|Danny Ainge on the Big Show||12.17.09 at 5:20 pm ET|
Danny Ainge joined the Big Show for his weekly call. He talked to the guys about Rajon Rondo’s maturation, Paul Pierce’s growth and the plan for Glen Davis to return. Ainge also told the guys that the Celtics had internal discussions about Allen Iverson, but that the timing wasn’t right.
The team keeps rolling on, so all that hoopla and fear when the team struggled for a week is all in the rear-view mirror now?
The team is playing well and we’re still not on all cylinders. We’re not playing great, but we’re finding ways to win and I’m happy with the way the tram is playing. I like our team chemistry and I think Doc [Rivers] is doing a magnificent job with the guys. We saw Rasheed really coming along and fitting in and getting into the low post and doing some damage. Our defense has picked up recently. We’re still not rebounding the ball well enough, but the team is doing well.
Let’s talk about Rajon Rondo. You defended him earlier in the year and you thought he was doing better than [we] thought. He seems to have more confidence in his shot. Do you see him expanding his game?
Rondo, the shot, I don’t really think that much about it. I like that he’s taking it with confidence. I like it when he’s playing free. For me it’s so much more. Arguably he’s the most valuable player on our team.
Notice you said that after you signed him.
Right. You know what? I’ve been saying that since we signed him. He’s playing as good these last 10 or 12 games or so as he’s played in his career.
Getting back to the shot. It’s not a huge concern because of all the other things that he does. But the fact that he’s taking it, is now forcing teams to play him a little bit differently. Make sense?
Well yeah, but I’m not sure they’re going to play him differently until he makes it consistently over a sustained period of time. First, the alternative of him shooting shots instead of taking it to the rim because he’s so dynamic going to the basket and getting in the paint, running along the baseline and creating havoc. So, I think it’s not just because he doesn’t shoot the ball great from the outside that teams play him the way they do. They’ve got to prevent him from getting into the paint and penetrating on their defense. Teams will continue to play him like that. His confidence will grow. He’ll have really good shooting stretches, not so good shooting stretches, like most shooters.
I’m just excited about how hard he’s playing. He seems so confident and so in control. There seems to be a trust with him and the players and with Doc. Maybe the contract situation freed him up and he’s maturing a little bit.
Is he more of a leader than he’s been in the past?
It’s probably a combination of a lot of things. He’s a bright kid. We’ve always thought that he would figure the game out and the league out and he has a really good communication with Doc and [Kevin Garnett] and Paul [Pierce.] He and [Kendrick Perkins] are the best of friends. The communication is there and it’s a mutual respect. As a young player sometimes I think he felt that there was a microscope on him and everyone would focus on what he wasn’t doing because heaven forbid the three Hall of Famers that we had couldn’t be the reason that we lost a game. So there was a lot of focus on him.
What’s the plan for Glen Davis? Is he still going to go on the west coast road trip?
I think he’s at least a week away from coming back. We want to make sure that the bone is completely healed. We’ve got him doing all kinds of non-contact stuff right now. He will be with the team on the west coast trip and we’ll keep evaluating him each day. We’ll probably get an X-ray and a Cat Scan before he leaves. Our gameplan is to play him on the second of January [against Toronto] and that’s our plan right now.
Was Rasheed too 3-point happy earlier in the season?
I think he was shooting almost exclusively from out there early in the season, but I don’t blame Rasheed, as much as I blame the guys on the court that he was with and maybe his expectations. It’s easy to tell him to get down on the block. All you have to do as a point guard is call his play down on the block. I think Rasheed is a guy who seems like a guy who is willing to do whatever we ask him to do. If we want him to go to the block, he’ll go to the block. If we want him to space the floor, he’ll space the floor.
He’s shown during this winning streak that his presence on the block is very valuable to us.
Is his play as a team player surprising at all?
No, not at all. We expected that. That was the feedback we got from players around the league and teams that he’s played on. Rasheed has always been a team player. He’s always been a guy that his teammates respect. He focuses on communication and defense. He’s a guy that’s never been a selfish player on the court.
Perk seems to be some different things than he’s done in the past. Agree?
Yeah, like Rondo. He feels now that when people look at the Celtics they consider it a starting five rather than the Big Three. That kind of respect that he’s gotten from teammates, coaches, fans and opponents, he’s playing freer also. It’s OK to make a mistake. It’s OK to take some guys down on the block. With all five guys on the court we look to him as a primary option in certain matchups. Perk feels better about himself.
Going back to Rondo, is he a guy that gets particularly jacked up against the elite? The second part, is there one guy you played with that had that kind of personality?
No, I haven’t seen it that much in my career. I think Rondo likes challenges. He was having a joke in the locker room challenging one of the NFL players [Chris Johnson from Tennessee, to a race]. He loves challenged. I think he thinks that he can beat Michael Phelps in the swimming pool. That’s just kind of his nature. I think he rises to the occasion in certain matchups in certain games and so forth, but he’s playing much more consistent right now. In the NBA you have pretty big matchups at the point guard position every night. There’s rarely a guy that you’re playing against that isn’t a great player.
He does seem to have those games. Like the kid in Milwaukee [Brandon Jennings] comes in with a lot of hype and Rondo just shuts him down.
Rondo was amazing in the game.
That’s what I mean. But that’s a good thing, right?
I love that competitive fire. Right after he played [Mike] Conley, he had a great game against Gilbert Arenas and then he went and had a great game against Derrick Rose. Most nights he’s starting to realize that most guys he’s playing against are pretty dang good and if he doesn’t show up and play with that intensity the he’ll get his lunch handed to him.
I’ve got to ask you about Paul Pierce who has his own blog now. He reveals the fact that he was upset about getting drafted by the Celtics. Obviously he grew up in Inglewood, so he was big huge Lakers fan. But he feels like it’s his town now. Over the years he’s really matured and changed over the years.
Paul’s been pretty special this year. He’s been good the last few years but he keeps getting better from a leadership standpoint and setting a tone. The team got off a long trip and he was in the next day working out in the weight room. He’s not a big talker but he sets a good tone.
He’s been great over his career, but this year it seems is a little bit different. He can do so many different things and he’ll change up what he needs to change. Whatever they need that night, he’s bringing it.
I think he understands where he’s at in his career. He understands that as a team we have great balance. He doesn’t have to go out and have 20-point quarters. If we did somewhere along the line he can still do it. On our trip for four or five straight games he was averaging only 12 or 13 points a game. And yet we were winning all these games and Paul was happy with it.
At one point he might have needed the numbers so people would say that he’s a great player, but he doesn’t need that right now. A lot of guys don’t need that and their games don’t actually get better. I think his overall game is better don’t you?
Yes I do. I think he’s a complete player and he plays to win. That’s all he cares about. That’s the beauty of our team right now. We have a group of players that care more about winning than anything. Perk and Rajon would love to be All-Stars. Having that youth and passion on our team might be a good mix, but our veteran players they really care about one thing and that’s refreshing.
When he was younger and he was co-captain with Antoine Walker, was he ready for that and how much has he changed since then?
I don’t remember all the players that were there, but I just know that he’s a much better leader, a much better teammate and a much better professional now. And he’s just getting better each year. I think he’s a significantly better leader than when I first got here.
What things does the team need to do better?
Rebounding is the one that stands out. Our defense, our offensive execution, our free throw attempts are up, our turnovers are down, we’re creating a lot of turnovers; the one area that we need [to do better is rebounding.] I don’t think it’s personnel because this same bunch of guys was one of the best rebounding teams in the league last year. I think it’s focus. I think we need to be a better rebounding team if we’re going to accomplish our goals this season.
During Allen Iverson’s brief retirement, did you think about bringing him here?
Yes we did. We had some discussion internally.
Did you talk to him?
I never talked to Allen specifically. We talked internally and explored it. They knew that we had some interest. The timing wasn’t right for us. It was something we might have explored later, but he was anxious to get back and he was anxious to get back with Philadelphia. I think he’s real excited to be back with Philadelphia. It seemed like he was very emotional and very excited about getting back there.
We talked about Iverson and what a good situation for him would be, and you said that he needs to play a lot of minutes. Why would you think about bringing in Allen Iverson to the Celtics when you know without a major injury his minutes would be limited?
That’s right and that’s why the timing wasn’t good for us. We didn’t have any major need to fill minutes. We had small-minute opportunities for a player of his caliber. We didn’t have a starting role and a 35-minute a night opportunity. Allen, to his own admission, has said that he has a hard time playing without getting into that rhythm and that flow.
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