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Danny Ainge knows Celtics are ‘not good enough,’ and other takeaways from his season-ending press conference

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge faces a busy offseason.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge held his season-ending news conference Thursday in which he discussed everything from the conference finals loss to the Heat to his approach to another important offseason. Here are the main takeaways.

▪ During the playoffs the Celtics' lack of depth was a bit glaring. Among players who appeared in at least 10 games, the Celtics had four in the top 10 in the NBA in minutes per contest.

Coach Brad Stevens was wary of leaning on his bench in critical moments, and it made Ainge’s inability to bolster the roster at the trade deadline stick out. Ainge said the team could not have anticipated injuries to Gordon Hayward and Romeo Langford, so he had no regrets about failing to complete a deal last February.


“But I think it’s a misconception we didn’t make a strong effort to improve our team,” he said.

Ainge said that it could have altered his approach a bit if he’d known the league was going to shut down a month later, and that new players would essentially have an extra training camp to get acclimated to their team. That helped a team like the Heat, who received big contributions from deadline additions Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala.

“There’s a few guys we were chasing, a few guys we thought we could add to the roster that could really help us,” Ainge said, “and we weren’t able to get those deals done.”

▪ Ainge typically drafts the best player available regardless of position. But on Thursday he hinted there might be a bit of a shift to that approach, most likely because the Celtics have an overabundance of wing players.

“There are times when you need to draft for specific needs, especially when we’re drafting in the positions that we’re drafting this year and with the draft that we have this year,” Ainge said.


The Celtics own the 14th, 26th, 30th and 47th picks in this year’s draft. Ainge said that the Celtics would take a chance on a younger player who needs development in the G League, too.

▪ Ainge isn’t yet permitted to have discussions with Jayson Tatum about signing a contract extension. Tatum is in line to receive a five-year, maximum-salary deal. But Ainge sounded optimistic.

“Jayson knows how much we like him. We have a good relationship. Jayson likes it here, so I’m confident that we’ll be able to work something out this summer — this offseason, I should say.”

Kemba Walker dealt with pain in his left knee for much of the season.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff/The Boston Globe

▪ All-Star point guard Kemba Walker was slowed by left knee pain for much of the season. The Celtics were cautious with him in Orlando, limiting his minutes over the first few weeks and gradually revving him up as he built strength in the knee.

When talking to reporters, coaches, and even Ainge, Walker consistently said he felt fine. But Ainge said it was obvious that something was off.

“Even the games where he played well, I could tell he wasn’t the same physically as he was in October, November, December,” Ainge said. “So we’re going to try to get that Kemba back. And I know Kemba wants to be back 100 percent and playing his best basketball. Even not his best he still averaged 19 or 20 points per game in the playoffs. He still is a really good player. But he’s not what he was.”


Ainge said he does not think Walker will need to undergo offseason surgery. He said that the medical staff will come up with a rehabilitation plan for him in the coming weeks.

▪ Ainge said he was impressed by the development of Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and that Marcus Smart had a “huge, huge role.” He thought Walker and Hayward showed how good they can be when they are healthy. But he acknowledged that further down the bench there remain plenty of unknowns.

“Just because the opportunities haven’t come for so many of our players that are on our bench,” Ainge said. “We saw Grant [Williams] finish up pretty strong with a few short minute opportunities. Robert [Williams] had a good finish to the season. Enes [Kanter] gave us a big boost many times throughout the year. Daniel Theis had a terrific year. I think there’s a lot we learned about each of the individuals and about our team collectively. I think that we learned that we’re not good enough.”

▪ Although the 2018-19 season turned into a soap opera, this year’s Celtics team was essentially drama-free. The cohesion was noticeable on the court, too. But after the Game 2 loss to the Heat in the conference finals there was a shouting match in the locker room that spilled into the night and required some mediation before being resolved the next day. Was that an indication that this team was not really as close as it appeared? Ainge doesn’t think so.


“I personally have been around a long time, as you guys can tell,” Ainge said, “and I wouldn’t overreact to those. I think our chemistry for sure was enhanced this year. Our team was enhanced by the great chemistry and great culture that was created here.”

Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmelsbach@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.