Prior to Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce‘s return today to their joint home of six years in Boston, Baxter Holmes of The Boston Globe sat down with Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge to discuss the NBA’s biggest offseason trade. You can read the entire interview here but below are some of the major takeaways from their discussion.
On how the deal transpired:
“[The trade came] together fairly quickly. What I was excited about was that it appeared at the time to be a great situation for everybody — I think that for Paul and KG and Jason Terry and for us. It looked like it was going to be a good situation for them to be a major contender again and be vying for a championship. Their year hasn’t gone that way, but before the season started, it sure looked like it. I think it was a happy way to make a very difficult decision.”
On his personal thoughts about the deal:
“[Trading away Pierce, Garnett, and Jason Terry is] nothing that anybody wants to do, and is looking forward to doing. But I think that when the opportunity presented itself, it was a deal that I had to do for the franchise.”
On who got the better end of the deal:
Well, what I felt at the time was, I thought it was a really gutsy move by Brooklyn. I admired it. I thought the way KG finished last year, and Paul — both of them looked like they had a lot of basketball left in them, as the season finished last year. And so, I felt that it was a good deal for both teams. Like, I wasn’t able to put Joe Johnson and Deron Williams and Brook Lopez around Paul and KG. I wish I could have. They still would’ve been Celtics. But we weren’t in that position, to become a contender, I don’t think. I didn’t think that Paul and KG could carry us like they had for the five or six years previous. We were a team, I felt, that was destined to mediocrity as opposed to excellence with those guys. And especially with [Rajon] Rondo being out and so forth, it was going to be a long year for us with those two guys at the stage of their careers. It wouldn’t have done them justice. So, I was happy for Brooklyn. They were taking a chance. I thought it was a really good trade. I thought it was good for us and where we were as a franchise. And I thought it was really good for Jet, Paul, and KG and for [new Nets coach] Jason Kidd. I didn’t know if they’d win a championship or not, because I knew Indiana and Miami were going to be very good, and I thought Chicago was going to be very good. But I really thought it was going to be a four-horse race in the East, with those four teams. That’s what it looked like to me when the season started.
On how he judges trades around the league:
Really, all you can go on is the information that you have and the reasons you do it at the time. Sometimes you’re making a trade to get a final piece to put you over the top. And sometimes you’re making trades that are trades along the way that you do that are going to lead to things down the road. We live in the economic climate of the NBA and the new CBA where luxury taxes are more penalizing, salary-cap management is very important. So, I think the trades, you can look at immediately, when they happen, as to why every team did them — and as I look at trades, they almost always make sense for all the teams involved. Every now and then, years down the road, a player becomes a way better player than he was when he was traded and a team looks better in a trade. But you can’t be worried about that. You’ve got to do what you think is best for your franchise at the time, whether it’s making a trade for the advantage of salary, or making a trade to project a younger player into a bigger role that would’ve been difficult had you not made a trade. There’s just a lot of factors that go into trades. But to me, most of the trades I’ve seen, in the NBA, because I respect the people in our business — they make sense. But there’s always some risk, when you’re dealing with people and players. People are capable of being injured. There’s always some risk.