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Danny Ainge on the Big Show

11.04.09 at 5:30 pm ET
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Danny Ainge joined the guys on the Big Show to talk about the Celtics hot start, Rajon Rondo’s new contract and what was up with the league’s investigation of the Rondo-Chris Paul tiff from Sunday. Ainge also had some interesting things to say about Allen Iverson, the 2010 free agent market and whether winning 72 games is even a concern.

Here’s the slightly-edited for clarity transcript:

On the team’s fast start:

Ainge: It’s been great, our defense has been excellent, and our shooting, we’ve been making shots every night. It’s been Paul [Pierce] plus one, or Paul plus two or three guys. I think we can even play better.

Did you expect out of the gate that the bench players would be playing significant minutes and playing the same as your first team?

The only surprise has been Glen Davis not playing and Shelden [Williams] stepping up and he had a couple of double-digit rebound games and three double-digit scoring games. So that’s been a big boost for us. As far as everybody else, I knew there would be games when Rasheed [Wallace] would be hot and Eddie [House] would be hot. Marquis [Daniels] is just a good solid, player. He can defend and pass. I guess I expected that. I also think our starters can play better than they’re playing, so that’s very encouraging.

Comparing Daniels to James Posey:

Their games are completely different, but their roles in stabilizing our second unit are similar. Their size is similar. Posey is more of a 3-point shooter, while Marquis is more of a ball handler, a penetrator, a guy who can score off the post. Their offensive games are different but their defensive games are similar. Offensively Marquis has more versatility than James. They’re both smart, tough guys, so there are similarities.

On the starters getting rest over the course of the season:

Obviously it’s better to have depth than not, but ultimately our success is going to be dependent on all of the guys. We need Paul and Ray [Allen] and KG and Rondo and [Kendrick] Perkins to play well. We need the guys off the bench to play well. Paul doesn’t have to be a superhuman every night for us to win and that’s the beauty of our team right now.

KG and Ray had miserable shooting nights [against Philly] but we did it out of Eddie and Shelden and Marquis and Rasheed all played well off the bench last night. So that made up for it. We have a lot more for error. That’s the biggest thing. I;m not so much worried about minutes. I think that’s a little overrated. I think that we have more room for error is the greatest benefit.

Why is the league investigating trash talking in regards to Rondo and Chris Paul?

I have not heard a word from the league so I don’t know where that’s coming from.

So you don’t even know if they are investigating?

No I don’t. I haven’t heard from them. They may have called Rajon and they may have called Chris Paul to get their stories. That’s sometimes as far as an investigation goes, to see if there’s a reason to have an investigation. Any time there’s things like this that are publicized it’s important for the league to check into it, but I’m sure there’s going to be nothing [there.]

I don’t know the details. I don’t think it’s a big deal.

On the Rondo deal:

We were all hoping that we would get a deal done. There’s a lot of little things that have to get worked out in contract negotiations, but if it didn’t get worked out, I think both sides were fairly comfortable that we still had a bright future with both sides going forward.

It’s better for this year and the future to have a deal done with Rajon and he can concentrate on playing. I think it is a burden, no matter they say. I’ve been that player and I’ve seen players, I played with a lot of guys that went through these types of negotiations and I’ve been around other teams and watched them in recent years when these things become issues, and for whatever reason players don’t play as well as they’re capable of playing and teams don’t mesh as well.

From that standpoint we were certainly trying to get a deal done.

Were you worried about another team offering Rondo a big contract in 2010?

A lot of the negotiations and what number we decided to go to were based on trying to predict the future the best we can. We felt, first of all, that Rondo is young and getting better. He had a great training camp. He improved on a lot of the areas that we discussed in the offseason. I saw great signs from Rajon.

Second of all, there’s a lot of money out there and there’s a lot of teams preparing for the 2010 free agent market.

Third, this summer as a lot of you are aware with all the trade rumors, we discovered that even though we weren’t really close to doing a deal for Rajon, we discovered that there is a great deal of interest for him and there’s a lot of teams with cap space, with money that have him high on their list. All those things are factors.

What was the meeting that you had with Rondo in Waltham about? Did you have concerns about him with this new contract?

Not any more concerns than anybody else. I have a good relationship with Rajon and we talk all the time. I can be very honest and forthright with him and it was more of responsibilities as a team leader, the responsibilities of this contract, and how things are different then being a young guy and not being paid. Being in the public light. I was just trying to give him advice and council. We spent about an hour discussing those things.

On the 2010 free agent class, is there a chance some team could sign two or three of the big free agents?

The only teams that might be able to do that are the teams that have one of them that might be able to free up a little bit more space. Right now that’s unlikely for any of those teams, but possible. It is possible for one of those teams to do that.

Why would you stay if you can go to Boston or LA or a team that has a good shot of winning?

Cleveland has a good shot of winning right now.

But Cleveland has to replace Shaq with someone, right?

They have to replace a full roster and with the salary cap going down it becomes more of an issue. There’s less money to be spent than we’ve all been preparing for but there’s still a lot of teams that have a lot of cap space left. There’s a little bit less as the financial situation has changed.

Can money change a young player?

I have seen it on occasion, but I’m not worried about Rajon. He loves to play. He’s a basketball junkie. And he’s great competitor. I’m not worried about that at all. He’s a kid who’s very confident in himself. I think he’s going to better as a result of this contract as the pressure is relieved. Even though there’s pressure with any new contract I still think the burden of always thinking about it, it will help our team a lot to not worry about that.

How would you handle having [Allen] Iverson and [Zach] Randolph on the same team?

I’ve wondered about that. I feel like Iverson still has a lot to offer. He needs to play. He’s always been a guy that wants to play. You can imagine guys on that level that play a lesser role, that’s a tough sell. You can talk about it, but when he gets out there he wants to play. He wants to prove he’s still one of the best players of all time. He’s not a guy that’s just a good player, an All-Star player, he’s one of the leading scorers in the history of this game. Coming off the bench averaging eight points a game, that’s going to hurt that career average.

He must have known what his role would be on that team.

I’m glad I don’t have those issues.

On the veterans influence on the younger Celtics:

There’s teams that aren’t playing for championships. Their goals might be to make the playoffs or whatever their team goals are, our goal is to win a championship so that’s an easier sell. Everyone in our locker room knows that we have a chance. If we do our job and play well, we’re in the hunt. There’s a lot of team that really know they don’t have a chance and they have different agendas. That’s a tougher sell for a coach.

Paul Pierce seems like he’s playing at a different level. What happened with him in the offseason?

He was like this two years ago and he was like this some last year. I think Paul got worn out carrying our team last year, especially after KG got hurt. Paul has been in this practice facility, I’ve looked at my window a few nights last week at 9 p.m. and he’s getting up shots. After our back-to-back games last week, he was in our gym at 10 getting up shots. He is focused. he’s in great conditions. He’s putting to shame anyone I’ve ever played with, including Larry, one of the great workers of all time.

Are you sensing an urgency to get back the championship?

Whenever you’ve won, you just want it more. You feel pretty good about yourself initially. I think we went through a little bit of that last year. But I also think that our guys came ready and focused last year. People forget, but we started off 27-2 last year. Very focused before the injuries hit us last year. As far as focus, I have no concerns.

On the predictions of winning 72 games:

I don’t think it should even be a goal. I don’t even think we should talk about that as a goal.Our goal is to be the best team come championship time. Regular season we want to win games for seeding, but I really think it doesn’t matter how many wins we have in the regular season. It’s how we’re playing the playoff teams. We should prepare our season now for playoff basketball. That’s getting better, getting better with our execution. The harder we work at this point in the season the better we’ll be at the end of the season.

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