One of the primary roles of a general manager is negotiations. Sometimes that means free agent contracts but at this time of year that means trade talks with other general managers. In any negotiation, leverage counts. Be it perceived leverage or just perceived leverage, it doesn't matter as long as it is effective.
There's a perception by some out there (perhaps mostly in the media) that the Celtics don't believe that they are contenders and are "desperate" to "blow it up." Is that true? It seems unlikely, but even if it was true, we'd never hear about it. If Ainge admitted that on or off the record, it would be like tossing blood and fish guts into tropical waters and paddling around on a surf board. Not smart.
So Ainge is doing exactly what he should be doing at this point prior to the deadline. Making calls, looking to improve, but not slamming on the panic mode button. The overall feeling I get from his comments is that he's in no rush and he has no pressure to do anything at all. If anything, he's turning the situation to his advantage.
The Celtics president is also a dangerous man, said one general manager. The key in this regard is that Ainge feels no pressure to beef up his roster for the current season and no desire to jump at the first shiny move that may affect the future. "From the way he sounds, Danny knows they’re not going to . . . well, let’s say it’s a huge longshot at best the Celtics can contend this year," the GM said. "I think if he could find something that gives them a real chance to win right now, he’d do it. But I don’t think that a deal like that really exists for them. I don’t think there’s anything out there that they can do that takes what they have now to the next level.
Like I've been saying for a while, he doesn't need to do anything to start the rebuild process this summer. He absolutely could do something if the right deal came along, but he doesn't have to, and that's key.
Otis Smith is in a desperate situation. Mitch Kupchick you could argue is in a more desperate situation. The Celtics situation may be sad if you consider their chances at one last title a "huge longshot," but it isn't desperate. And that is a kind of leverage that Danny can use (or not use) at the deadline.
With that said, I do think that Ainge is eager to at least do something minor in terms of getting a big man for the immediate future.
"We need another big body at some point," Ainge said. "Depending on the [medical] results, if Chris and Jermaine can play, that changes things, then we don’t need any more bigs." But Ainge kept coming back to needing another big, which seems to hint to a likelihood that at least one -- or both players -- will not be back this season. Even so, Ainge said the need for another center does not necessarily mean the team will make a deal before Thursday's deadline. "I don’t feel like we have to do anything, other than we eventually have to get another big body," Ainge said. "But I don’t think you have to make a trade at all."
As always, stay tuned for updates.