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Danny Ainge: Big part of the second half involves getting Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce healthy

02.28.13 at 5:24 pm ET

In his weekly appearance on “The Big Show” Thursday, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge talked about a variety of topics, including why Boston didn’t make more deals at the trade deadline and the health of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Ainge was asked as to whether he was concerned at all about the fatigue level of Pierce and Garnett, the latter of whom sat out Friday’s game against the Suns.

“Yes, I always am. Paul and KG have been incredibly durable throughout their entire careers,” Ainge said. “They take good care of themselves, but I do think that they need rest. If we have any chance of winning playoff basketball games, we need those guys fresh, healthy. Paul’s neck thing I think comes and goes, but there was a stretch I think when we were in that losing streak, I actually think that might have been one of the biggest factors. Paul was not 100 percent and yet he continued to play. That’s just who Paul is.

“I think Doc is determined to cut those guys’ minutes down now that we have a little bit more depth on the bench and we get some more bodies in here. That’s a big part of the second half of the season — getting them healthy.”

Ainge also talked about the remarkable run of LeBron James, calling him the “best player in our game today, without question. When it’s all said and done, he could be one of the best players of all time.”

“He’s one of those guys, the first time I ever saw him, in the first five minutes, I questioned whether he could be one of the best basketball players who ever lived,’ recalled Ainge. “And he was 17 years old at the time and he had a similar body — he’s probably 10 or 15 pounds heavier now, but he was so gifted, because he not only could shoot, pass and dribble, but he was the smartest guy on the court. The most intense guy on the court. The most unselfish guy on the court.

“I’ve been one of those people who know that LeBron is not perfect, and he’s been under the microscope since he’s been a young man. I think he’s done a pretty good job handling all this stuff and he continues to get better. Now, people are having to have the conversation about him and Michael Jordan. I think it’s still too early, but he’s getting better. And like Michael, now he’s starting to make mid-range jump shots, 3-point shots, and he’s virtually unguardable with one person. You need two and three people to guard him. If he’s making shots, you just have to tip your cap and pray that he misses.”

Here are some more highlights of the Q&A:

On not making deals at the deadline involving veterans: “I said I would have done those deals that Red [Auerbach] was offered and I would still do deals like that if they were presented, [but] we never had any deals like that presented, so I was never tempted.”

On the inactivity at the deadline … was there ever a deal you want to make and ownership says no? “No, and I’ll tell you why. First of all, we’ve had some disagreements on what we should be able to to, but I feel like if I were to … if I had a deal that I would die for, that I would put all the marbles on the table for, I believe they would do a deal that would be that way. Fortunately, as you know, most deals aren’t that. We’ll give our pros and cons that are 55-45. There are a lot of deals out there and there are a lot of disagreements internally between Doc [Rivers], myself and ownership, especially on bigger deals. But for the most part, we are on the same page as to what are good deals and what deals aren’t.”

Why not move a guy like KG and move a guy like Paul Pierce, guys who are in their 30s, for a guy in his mid-20s? Why not take these assets now and cash them in for younger assets? “First of all, if I felt like there was a player that was in their mid-20s that was a piece to build around and wasn’t just a rotation player for an example but was actually a building block — a future star or All-Star or one of those pieces — then we probably would do that. But they are far and few between, and I don’t see anybody giving those players away for aging veterans.”

On what prevented movement this year … was it the CBA? “I think the Collective Bargaining Agreement had a little bit to do with it because, for the first time this year, we experienced some of the new rules, which affected us, which was basically that we were functioning under a hard cap because we chose to use a midlevel exception. So that put us, that restricted some movement. I don’t think it really prevented us from doing too much — we could have found some ways financially to do deals that we wanted to do or were talking about doing. But it did have a little bit of a hold on us. Second of all, it’s hard to find trading partners. People are reluctant to trade. There’s so much scrutiny, there’s so much evaluation on all the talk shows and all the media. I think sometimes that people get cold feet — you talk for three weeks about doing a deal and at the very last minute, they want a much less deal that’s really easy to sell, and those deals usually aren’t good enough for the other teams.”

If you’re afraid, what do you need to do? “If you’re scared, you get a dog [laughter].”

If you could get a deal for Paul Pierce, would Kevin have softened his stance on the no-trade? “I don’t know the answer to that and we never got to that point, so it doesn’t even matter. KG has earned the right to dictate his destination and we never got close enough to a deal for either one of them to even have those conversations.”

On Jason Collins … was it difficult for you to move Jason Collins as part of that Jordan Crawford deal? “Sure. Nobody wanted to lose Jason. But I think that, where Jason is in his career, I think Jason is a player that plays a role that is a little bit easier to find than a Jordan Crawford, who is young potential. … We liked Jordan Crawford when he came out of college. He’s a guy we had contemplated on drafting, we did a lot of research on and studied a lot. We always liked Jordan. He’s a young guy who is scoring 18 points a game per 36 minutes off the bench. He’s a unique player. I think it’s just a much more valuable asset for us going forward and for right now.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Kevin Garnett, LeBron James
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