the organization, to really understand and know what the value is out there for a player…
We plan on having this core together, and we plan on adding a couple pieces through free agency, and maybe making smaller deals to make our bench stronger this year. That’s always been our main intention.
ON RONDO’S ATTITUDE
I was asked a question about him being late for a playoff game and I said, yeah, that kind of behavior is unacceptable. That just means you levee the fine and you move on. That has nothing to do with what we think of Rondo as a player.
He’s a very likable guy. He’s liked by his teammates. He gets moody sometimes, but so what?
Can I imagine trying to replace something that’s worked so well? Last year I thought that things were well in spite of some of the injuries we had and we won the championship the year before. Every team that wins and every team that loses, there’s always holes, there’s always things that aren’t perfect, and sometimes we let the Big Three get away with things because they’re such talented players, but they have weaknesses too. It seems like because of the trade rumors and because of the upcoming contract situation possibility, [Rondo] just seems to be the topic, and I should have known that. I don’t really think that I ripped Rondo by any stretch of the imagination, but I do think I should have known that maybe saying anything might have just fueled so much more fire. It seems like the things I said that were good about Rondo, those things just get ignored.
ON WHETHER HE HAS SPOKEN TO RONDO’S AGENT, BILL DUFFY:
Oh, no. I really don’t have any intention to, I’ve never even read the quote. I don’t really care. That’s an agent’s job, is to do everything they can to protect the image and player so I’m not even worried about any of that. That stuff bothers me not at all. Typically what happens is sometimes something is taken out of context and somebody reports looking for a response anyone, so I’m sure the whole story wasn’t, ‘should I rip Bill,’ but anyway, that stuff doesn’t mean anything to me.
ON WHETHER THE SPECULATION WAS DRIVEN BY THE MEDIA RUMOR MILL
I can never say to any player that ‘I will never trade you under any circumstance,’ and that might be a dangerous thing to say because then it’s ‘oh, he left an opening.’ But there’s a big difference, I mean, logically, with the age of our team, with the lack of athleticism you get as guys get older, if there’s one thing we need, it’s a young, vibrant, energetic, rebounding, loose-ball-getting, tempo-changing 23-year-old point guard with experience. So if there’s going to be a trade it better be soemthing unbelievably special and that’s where some of these rumors are silly and ludicrous, and I wish that people would just use their heads, use their mind and give us a little more credit when they consider trade rumors.
ON DEALING WITH PLAYERS WHOSE NAMES ARE IN THE RUMOR MILL
I’m honest with them. I tell them when things are real, I tell them when things are not. I tell them what are plans are and what our intentions and goals are and Itell them just like it is. If I did have intention of trading them, if there was something that were true in a rumor and they asked, I would tell them. I’m as honest with these players as I can [be]. I don’t tell them every single conversation I have because conversation means nothing adnso I’m jsut as honest as I can [be] with these players.
ON THE DRAFT IN GENERAL
First of all, nobody would draft the number five pick and let him stay over in Europe for two more years. I tihnk they would have gone a different direction had they known that.
ON KEVIN GARNETT
Kevin, it was amazing. His entire countenance over the last six weeks of the season, he was just kind of down and grumpy and uncomfortable. I think he felt pressure to try to come back and he had all this pain in his knee.
Right after the surgery – I mean three days after the surgery – a smile on his face, he can bend his knee all the way. He can straighten it out all the way. He just went back to the West Coast the other day. Before he left, I saw him doing full weight workouts. He was doing squats – one-legged squats, two-legged squats – he was doing most of his whole routine again. His spirit is returned: his enthusiasm for the upcoming season, his hope.
All of a sudden, he’s back to being the real Kevin Garnett. His personality has returned. You could just see that once he had that bone spur on the back of his knee, that that was really bothering him.
ON QUESTIONS ABOUT WHETHER GARNETT COULD HAVE RETURNED DURING THE PLAYOFFS
It’s just all talk. Everybody thinks they know, everybody hasa different view, and then everybody starts speculating on all sorts of conspiracy theories. You should have heard all the media trying to contact me. ‘What was going on?’ and ‘he’s got these secret ACL tears.’ One thing I would always say to the media is ‘think about the situation before you respond. I mean, if he had an ACL tear, why in the world would you ever not give surgery immediately? There’s so many things out there that people don’t think before they report.
He was not going to come back and play, most likely. The pain management– I mean, the fact that he came back and played before and played OK even though he wasn’t the real Kevin Garnett, he played OK. I think as an organization we were holding out hope that that might be the case, the he can give us 15 or 20 minutes, and, you know, maybe a Willis Reed-type surge for a couple of works and really that was just KG and the doctors, if he could do it. We were never putting pressure on him and he never anticipated or expected that to happen, but there was a tiny bit of hope that that might happen. In hindsight maybe we should have relieved Kevin of that pressure, but I do not think he was going to play against Cleveland or in the NBA Finals, not unless he just felt this surege and this adrenneline rush that was going to get him out there, but after the surgery he was so much better. He wasn’t healthy after the surgery, it’s going to take another couple months for him to be healthy enough to play basketball, but we’re very encouraged by the range of motion and strength that’s returned to his knee. On top of that, before the surgery he was really able to get strong– really, really strong– and I think that’s always helpful in your rehab from the surgery.
ON SHAQ TO THE CAVS:
I think that that’s a good pickup for Cleveland, especially since they didn’t really give up anything to get Shaq there, so how it all works will be everybody’s guess, if it’s going to make them that much better, but it doesn’t change our plans. We’ve had some plans on what we intend to do this summer for the last month or two, as we see weaknesses in our team and what we can do to improve from our core and build around them and improve our bench, and our plans have not changed any.
ON VINCE CARTER TO ORLANDO AND THE IMPROVING EAST:
It will be interestng to see, I mean they still don’t have Turkoglu signed, there’s speculation that he may go somewhere, so Vince Carter may have been insurance for Turkoglu. So we’ll see what the final product is. Vince Carter’s a very good player, it’s a good aquisiton. For the price they gave up to get Vince Carter it’s a good risk. Even though Courtney Lee was really becomming a good player, he had a fantastic rookie year, and usually guys come back after a fantastic rookie year with a teriffic second year. So it’s not like theydidn’t give anything up, but Courtney Lee still probably isn’t Vince Carter. Courtney is a much better defender than Vince but Vince is more of a dynamic scorer. So I think it’s a good trade for Orlando.
Washington is the team I think that’s probably improved themselves the most with Mike Miller, Randy Foye, and of course Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood coming back healthy. They’ll be a real force in the East as well.
D.J. Bean contributed to this report.