The calendar says it's the NBA offseason, but things haven't slowed down much in the Celtics' executive offices, as the team made several moves at the NBA Draft and then had a strong showing in the Toshiba Vegas Summer League showcasing plenty of young talent.
And now, with veteran players on the mend and the schedule released, Executive Director of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge checked in with Celtics.com for an exclusive interview on Monday afternoon. Ainge gave us an update on some of the injured Celtics, as well as his thoughts on the team's offseason moves and the road ahead to training camp and the upcoming season.
Celtics.com: So now that the draft is past, and you've had a chance to see some of the new acquisitions in the Summer League and other workouts, how do you feel the reshaping of the roster has gone this summer?
Ainge: "First of all, I was very impressed with a lot of the things I saw in the summertime and post-draft, as we evaluate our own drafting and so forth. Sebastian Telfair had a fantastic summer and a great camp with us and continues to give us a lot of hope.
Rajon Rondo is probably the biggest surprise around the league with his play, not only in the Vegas Summer League, but he continued drawing attention to how good of a talent he is in [Tim] Grgurich's camp in Vegas. We got a lot of positive feedback from his quality play there.
Gerald is progressing; Gerald had a good Summer League. Allan Ray played well in the summer. But, it's just Summer League."
Celtics.com: There's been a lot of talk around the league about the way the game's being officiated in the playoffs with regard to touch fouls, and how there's more emphasis in the league on perimeter play. Is that something you see, and is there a team philosophy of putting a premium on speed, especially at the guard position?
Ainge: "Yeah, I think so, I think the game in the last couple of years is being cleaned up on the perimeter, and quickness is obviously a huge asset. We felt that the one thing we were lacking was a penetrating guard. There was a lot of talk about 'point guards' and Delonte and all of that kind of stuff; we think Delonte is fantastic. The one thing we really felt like we needed was somebody who can really penetrate in the paint to open opportunities on the perimeter for some of our shooters."
Celtics.com: Can you give us an update on some of our injured players? First off, how's Wally Szczerbiak progressing with his knee?
Ainge: "I played golf with Wally two weeks ago in Doc Rivers' tournament, and he seemed to think that his knee is in better shape than it's been in a long time. He's in great condition and seems like he's in fantastic shape."
Celtics.com: How about Paul's elbow; he had the surgery last week...
Ainge: "Yeah, I'm not too concerned, I just talked to Paul yesterday, and Paul said he's feeling fine. We'll see how long it's going to take to get him back playing but I expect Paul to be playing basketball again in early September."
Celtics.com: Let's move on to Al's ankle...
Ainge: "Everything looks good, his rehab looks good, he's ahead of schedule, and we anticipate him being ready for training camp."
Celtics.com: And Perkins' shoulder?
Ainge: "Perkins has been playing, shooting, and working out pretty extensively in Houston, and he's coming back I think on Wednesday for a final [evaluation] to get permission to come back and play full [on]. He's been biting at the bit to play down in Houston in some of the leagues down there, and we just wanted to take our time and give him as much time as we can, but I'm anticipating that he'll be given the full go-ahead to go full-speed in about a week."
Celtics.com: Moving on to the undrafted guys you've signed, Kevin Pittsnogle and Ray, given the amount of guys already under contract, it seems they'll really have their work cut out for them to find a role on this team.
Ainge: "They are. I mean, if there's one thing right now it's that we have too many quality players, so there are going to be some guys who are worthy of making our roster and playing in the NBA who may not get that opportunity. Allan Ray had a terrific summer league I thought, and not only that, but a fantastic college career, and fantastic play in international basketball between his junior and senior years. He's got a whole resume of quality play and I'm shocked that he wasn't drafted. So [he] was a real good find for us.
And then Pittsnogle, we felt like there was one big thing we lost [in the offseason transactions] and that was a perimeter-shooting big. We thought he was one of the best in college basketball at that 6'10" and above size, so if he can do other things, if he can rebound and defend, and get himself in good enough shape where we can utilize his shooting skill, then he could be a find for us as well. He'll have an opportunity to make a roster spot, but he does have his work cut out for him, as does Allan Ray, because we have a roster full of talented young players."
Celtics.com: There were certainly plenty of rumors out there in July, but do you think at this point we see the roster that's going to be in training camp come October, or are there still possibly moves to be made?
Ainge: "I don't know, we'll have to wait and see. We're constantly working to try to improve our team, but we're not going to do any deals just to do deals. We're going to do things that are better for us. I'm OK with what we have and I like all of our players.
The one thing that I feel is that we have too many. We've known that, but at the same time it's not just a simple solution to correct that without giving away talented young prospects. So we're going to be patient, see how it all develops and see who wins the battles and opportunities, and keep plugging along."
Celtics.com: Can you give us an update on Brian Grant? Is he officially still with the team?
Ainge: "He has not been officially released; he's still on our roster but he's not going to play with us this year."
Celtics.com: Theo Ratliff has yet to be officially introduced here in Boston, but can you tell us what he brings to the mix?
Ainge: "Theo is an experienced shot blocker and rebounder with some offensive abilities as well. He's a guy who's proven he's a quality NBA center, and an experienced one. I think he's going to provide a dimension to our team that we haven't had."
Celtics.com: Looking at the schedule, with seven of the first 10 at home, what are your thoughts on that and the importance of coming out of the gate strong?
Ainge: "I think it's always important to get off to a good start early, and especially with a younger team that hasn't been together that long, you want to get out of the gates hot and strong. We'll be trying to do that with the home schedule in our favor, even though we have some good, formidable opponents on our home court. We like the opportunity to get off to a fast start, no matter what our schedule says, and that's our objective."