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“We’re always looking to upgrade our team if those opportunities present themselves,” Ainge said on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich (h/t NBC Sports Boston’s Darren Hartwell). “But I think that’s going to be tough. As far as trading players, I don’t really see much out there. We have a lot of good ones. It’s hard to get better players than we have.”
The Celtics are fifth in the Eastern Conference at 22-15, which is below where many expected the team to be at this point of the season.
Both Kyrie Irving and head coach Brad Stevens were critical of Boston’s younger players—without naming anybody specifically—back in November, and the team held a closed-door meeting last month following a 120-107 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.
In theory, a minor trade or two could help the Celtics get things back on track. As Ainge said, though, better alternatives aren’t readily available on the trade market, and Boston doesn’t want to overpay to improve in the short term while hurting its long-term outlook.
Anthony Davis is obviously the dream trade target, yet nothing indicates that’s a realistic option at the moment. New Orleans Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry was adamant in December that Davis wasn’t available, and the five-time All-Star hasn’t publicly agitated for a move out of New Orleans.
Ainge has never been shy about wheeling and dealing, be it sending Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets, acquiring Irving or sending the 2017 No. 1 overall pick to the Philadelphia 76ers. Perhaps he was being purposefully coy in the interview so as not to tip his hand about what the Celtics have in the works.
But nobody should be surprised if the weeks leading up to the trade deadline are quiet in Boston.