Celtics  Executive Director of Basketball Operations and GM Danny Ainge joined the Big Show on Tuesday to discuss the Celtics’ recent play, the development of Rajon Rondo , the three-point difficulties of Rasheed Wallace  and Kevin Garnett’s recovery from injury. To listen to the interview, visit the Big Show’s Audio On Demand page .
Do you think the team’s recent play has anything to do with the fact the players are getting older?
I don’t think so, no. I think our team has played well in a lot of scenarios and I just think that we haven’t been as consistent. But, shooting the ball accounts for a lot. We haven’t been hitting a lot of fairways but we have been hitting a lot of puts. Right now we are a shot of two shots away from winning these games and we have been shooting the ball very poorly from the outside.
You can’t be happy with the defense thus far though?
No, I have been happy with the defense we’ve played in a lot of the stretch but I think we get sloppy and we get lazy and we lose our focus a little bit. Defensively, statistically we were doing well defensively.
Two things that are worrying about Rondo: lack of defensive pressure at the point and that he is not breaking down the defense quite as much. Is this the same guy we saw last year?
I think he is playing better than last year. I think his defense is significantly better than last year. I think he is not getting to the line as much but I think part of that is that we are getting the ball inside more to our post players and not relying on his penetration as much but he is shooting a much better percentage than he did last year which says he is getting to the basket more, he is just not getting to the line more.
His free throw attempts are way down. Is he being timid about the foul line?
He is not timid of going inside, he makes a lot of baskets going inside. His scoring average is the same not making free throws and he is shooting a higher percentage, so, I don’t think he is shying away. I think Rondo is playing much more aggressively on defense this year than he was last year.
Where are these defensive breakdowns happening?
I think it is a couple of things. We have run into some teams that are playing more small ball. Doc is trying to get us to continue to play our style. If we were playing the New York Knicks  in a seven game series we might have different matchups on the court. I think Doc is trying to get our big guys to guard quicker players so we can have an advantage with our size inside. Right now the quicker forwards have given us problems at the forward position. Making the 3s as Al Harrington  did the other night, I think we have run into that and we have run into that with Toronto, for example. They are great shooters and they have great shooters at their big positions. I think they are we are still trying to figure out what the best matchups are but we also have been spectacular defensively through this year for stretches. So, I am not worried about our defense, I am not worried about Rondo. We need to make shots. If we are sitting there at 12-2, and that is how fragile it is, making a couple shots here and there, I would still have some concerns about our team, but nobody would be talking about them.
Rasheed Wallace is in a horrible slump from the 3-point line. Stay the course or are there things you can do with that?
Yeah, as a matter of fact I think there are some things you can do. I think Doc has done them too. You saw a little bit in the Orlando game and the New York game, when he has been through this slump he still is getting the shots on the outside, which is what we want him to do, but we have tried to mix it up and get him on the post more. He has rebounded terrific, played fantastic defense during the Orlando game, I thought he did a great job defending the post, getting some steals for us with his interior defense. Got some inside baskets during the New York game, but, ultimately he is going to make shots. He has been that type of shooter his whole life, he is going to miss some shots. He is 5-44, if he was 8-44 we may have two more wins. When he goes 15-44 or 18-44 we almost will never lose. That is the thing with Eddie and Rasheed is those guys making those shots, where they are going in or capable of going in, that what makes us a great basketball team. When shots aren’t going in it shows and sometimes it’s not pretty but we are OK with that. We were tied in the game the other day and those guys were, I think 5-28, Eddie, Ray Allen , Rasheed Wallace and Kevin Garnett and we were still tied. I don’t care who you are playing, that is hard to do.
In reference to Rasheed, without the early success, how hard is it to maintain a level of confidence on a new team?
You know one thing that I appreciate about Rasheed, his competitiveness, his rebounding, he is doing more of the little things ever since he has been in the shooting slump. I think he has the respect of his teammates. They have all played against him, they know what he is capable of doing. I don’t think that he feels and added amount of pressure, any more than he would have had any other year. He has a comfort level with the coaches, everybody knows Rasheed and Rasheed has given us what we expect, he has just not made many shots. Every shooter goes through these kind of slumps, I am just not that worried about it.
How is KG coming back from his surgery? Is he being a little timid because of it? Some athletes respond to that differently.
I agree, we don’t know the answers yet with KG. We talk to KG, we communicate with the medical staff and the doctors and we have been in communication constantly about the progress, the workload on and off the court. We rehab the knee. But our main objective is to get KG healthy for the long term, for the next few years and this year we may have him better late. We think it is better, unanimously, that going through what he is going through right now is going to help him be ready for the playoffs. So that is the path we are on right now and until that changes we are gong to be going on this path.
Glen Davis  had his cast removed. Will we see him ahead of progress?
He put a different cast on, he hasn’t removed it completely. He is chomping at the bit a little, he is trying to move it forward. He can do more workouts, he was in the pool the other day doing a work out. I think Glenn is anxious to get back, he is working extremely hard, trying to get himself ready to play and staying in shape. I think Glenn is just anxious and he is making some noise with our medical stuff trying to push it forward. We will do what is best for Glenn and what is good for him in the long term.
How much have you stayed with him in terms of conditioning. This is a kid who has a tendency to put on some weight. This injury still allows him to do cardio, is that pretty much what he is doing?
That what he has done. He has been in the gym early and he comes in twice some days. He is putting forth the effort. I have seen a real professional and more consistent approach to Glen and I think he has been humbled by this experience and he feels like he is letting his team down so he is anxious to get back out and help the team be successful.
We didn’t see a lot of Rondo in the fourth quarter against Orlando. Was Doc sending some type of message down the stretch there?
Well, offensively we were absolutely miserable the whole game and sometimes it is not the point guard’s fault that we are not making shots. Doc felt that the presence of Eddie would allow everybody to have a little bit more movement on the court and we were looking for shooting. Eddie is one of those guys who can score nine points in a minute and get you back in the game, so, I don’t think it was a message to Rondo. I don’t think Rondo took it as a message. I think he respects Eddie House  and what he can do for us offensively and was just trying to use all of his bullets to see if we could get something going offensively, then we got back in the game. It was 78-78, it was working and the last minute-and-a-half it just didn’t work but we did get the shots and have the looks.
Kendrick Perkins  really looks like he has worked on the offensive side of the ball.
Kendrick is playing well. He got himself in shape. He is in terrific condition and I think his confidence is growing and he is having a good year for us. I think that he is a good fit with Rasheed out there on the court and with KG, I think Perk has been a bright spot for us this year.
You’ve already dropped three games at home this year. Just a coincidence or have you seen a slight let down at home this year?
No, I have not seen a let down. You know, we caught some very hot teams. Phoenix was in the middle of a great stretch of basketball and they played great. I actually thought we played well against Phoenix and we caught a team on fire. They made some incredible shots against us and our defense, I thought, was pretty good. Against Atlanta, they have been playing great, and they have been the hottest team in the NBA this year to this point and I thought we played good in the first half and I thought we did let our guard down in the third quarter of that game and that hurt us and we were never able to recover. I thought we did relax a little bit there. And then, Orlando, we came out of the gates flat. Again, I think it was poor shooting, when you are shooting poor everything just mounts. You start missing lay-ins and free throws and I thought that was what happened in the Orlando game and yet we almost found a way to just fight and scratch and claw our way back into that game and sneak out a win that we probably didn’t deserve. I thought that was not a well played game by us the Orlando game. So, I think each game, one at a time, there’s reason why we lost but once again, I am not overly concerned because we make a shot here and a shot there and we get back into it. The big question for us is that KG is just not himself, I think everybody can see that and when will he? And then when will everybody just start making some shots? I think those are the big questions.
Atlanta is maturing as a team. Is this a team you really have to be concerned with?
Well, I mean, my gosh, they gave us all that we could handle two years ago. And now they are two years older, they have been together, they have the same core of guys. I think that it was a real key acquisition adding Jamal Crawford  as a scorer off the bench, but I really think the biggest factor is that those guys are having some success and that when you start having some success it is easier to believe in what you are doing. The players start listening to the coach and there is a lot of factors. They are maturing as a team and they are a factor in the East right now, no question.
What do you see coming tomorrow against Philadelphia?
Iguodala is a terrific player. I think Williams, their point guard, its his first year as a starter, he is scoring the ball, he is a terrific shooter, he is extremely quick. Elton Brand has had a couple of good games since he started to get a little bit more minutes with Brezec down with injury and I think Elton is playing much better this last week than he did earlier in the season. Those are their key guys, those are three terrific players who, if we don’t come to play, are going to give us some problems.