|Danny Ainge on Big Show: Paul Pierce close to returning, Celtics ‘horrendous’ defensively, Heat beatable||12.30.11 at 5:24 pm ET|
Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge joined The Big Show Friday, expressing disappointment in the team’s 0-3 start to the season, but saying he ultimately isn’t overly concerned.
Forward Paul Pierce has yet to play this season due to a bone bruise on his right heel, but Ainge said he might be available Friday night against the Pistons.
“Paul is doing better this morning,” Ainge said. “I think it will be a game-time decision with the trainer and just sort of how he feels pre-game. It’s looking better, and we’re very encouraged that he’s going to be back soon.”
Ainge said he is not worried the injury could nag Pierce throughout the season.
“I’m not worried that it’s going to linger now,” he said. “I mean, I think that had he started to play when he really wanted to play, which is opening night, I was worried about it then, but the rest has been beneficial for Paul. Even though the team has missed paul, it’s been better for him to not play these first three games.”
There’s plenty that Pierce brings to the table, and Ainge said the team has missed him in key situations in the second halves of games.
“Paul is our best forward. Him and Ray [Allen], the combination of them makes it a double-edged sword. You have to really have two good defenders out there on the wings at all times. You have to have the attention on the floor spread. And he’s a closer. Having two closers out there, Ray has played very well offensively for us, but we need another weapon. Paul has been greatly missed on the offensive end, and probably closing games more than beginning games. It would be nice to have him out there, no question.”
As for the team’s play, Ainge said that while he’s unhappy with the start, it’s clear that they’re playing without one of their top players in Pierce.
“Obviously we feel 0-3 is not good,” he said. “It would have been nice to win one or two of the games anyway, starting off with the tough schedule. I think that I’m not worried about it because we haven’t had Paul, and we’re not in sync. This is not our team. I’ve also watched every team play so far in the early season, and it’s very common. There’s a lot of teams that are out of sync, have a lot of new players and a lot of new faces. I’m not overly worried right now. I think this next couple of weeks will tell us a little bit more about who we are.”
Added Ainge: “We are out of sync. Our defense has been horrendous, actually. We’ve had some good moments, some good stretches, and ironically our zone defense has probably been better than our man-to-man defense. Our man-to-man defense is definitely out of sync, and we’ve missed the continuity of having Paul out there, but the guys that have replaces – Marquis [Daniels] has done a decent job and Sasha [Pavlovic] has done a decent job — it’s more of we just haven’t done a good job. I think Ray and Rajon [Rondo] and [Kevin Garnett], guys that have been here in the past, all need to do a better job of stopping the ball. … We’ve got to stop the penetration and do a better job on the perimeter and not put so much pressure on the interior defense.”
Swingman Mickael Pietrus, whom the team signed prior to the season, is still getting familiar with the team’s system and has yet to play this season.
“He’s not ready,” Ainge said. “He’s going to be fine. He just needs a week or 10 days to get in game shape and get familiar with our set. … Pietrus is probably anywhere from a week to two weeks away. We don’t have an exact date yet.”
The Celtics’ second loss of the season came to Heat, who are favorites to win it all this season. Ainge said the Heat, who eliminated the C’s last season in the playoffs, are good, but not invincible.
“They’re definitely the favorites. I don’t believe they’re unbeatable. I believe they’re very good, and they probably should be the favorites, but time will tell. It’s a long season — it’s actually a short season, but a lot of games in a short amount of time — and we’ll be able to answer that question a little later in the year.”
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