Break up the Celtics? Ainge says maybe

Break up the Celtics? Ainge says maybe

Published Jan. 19, 2012 5:30 p.m. ET

When you think about the Boston Celtics, their aging Big Three and their struggling start — well, it only makes sense for the trade rumors to spin.

Actually, scratch that. They're more than rumors. Some may be half-truths. Just ask Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, who told the Boston Globe he's willing to deal.

Makes sense, considering the Celtics had lost five straight prior to Wednesday's win over Toronto. In the process, they've looked old and injury-prone, and like they're lacking in vital areas such as balance and depth.

So yes, even stars Ray Allen (age 36), Kevin Garnett (35) and Paul Pierce (34) can be had.

Ainge told the Globe the Celtics "haven't been prepared mentally, physically to win," and insisted he won't hang on to the team's older players for sentimental reasons. Basically, if the right transaction comes along, anyone can be gone.

Ainge used his own days as a playing member of the Celtics — when he teamed with greats such as Larry Bird and Kevin McHale — to illustrate his current thinking.

"First of all, it's a different era,'' Ainge told the Globe. "I sat with Red (Auerbach) during a Christmas party (20 years ago). Red was talking to Larry, Kevin and myself, and there was a lot of trade discussion at the time, and Red actually shared some of the trade discussions. And I told Red, 'What are you doing? Why are you waiting?'"

Auerbach actually had a pretty good reason for waiting — considering those trade discussions involved Bird and McHale. But as Ainge pointed out, they weren't the same Bird and McHale whom Celtics fans worshipped.

At that point, their games were on the decline.

"Red had a chance to trade Larry (to Indiana) for Chuck Person and Herb Williams and (Steve) Stipanovich, and he had a chance to trade Kevin (to Dallas) for Detlef Schrempf and Sam Perkins," Ainge said. "I was, like, 'Are you kidding?'"

Ainge's philosophy remains the same 20 years later.

"If I were presented with those kinds of deals for our aging veterans, it's a done deal, to continue the success," he said.

Of course, this is no longer the era of Auerbach fleecing teams of their stars for what amounted to a pair of those 1980s-style skintight gym shorts.

"In today's day and age, with 30 teams in the NBA, 15 teams know they have no chance of winning a championship," Ainge said. "They are building with young players.

"It's a different era. It's easy to say (you might make a trade) but you have to always weigh what are real opportunities."

Random Dribbles

• Dallas' reserves lead all NBA benches in scoring at 45.7 points per game, according to the league's official newsletter. That accounts for half of the Mavericks' points (92.3). Leading the way, of course, is veteran guard Jason Terry at 14.2 ppg.

• Philadelphia's reserves top the Eastern Conference in scoring (44.1), and the Sixers are the only team whose leading scorer comes off the bench. That would be none other than guard Lou Williams and his 15.7 ppg. Small forward Thaddeus Young (12.4) and second-year guard Evan Turner (10.8) are also scoring in double figures in reserve.

• New Jersey center Brook Lopez returned to the practice court wearing a protective boot, taking shots and rebounding those by teammates. Lopez has been out all season with a broken bone in his foot. He underwent surgery Dec. 23. He is expected to miss at least another two weeks, probably more.

• Charlotte lottery pick Bismack Biyombo is off to a slow start, but gained some notice after a 10-point, 11-rebound performance Wednesday against Orlando. Biyombo is 6-foot-9, athletic and powerful — traits that are likely to land him a regular role as the backup center, coach Paul Silas told the Charlotte Observer. Read: Stay tuned. This kid may not be a bust, after all.

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