WALTHAM — The Celtics are rebuilding for the first time since 2006-07.
But president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said the team is in a better position now than back then, when it flipped young players and draft picks to acquire Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, who, with Paul Pierce, helped lead the Celtics to a championship in 2008.
“I think we’re in a better position,” Ainge said in a video discussion live-streamed to Celtics’ season ticket-holders earlier this week. “I think it’s similar, though. We did have some good young players in Al Jefferson, who was a wanted commodity around the league. We were able to get Kevin Garnett for Al Jefferson [and] he was a big part of that.
“We have a lot of draft picks . . . I think our positioning is better.”
Celtics president Rich Gotham, who also participated in the discussion, sided with Ainge.
“We’ve got 10 first-round draft picks over the next five years,” Gotham said. “We’ve created enough salary-cap space that we can be opportunistic when opportunities present themselves, either at trading deadlines or when the draft comes up, and we feel like we’ve developed our young players this year.
“So when we gauge our season, that’s how I’m gauging it. I think we’ve executed well [with] those three things. I think we’re in a better place than we were last year even though the win-loss record doesn’t necessarily reflect that.”
Patience was a word that Ainge and Gotham stressed, as they have all season.
“It’s a question of when urgency meets opportunity,” Gotham said. “I think part of this is, you have to be a bit patient. The Kevin Garnett deal that we made wasn’t something that happened overnight. It developed over time, having not just the draft picks and the young talent, but also the salaries that matched up. So we’ve got to execute on all three of those things, and, as I said earlier, I think we’ve put ourselves in a good position.
“But we still have to remain patient and committed to our plan to get us there because with every deal you make or don’t make, there’s an opportunity cost. You don’t want to cut yourself off from future opportunity. So I think being smart about what we do is what we’ve tried to be. That remains the mode we’re in and I think we’re in a good spot. I think we’re well-positioned for this next chapter.’’
The team is preparing for the draft and free agency, Ainge said. “At that same time, once our season ends, the trading period opens up again,” he added. “The three D’s — development, deals and draft — are how we build our team.”
As always, the question is whether Boston is an attractive destination for free agents who might instead choose, say, Miami or Los Angeles.
“If temperature and superficiality are the measures, no, we don’t compete well,” Gotham said. “But if coming to an organization that has got a great winning tradition and a proven track record of winning recently is attractive, then I do think we can attract players.
“I do think that what we have here is different than what other organizations [have]. When you see Kevin and Paul come back like they did this year and see the treatment they received from the fans and how special it was for them to have been part of the Celtics family, part of the Boston sports landscape, those guys understand what that meant.”
Gotham said that they’re not relying solely on free agency, though.
“The Celtics have never been a team that’s spent all of our payroll on free agents,” he said. “We’ve done it through trades and being opportunistic through acquisitions, but you can’t do that unless you’ve drafted well, which Danny has done, and unless you’ve built your assets, as we’ve discussed. I think free agency is one way to do it, but it’s not the only way to do it.”
Ainge recalled P.J. Brown, a veteran player who signed as a free agent with the Celtics late in his career, in February 2008, and “after spending the second half of the season [with us] said he had never been treated better in an organization.”
Said Ainge, “I’ve had many of our players, the veteran players, that have come up to me and said how much they loved playing for Brad [Stevens]. I think there’s a lot of things, along with the tradition, and how we treat our players.
“But ultimately, it’s going to come down to an opportunity for them to play, an opportunity for them to win — and an opportunity for them to be paid, in some cases. So those are all factors in attracting free agents, but I think we’re in a good place of attracting free agents right now.”
Regarding the 2014 draft, Ainge said, “I don’t think there are any game-changers in the draft. There are a lot of nice players and a lot of players that we’ll be excited to work into the development, but they’re not going to come in and turn our team around in one year or two years. But hopefully we’ll be able to get a couple of players this year that will be rotation players in the NBA for years to come.”
When asked for the team’s needs this draft, Ainge specifically cited “rim protection,” meaning a defensive-minded post player. (The Celtics have one true center on their roster, rookie Vitor Faverani.) However, Ainge added, “then just quality, consistent play — the best players.”
Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck recently told the Globe that there would be “fireworks” this summer with regards to potential moves the team could make.
“That’s why we love Wyc,” Ainge said. “He’s a risk-taker. He’s not afraid. And he’s not afraid to spend the money and he’s not afraid to take chances. We sell to him, but we have to do a good job of selling him sometimes.”
Said Gotham: “Wyc, he’s a competitor. And he’s got a sense of urgency about it, even though he understands the need to sort of put ourselves in a position to be patient, he also wants to make things happen. It’s great.”
In terms of rebuilding, Gotham said, “If we’re going to rebuild, we’re going to rebuild like a champion. We’re going to try to do that efficiently so we’re not one of those teams that’s sort of stuck in neutral for multiple years, and I think we’re sort of putting those pieces in place to try to do that.”
Among their many offseason moves last summer, Gotham cited the hiring of Stevens.
“We feel like he’s a guy that’s going to lead us,” Gotham said. “He’ll be hanging that next banner with us.”
Stevens participated in the discussion, but stressed that his focus was on coaching games and his players. The former Butler coach did praise the Celtics fans and the game-night environment at TD Garden.
“When you come from college, you play in these atmospheres that are on top of you, loud, engaged, and really do provide a home-court advantage,” Stevens said. “And then you get to the NBA and you see that some places, but you definitely see it here. I think that’s the first thing that stood out was how much better our atmosphere is.”
Ainge later said, “I’d just like to tell Brad, ‘Just wait. It gets even way better than this.’ Boston is just such a great place to win.”Baxter Holmes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BaxterHolmes.