Danny Ainge sighed. “It was a long season,” he began.
Then the Celtics’ president of operations paused before his team’s regular-season finale Wednesday against the Washington Wizards at TD Garden.
“Well, I guess not that long, but it was tough, a tough year,” Ainge said.
Ainge touched on numerous subjects during a nearly 10-minute session with reporters, though the biggest focus was on offseason moves and the potential for “fireworks,” as Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck recently told the Globe.
“Yeah, I think on the fourth of July, we’ll have some fireworks,” Ainge said, joking.
“We’re hopeful,” he added. “I have some ideas and some plans that I’d like to do, but there are just no guarantees that we can do it. We need to find good trading partners. We always are trying to make fireworks. Every summer, we try to do something that’s unique and special, and we will definitely try this summer.”
When asked how long it would be until the team would contend for a title again, Ainge said, “How does anybody know that? What do you want me to make a prediction or something? Am I a prophet?’’
He added, “I don’t know anything about what we can do. I’m hopeful. I’ll work my tail off to try to duplicate what we’ve done in the past, but there are no guarantees.”
Ainge has said before that he thinks the Celtics, who have only one true center in rookie Vitor Faverani, need to add size — and he hinted toward that again by saying that the Celtics “didn’t have the size inside to protect the rim” this season.
“I thought that was a big factor that cost us a lot of games and we didn’t finish a lot of games down the stretch,” he added.
Previously, Ainge has said he didn’t believe there were any “game changers” in the upcoming draft, during which the Celtics will have two first-round picks, one of which is expected to be in the top five overall
Regarding the free agent class this summer, Ainge said he didn’t think there were very many “difference makers,” though he said it’s too soon to know exactly which players will become free agents.
In general, Ainge said of these Celtics, “I thought our team gave good effort most nights. I think consistency was our biggest challenge. I don’t think the team was a great fit, a great mix, but individually I liked what I saw from almost every player.”
Ainge also complimented Brad Stevens, who was in his first season as Celtics head coach after being hired from Butler University last summer.
“Brad did a great job this year,” Ainge said. “I mean, he’s a special person and a great coach. The players see it. The players see his work ethic, they see his integrity, and they see his intelligence.
“So I think he earned the respect of the team in a really difficult situation this year and I know he’s going to get better. He’ll be better this year and the year after he’ll be better than he was next year. He’s a sponge and he’s very intelligent with a great work ethic and I couldn’t be happier.”
Ainge also reiterated his faith in point guard Rajon Rondo, who is entering the final season of his contract.
“I think Rajon will have the best year of his career next year,” Ainge said. “That’s what I think. I think he’s sort of at the phase of his life where he’s matured, he’s just smarter, the game’s slower to him. I think he’ll be really healthy and fresher with a summer of strengthening.
“He’s sort of past all the mental anguish of coming back from the knee surgery and the ACL and that’s been sort of a pattern of guys in the past. The first few 30, 20 games whatever is an adjustment period. So I’m confident that he’ll have the best year of his career.”
Ainge also said it’s not their priority just to add pieces around Rondo this offseason so that Rondo is more enticed to extend his stay in Boston.
“Listen, there’s no one person that’s more important than the whole organization,” Ainge said. “We need to be good because we all want to be good.
“I want my coach to stay. I want Jeff Green to want to be here. I want free agents that are looking at us play to want to play here. I want fans to want to come to the game. Everybody wants to win, but not just for one player and not just for one person. We all want to win. And that’s what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Before the game, forward Brandon Bass received the ninth annual Red Auerbach Award, presented to the Celtics player who, according to the team, “best exemplifies the spirit of what it means to be a true Celtic through performance on the court and off.”
The award is named in honor of the Celtics’ legendary coach, general manager, and president who died in 2006.
Bass, in his third season with the Celtics, played in all 82 games, starting 73. He was averaging 11 points and 5.7 rebounds over 27.7 minutes entering Wednesday.
Though Rondo didn’t play because of a strained left hamstring, he wore a pair of sneakers to honor the victims of last year’s Marathon bombing. The shoes bore the initials of victims with the word “Boston Strong” on the tongue, as well as the date of the bombing 4/15/13. Rondo said he would donate the shoes to the One Fund . . . Many Marathon bombing survivors, firefighters, police officers, doctors, nurses and others were recognized throughout the game.