Atlantic Notes: Bradley, Thomas, Ish Smith

Multiple executives from other teams around the league are impressed with all of the trades that the Celtics have made the last two years, but there’s no grand design behind it, president of basketball operations Danny Ainge tells Grantland’s Zach Lowe.

“We don’t have any master plan,” Ainge says. “You just hope you have the assets when a deal comes along.”

Ainge pledges an active run in free agency this summer, though he believes some of the team’s existing players could grow into the sort of star-level performers who usually are among the top three players on a contender, as Lowe details. The Celtics love Marcus Smart, last year’s No. 6 overall pick, Lowe writes, and while multiple teams offered expiring deals and picks toward the back end of the first round for Avery Bradley, Ainge turned them away, several league sources tell Lowe. There’s more on the Celtics amid the latest from the Atlantic Division:

  • The Celtics think Isaiah Thomas is a better asset to trade than the protected 2016 first-round pick from Cleveland that they gave up to get him from the Suns at the deadline, according to Lowe. The C’s talked about waiting to do the Thomas deal to avoid winning too many games down the stretch this year, but decided against that, with Ainge informing coach Brad Stevens, whom he normally keeps in the loop, of the deal just an hour before it happened, as Lowe examines. “Ideally, he might have been someone you pick up in the summer,” Ainge said. “But someone else might trade for him. You might be in a bidding war. You have to move while the iron is hot.”
  • Nerlens Noel on Monday called Ish Smith “the first real point guard I’ve ever played with” and expressed a desire that Smith, a free agent at season’s end, return to the Sixers, notes Tom Moore of Calkins Media. Of course, Noel spent the first half of the season with reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams at the point. In any case, Noel’s development has taken off since Smith arrived shortly after the deadline trade that sent Carter-Williams out, notes Marcus Hayes of the Philadelphia Daily News, who refers to the big man’s growth as the team’s most important mission this season.
  • Marc Berman of the New York Post wonders just what the Knicks‘ D-League coaching change Monday means for the future of assistant GM Allan Houston, once seemingly a GM-in-training. Houston’s duties with the NBA team had already been curtailed under Phil Jackson, Berman writes.

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