Celtics  president of basketball operations Danny Ainge joined The Big Show Friday afternoon to discuss the Celtics’ tough loss to the Lakers in Game 1 of the NBA finals , why he doesn’t believe they were out-hustled, and the future for assistant coach Tom Thibodeau .
“There was no rhythm in the game, there was a lot of fouls being called. ‘¦ I’m not making excuses, I just felt that our guy’s were ready to play, and played hard,” Ainge said about the way the team played in Game 1.
“[In Game 1] we really didn’t get a good performance out of anybody,” he continued. “Hopefully that will change.”
A lot of talk has been about the hustle in Game 1, did it seem like Lakers out-hustled the Celtics?
No i think that maybe some of the fouls early in the game took a little bit of that away, I know our guys were ready to play. A lot of times the team you’re playing does that to you. I thought, not so much effort, as much as tentative. We were in between on some of our defensive things, we weren’t quite on the ball. ‘¦ We were kind of in no man’s land so many times where we didn’t contest a shot or left the basket open. It looked like there was more indecisiveness, I thought that the natural, just effort. There was no rhythm in the game, there was a lot of fouls being called. ‘¦ I’m not making excuses, I just felt that our guys were ready to play, and played hard. I think [Rajon] Rondo  got hurt half way through the game and kind of re-injured his back a little bit.
There is no way the Celtics can win when getting less second-chance opportunities.
Well I think there’s two things on that. I think 16 second-chance points is not good, and zero is really bad. I mean a lot of that is not effort, it’s just we’re not finding ourselves in those positions, or we’re taking shots too quick, as we were climbing the hill there coming from behind. You know we were taking quick shots and not even ready for offensive rebounds, I mean there are so many factors, more than just effort. But I believe rebounding is crucial for us, and has been for us the last three years. When we rebound the ball, and defensive team’s aren’t getting those second-chance points, that’s when we play our best. It gives us a chance to get out in the open court. If it’s going to be a halfcourt game on both ends, then that’s not our strength.
The letdown on the offensive glass killed the Celtics in Game 1.
Well not only that, how many times did we have the ball in our hands and lost it? I mean, we were in perfect position, everything was done right, the ball went up and we had it — I know it happened to [Kendrick Perkins ] a couple of times, [Kevin Garnett ] four or five times, Paul [Pierce ] once when we had the rebound, had the ball secured and it slipped out of our hands and right into their hands. And that’s why I say sometimes it’s not effort because it’s rust or nerves or something. That was not our team [in Game 1], I do know that. And we’ll find out Sunday [for Game 2] what the reason may be and we’ll find out if the reason is the Los Angeles Lakers .
What was surprising was the putback opportunities that were not there with Ray Allen  on the bench.
Yeah ‘¦ I mean the 27 [minutes] wasn’t even a real 27, he was sitting on the bench a lot. I mean, we’ve got to find a way to win when those things are happening to our star players, we haven’t been able to do that. It comes down to what [Cedric Maxwell ] said, defensive rebounding, those are the things that stand out. [In Game 1] we really didn’t get a good performance out of anybody. Hopefully that will change.
The double technical on Ron Artest  and Pierce was not necessary.
Yeah, I don’t understand that. It seems like when there’s a little bit of a tangle up with players, it’s automatically a double tech. I don’t think, obviously, the official that made that call saw the whole thing happen. Let’s just clean the game up and get the game back on track, and give people double technicals. You just don’t know how that’s going to affect the psyche the players. What I don’t understand is Ron Artest is known for that, he does that all the time, multiple times in most games, and Paul is not that kind of player. I think you should consider the reputation of some players.
Doesn’t that change the way officials call the game?
I don’t know, you’d have to ask them. I’m not sure what their pregame plans are.
Did you like how Paul looked on Kobe [Bryant ] in the second half of Game 1?
I think Paul can guard Kobe, I think Ray can guard Kobe and Tony [Allen ], but we have to have team help. I think Paul did fine.
Do you take anything out of one game in a series?
Yeah, I mean, the first games have meaning, I think those are the situations you’re talking about. ‘¦ There’s always the frustration factor of the team. You’re talking about two very good teams and two very equal teams here, and our guys are angry.
One of the key matchups will be Pau Gasol  and Kevin Garnett.
Well I think all those matchups are tough, but particularly how easy they can score them. It’s one thing if the guy has to earn his shots, but he [Gasol] had some easy baskets, some easy putbacks, because we were paying too much attention to Kobe at times. I think that ‘¦ the defense, the intensity, I think also just the certainty of what we’re doing seemed like again we were in between. Big guys were not defending shots or rebounding at times. They were late on rotations, I think it is the mental focus, a lot of times teams do things that maybe you’re not expecting, or ‘¦ I don’t have all the reasons of why we didn’t play well defensively. Our guys are not happy with the way they played [in Game 1] and we’ll see if they can make the adjustments in their own minds come [Game 2].
The Celtics’ ball movement was very stagnant.
Yeah, there wasn’t enough movement, I think that’s been our pattern. Our tendency when we start struggling offensively, we almost respond ‘¦ if you heard Doc [Rivers ] last night during the game saying, “Move the ball, trust each other,” something he continually harps on. It was part of his halftime speech, “We’ve got to move the ball more.” It’s not a selfish thing, it’s just sometimes the players mistrust when there’s not scoring going on.
Are you surprised at how much Kevin McHale  wants to coach?
I’m not surprised, no. I think Kevin kind of found his niche later, with his young family growing up, he was not real excited about going on the road and doing everything it takes to be a coach. But I think he really enjoyed this past year. I spent about a week with Kevin last summer when he was trying to decide what was going to go on with Minnesota [Timberwolves ], what he wanted to do, you could really tell right then that he really wanted to coach. I was surprised at that time but I’m not surprised now.
Having to spend three days out in Los Angeles, is it good for the team now that there are so many doubters from Game 1?
You know I’m not sure how much they hear, they have to deal with the media every day, so I know they’re getting a lot of questions about what happened. I’m not sure they’re paying much attention to what everybody is saying. I do know how they felt last night after the game. And I do know they felt it was a very sub-par performance by our standards. And our guys have much higher expectations, individually and collectively the way they played [in Game 1], and I know they will be ready to give it all they have [in Game 2].
They couldn’t make adjustments in Game 1.
I agree with that ‘¦ it seemed like we lost by a lot more than 10 points. Even when couldn’t crack that 10-point barrier, we had a few chances. But again it’s the same old thing, an offensive rebound, they beat us to the 50-50 balls on the floor. It just wasn’t us last night and there’s a lot of reasons for that, but for all those reasons it wasn’t us.
There was a huge difference in the effort to make plays. They were ahead 17-4 on those particular plays.
I mean that is an unbelievable discrepancy, and that can’t happen, you’re not going to be successful with those numbers.
Is this a strange time to have you’re job, especially with the draft coming up?
No, not really. We’re still getting ready for the draft and doing things as normal. We knew we wouldn’t be involved in this summer’s free agency, most likely. ‘¦ It’s good to be where we are at right now. I’d prefer it rather than be a team that has to rely on decisions of some young men and what they’re going to do with their futures. I think there is going to be a couple of winners this year. Free agency this summer could change the direction of a few franchises for the next decade.
With rumors that New Orleans Hornets  are looking for Tom Thibodeau, how do you deal with that?
I think because of Tom, and he’s just been around the game so much, he’s put so much time into his preparation, I think Doc and I feel very comfortable with Tom. Tom is a guy ‘¦ his agent will do all the talking, he’s in watching all the film, he’s as prepared as anybody. We don’t feel like it’s a distraction in any way, shape or form. It’s an opportunity he’s been looking for for a long time, and we hope that he gets the job of his choice. I think Tom is being selective. ‘¦ I think he’s a candidate in the three cities he’s interviewed: New Jersey, Chicago and New Orleans, and I think he feels like he has the luxury to explore all three of those. And if one team puts pressure on him to make a decision I’m not sure that he’s going to make that decision.
It doesn’t seem fair some teams are forcing him to make a decision right away.
Well, you know, I don’t know the details. ‘¦ I never pay attention to the rumors. I have no idea what New Orleans is doing. I know that [Hornets GM] Jeff Bower has fought back, he’s a big fan of Tom Thibodeau’s ‘¦ and he’s offered Tom a job. Maybe they do have a time for it, they don’t want to lose another guy, or their second choice, or maybe it’s that close between Choice A and Choice B. In fairness to them, but, Tom has the right, too, to say yes or no and listen to what everyone has to say. It is a tough time to make a big decision in your life when your in the middle of something that’s pretty big itself.
With that, there is some uncertainty regarding Doc coming back? Are you in an uncomfortable position signing either one as the future head coach?
I’m not in an uncomfortable position, I think Doc will come back. And if not, then we’ll have to search out and start that, and Tom would be at the head of the class of somebody that we would consider, and interview, and we would also look at all the viable candidates if that did happen. But I don’t anticipate that happening.