WALTHAM — It was the first thing Celtics general manager Danny Ainge told Kris Humphries yesterday when the two sat down to talk: “We’re not tanking.”
“It’s the first thing he told me, too,” said Keith Bogans, who came to Boston along with Humphries, Gerald Wallace, MarShon Brooks and three first-round draft picks in the deal that sent Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets. Boston also sent Jason Terry to Brooklyn and acquired Kris Joseph.
The deal followed the trade of coach Doc Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers, and it continued the rebuilding process that has been seen — and, from many in Boston, welcomed — as an attempt to “tank” the season, racing to the bottom of the standings to land a top pick in next year’s talent-rich draft.
Not so, says Ainge.
“I’m not sure I used that word,” Ainge said, though both players said he was very specific with his expectations. “I think every player wants to know what the rules of the team are. I assured (them) we’re going to try to win every game.”
The three new Celtics — Wallace couldn’t make it, and Joseph was waived later yesterday — met reporters in a news conference at the team’s practice facility. It was Ainge’s first availability since the deal to unload Garnett and Pierce that was agreed to on draft night and finalized on Friday.
“If it were my decision alone, their numbers would be hanging in the rafters,” Ainge said. “Their legacies have been made here in Boston. At the same time, we’re still going to try to beat them.”
The dismantling of the team that won the 2008 championship and returned to the NBA finals two years later actually began with the trade of Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City in 2011. Ray Allen’s departure for the Miami Heat last offseason broke up the new Big Three, and the team’s first-round playoff exit this season convinced Ainge that the time had come to rebuild.