Ainge Says Celts Have Moved to Next Phase

WALTHAM, Mass. – Teams have made trade overtures to the Celtics about Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett for years. The Brooklyn Nets finally made an offer that Boston couldn’t refuse.

Boston sent Pierce and Garnett to Brooklyn on Friday in exchange for a slew of assets, some of which will help the team now, and others which will help the team in the future. A few of those ‘now’ pieces were introduced on Monday in Waltham, Mass., as Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks and Keith Bogans met the local media.

Bogans, Brooks, Humpphries hold up their jerseys

While introducing Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks and Kris Humphries to the media, Danny Ainge said that his team has moved on to its next phase.
Brian Babineau

That trio of players makes up a large chunk of what the Celtics received from the Nets. Boston also got Gerald Wallace, who was unable to attend the press conference due to a prior commitment, three first-round draft picks (2014, 2016, 2018) and the option to swap picks with Brooklyn in 2017. (Kris Joseph was also acquired, but was waived on Monday.)

“Brooklyn showed a great deal of interest in putting a dream team together at any cost, it seemed like,” Danny Ainge said on Monday. “The opportunity for us to acquire a lot of young assets and get younger and move on to a different phase presented itself.”

Ainge continued to explain why the move was necessary on Boston’s end.

“We felt like where we were, as a team – it was going to be very difficult to be a championship contender if we were able to keep Paul and KG,” he said. “The opportunity presented itself, and I think it’s a situation that we needed to do.

“This is a good deal for us. We’re excited about the players that we’re getting and we’re excited about the opportunity for us to start fresh and start over – not completely over, because we have a lot of good players returning, and a lot of good players that we acquired – but start over as far as a new coaching staff and new players and a new identity.”

That new identity is based on youth and enthusiasm. Bogans, who is 33 years old, is now the oldest player on the team. The average age of the 14 players currently under contract for next season is just 26 years old, and that doesn’t count 24-year-old rookie Colton Iverson, who has yet to sign a contract.

Within that crop of players is a whole lot of talent. Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Brandon Bass, Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger have solidified themselves as great contributors to the Celtics. Kelly Olynyk showed great promise last week in Orlando. Now add in a double-double machine like Humphries, a talented wing defender in Wallace, a young scorer in Brooks and a glue guy like Bogans, and Boston certainly has a solid roster from top to bottom.

To be clear on one thing, this roster is aiming to win. Bogans and Humphries relayed that message quickly in their first appearances as Celtics.

“I was talking earlier with Danny Ainge, and [the message] was just: ‘We’re not tanking. We’re playing hard,’” Humphries said. “We’ve got to come out there and compete and try to make it to the playoffs.”

Bogans followed that up by saying, “To see some of the comments that the media is talking about, that we’re basically just going to throw the season away, but that’s not the case. I think we’re going to come out and surprise a lot of people.”

Bogans sure wasn’t shy about singing that tune loud and clear. He did so in the press conference and then again during an exclusive one-on-one interview with Celtics.com. He has been on a winner dating back to his days at Kentucky, and he believes this team can compete. Bogans plans on providing veteran leadership that will help Boston accomplish such a goal.

“Me being the older guy now, I’m going to be more like a coach,” he said. “I went from being the youngest guy to being one of the oldest guys. I know my job will be pretty much an extension of coach Stevens. To be out on the floor helping the young guys learn a lot faster and just being a good teammate, leader and professional.”

Such leadership will be the perfect compliment to this young and talented roster. Bogans will concentrate on leading the way in the locker room while Brooks, Humphries and Wallace will help the returning Celtics perform at a high level on the court.

Be excited about seeing these guys compete next season. Who doesn’t like watching a team that’s stacked with talent at shooting guard, small forward and power forward, with Rondo leading the way at point guard?

This may not be the same crop of Celtics that you’ve come to know over the past few years, but it is the Celtics of the future. The assets acquired in this trade have provided Boston with a healthy start to the next phase of its storied history.

Who could refuse that?