Celtics  president of basketball operations Danny Ainge joined Salk & Holley  in his weekly Thursday afternoon appearance to face questions about his team’s tough losses to the Hornets and Heat, Jeff Green ‘s (lack of) playing time and the NCAA  tournament.
C’s coach Doc Rivers , who ripped his team’s performance  in New Orleans, only played Green 26 minutes and resorted to another off-balanced Paul Pierce  isolation jumper in the 87-86 loss. Even Ainge seemed to have questions about those decisions.
“I think Jeff is starting to prove and has proven to Doc that he deserves to be on the court most minutes of the game,” Ainge said. “Doc needs something off the bench, and I think he’s trying to figure all that out.
“And he will. He’s played Jeff at the 2 and the 3 and the 4 this year, and so I think that last night might’ve been a good opportunity for Jeff to play more at the 2. They had two big guys in there. They were killing us on the glass in the second half. I think in one stretch it was 27-9, and that just shows you lack of effort.”
Ainge stopped himself before including Green’s second-half performance as part of that lack of effort, but he did cite Brandon Bass ‘ improved play in defense of Rivers’ decision and eventually blamed the loss on the backcourt.
“I think that last night maybe [we needed] some Jeff at the 2 guard,” said Ainge, who watched Avery Bradley  and Courtney Lee  combine for eight points in 39 combined minutes, “because our guard play was not good last night.’
While Ainge commended Anthony Davis ‘ effort in what he termed “a bad loss” — calling the Hornets rookie “a Spiderman” and “a young, athletic KG” — he also expressed disappointment in his team’s late-game execution.
‘I think that it’s a pattern,” Ainge said. “We’re not such a good team that we have a lot of room for error, and we can’t do what Miami does — get down 27 points and come back. We don’t have a LeBron James  type of player. We have to play more consistent and more solid, and I can see [late-game failures] happen often with us.”
‘I love our guys and their makeup, because I know what they’re made of and what they’re capable of doing, but this happens to every team through the course of the season — you let your guard down, and it’s been a pattern.’
Speaking of the Heat, Ainge thought the Celtics took their feet off the gas pedal in that one, too.
‘It’s something that we’re trying to get away from,” he said. “Habits are hard to break, and Doc is trying to coach the guys through playing with pace and playing with tempo. We played with pace the whole game, and then with five or six minutes to go and the lead, we slowed our game down.
“And when we slow it down, we just don’t have that superstar to just throw the ball to like Kevin Durant  or LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony that’s a high-percentage scorer. Paul can still do it some nights against some matchups, but that’s just not the kind of team we are anymore.”
It sounded an awful lot like he’s just as tired as most Celtics fans of Pierce’s end-of-game elbow jumpers.
“At the end of a game, if it’s Jason Terry  or Jordan Crawford or Jeff Green or Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett  or Avery Bradley, it doesn’t matter,” Ainge said. “Any one of those guys are capable of taking the last shot, and that’s the kind of team we’ve got to be — as opposed to, ‘It’s got to be Paul making a play for us down the stretch.’ That’s just not the kind of team that’s going to be successful for us.”
Once he settled that debate, Ainge addressed the hottest topics in the basketball world, starting with LeBron during the Heat’s 24-game winning streak that stormed through Boston earlier this week.
‘This guy is a cross between Michael [Jordan] and Magic [Johnson],” Ainge said. “He’s a beautiful passer, a great ball-handler, a great defender, a great rebounder and he’s becoming a great finisher, a great shooter and scorer. That was the only thing he’s really been lacking from the time he came into the league, and we can see him just getting better and better with that. It’s scary for the rest of the league.”
As for the NCAA  tournament, Ainge likes Indiana, Louisville  and Florida, but, “I think Duke will win it this year.” His staff watches every game in order to see all the guys they’ve scouted over the year compete against each other.
“What the public knows and what the NBA people knows is a lot different,” he said. “We don’t put a whole lot on a bad performance or a great performance. We try to analyze why they played well. What it a great matchup or were they double-teaming a guy to take him out? I remember Mark Price slipped in the draft after a game against Georgetown. They really did a number on him. He had a terrible game, and he slipped a little bit, but I think generally speaking there’s not a lot of stock put into what they do in the NCAA tournament.”
To listen to the complete interview, check out the Salk & Holley audio on demand page .