Ainge, Stevens React to Thursday's Trade

ORLANDO – The Celtics were all about winning on Thursday. They knocked off the Magic during their fourth summer league game, but their biggest win of the day came via a trade that was completed hours earlier.

Boston partnered with Cleveland and Brooklyn for a three-way deal that sent center Tyler Zeller, guard Marcus Thornton and a first-round pick to the C’s. All Danny Ainge gave up in the deal was a trade exception and a heavily protected second-rounder.

Basketball pundits around the country have been lauding Ainge all day long for the haul he received in the deal. About six hours after the deal was completed, we finally had an opportunity from Ainge himself regarding how satisfied was with the move.

“I think Tyler was a good get for us,” Ainge said shortly before the Celtics took on the Magic. “We’re short on centers and we like the way he runs the court. He can make shots and complement our guard play. I think (acquiring) a 7-footer who knows how to play was very good.”

Ainge continued his evaluation of the trade by moving on to Thornton, who averaged 12.3 points per game off the bench for the Nets last season.

“Marcus can bring us some scoring, probably some bench scoring, and can really get hot in stretches,” said Ainge. “He had a 42-point game last year. He’s a guy that can shoot the ball from the 3-point line and adds shooting and depth to our team.”

The Celtics believe both players will be able to make a positive impact on their team next season, but for very different reasons.

Zeller is a 7-footer who has been handcuffed by a lack of playing time during his first two seasons with Cleveland. He has gotten on the court enough, however, to show the Celtics that he is a premier athlete at his position.

“First and foremost, I think he’s a great transition rim-runner,” Brad Stevens said. “He can really get out and fly up and down the court.”

As Ainge commented moments later, that’s a skill the Celtics put a high priority on.

“I think he fits into how we want to play and how Brad wants to have that center position be a runner and get up the court and run to the front of the rim. He fits all of the criteria,” said Ainge.

The Celtics also believe that Zeller is a center who can stretch the floor. He shot better than the league average last season in seven of the eight shooting areas from 16 to 24 feet. Zeller is also a strong rebounder who has the lateral quickness and strength to be an effective defender down low.

Thornton is a much different player than Zeller but Boston likes what he brings to the table as well. He is a scorer, and that’s something the Celtics lacked a season ago.

“I think anytime you think about your team and you think about what your needs are, putting the ball in the basket helps a lot,” said Stevens.

Stevens, who noted that Thornton single-handedly knocked his Butler team out of the NCAA tournament in 2009, then went into a bit more detail as to what type of offense the 27-year-old brings to the table.

“I think Marcus will complement the guys well that we have there,” Stevens said, “but he also can run off screens in both directions and shoot the basketball and get it off pick-and-rolls or handoffs and shoot the basketball. And he can create his own shot going at full speed, which is hard to do.”

The Celtics are excited about adding that type of offensive weapon to their arsenal. Likewise, they’re happy to have picked up a 24-year-old, 7-foot big man who’s skilled with the ball.

All of this for the minimal charge of a protected second-rounder and a trade exception? That’s a win – and a big one – for Ainge and the C’s.