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Danny Ainge: ‘We could be up 3-2 in this series’

05.12.11 at 6:00 pm ET

Following his team’s disappointing Eastern Conference semifinals loss to the Heat in five games, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge made his final weekly appearance of the season on The Big Show. Already working on the draft, Ainge pretty much touched on everything, so here’s a quick rundown of the hot stove topics (for audio of the complete interview, click here).

On the Heat: “I’m a little frustrated. Without taking credit away from the Heat — and they made tough shots and big plays when they needed to — we could be up 3-2 in this series. …

“They’re the team that we’re going to have to compete with for the next six or seven years — maybe longer.”

On Rajon Rondo’s injury: “That was a huge factor. We were playing without one of our key guys — if not the most important guy. I give Rondo a lot of credit for doing all he could to get ready to play, but he had some back issues as well. That made it extremely difficult for us.”

On coach Doc Rivers‘ future: “I think Doc is coming back. We talk all the time, and I got that impression a few weeks ago. I think we’ll get something done, and we could get something done very shortly on a long-term contract.”

More on the long-term possibility: “I think it’s the wrong assumption about Doc that he would just want to be here with these guys. He’s a coach at heart. He likes being in Boston. We have a great relationship. We work together as an organization, and we like each other. He’s a coach, and he’s a teacher. I think he likes the idea of being a Jerry Sloan-type, being with one team for a long time. I think we could sign him to a long-term contract.”

On the Big Three’s future: “I think there’s a lot of basketball left in them, but Father Time always loses. Their days of carrying a team night in and night out might be over, but their ability to still contribute to a championship team is still there.”

On the collective bargaining agreement: “We need to figure out the rules we’re all playing under. Once we figure that out, we can start coming up with answers.”

On potentially trading the Big Three: “I would have to look into that if a good trade came about.”

On potentially training Rondo: “Probably not. I can never say never, but that’s not our plan right now. Absolutely not.”

On the Kendrick Perkins trade: “I don’t believe that the trade was the reason we are done today. Our offense failed us in the last few games. Our defense was terrific. We were missing shots 10 feet from the pin, and they were making them from the sand trap. I think the injuries to Rajon and even Delonte West were more of a factor. …

“I would do it again. I don’t think that’s the reason we lost. I’m not going to say we lost the trade, because we’re in a better position today for the future. …

“I know a lot of people will blame the Perkins trade for our lack of success. I’m OK with that. I take responsibility for that. There’s a legitimate argument to be made. I don’t buy into Perkins’ screening ability or Rondo’s struggles, but could he have helped our defense and help us get some more stops? There’s a legitimate argument for that, but it’s our offense that let us down.”

On Jeff Green: “In the times he was called upon, he played very well, and he was very productive. He was our most efficient offensive player throughout the playoffs based on points per possession. I think expectations were too high, and Jeff is playing behind three All-Stars. … In the two games Paul Pierce got into foul trouble and the one he had to get treatment on his Achilles, Jeff really responded.”

Discussing how the Celtics might get Green more minutes and thus more possessions, Ainge continued, “Maybe Paul comes off the bench to cut down on his minutes. … That’s just hypothetical. I have no idea if that’s going to happen. If Jeff Green is back next year, I think his role will be expanded, and it wouldn’t shock me if the starting five is different.”

Ainge intimated that the Celtics will make a qualifying offer to Green before July 1, but as an unrestricted free agent he could seek more money elsewhere.

On Shaquille O’Neal’s potential retirement: “I think he is. I don’t know that for sure, but that’s my guess.”

On Jermaine O’Neal’s future: “I don’t know that. I talked to him today, and he’s going to take some time to figure that out.” Ainge said JO will undergo offseason surgery on his left wrist.

On his past mistakes: “I would’ve fought harder to bring Tony Allen back. We tried to sign him to a two-year window. I think if we came out of the gate with a three-year deal — which we did eventually — I think we would’ve signed him.”

On the bigs: “The center position was just a disaster. … We were wondering from game-to-game who was going to be able to play. We can’t afford to do that again. We need depth at that position, and we need to get younger. No question.”

On Glen Davis: “Glen has given us some good years and some good big games in a Celtics uniform. He didn’t play well in the playoffs. … He tried, but he just didn’t play as well as he did in the past.” Ainge said the conditioning issues raised about Davis are overblown, and he “did well” with the weight clause in his contract.

On potentially re-signing Big Baby: “Sure. Glen’s a good player.”

On Avery Bradley: “I’m a big fan of Avery Bradley. I think if he were in this year’s draft, he’d be a top-five pick if he stayed in college for another year. I think he can really help us next year.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Jeff Green, Kendrick Perkins
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