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Danny Ainge on the .500 Celtics: ‘We need to have more urgency’

Jaylen Brown and his Celtics teammates have come crashing down to the .500 mark.
Jaylen Brown and his Celtics teammates have come crashing down to the .500 mark.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Remember all those parades? All that boasting? All that Boston pride owed to the fact that our teams were just better than everybody else’s?

Well, at this hour we have only one team with a winning record, and that’s the Bruins. The Red Sox and Patriots officially became losers in 2020, and now the 2021 Celtics have lost four of five, 10 of 15, and sunk to .500, barely better than the forever-moribund Knicks.

Our patience with the Green Team is running out. They are simply not as good as they think they are. They have a couple of nice players in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, but Brad Stevens looks increasingly overrated and Danny Ainge has produced one championship in 18 years.

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Whom do we blame?

The Globe’s Gary Washburn wrote Monday that the team “appears to be tuning out its coach.”

That’s big-time code, right there. That’s usually what’s written before a coach gets fired.

“I don’t think this has anything to do with coaching,” Ainge said Monday.

What about you, Danny? Is it time to start ripping the president of basketball operations?

“Sure!” he said. “We’re not playing with the passion that we need. I think that’s on the players. And the players on the team are on me.

“There are things I could have done better, but I’m not going to mention names. I’ll take this responsibility. This is a team that was put together by me, and we’re not playing with enough consistency and urgency, and it’s my job to look to see what we can do to improve the team, but that’s always much harder than improving from within.”

Are changes afoot?

“Just changing faces doesn’t always change things,” Ainge said, “but it may have to come to that.”

Oooh. There’s something. The NBA trading deadline is March 25. Is it possible that the ever-patient Ainge might get fed up and do something big? He has until next offseason to take advantage of the $28 million trade exception they acquired in the Gordon Hayward sign-and-trade.

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“It’s definitely not a time to panic,” cautioned Ainge. “But it’s always a time to reflect. My job is to reflect after every game on where we stand and where our team is and how much better they can get. I know our team is better than how they are playing, and I’m confident they will play better.

“I’m not making judgments on all of my players, but I am seeing that there is a lack of consistent urgency, and some of that is our success. We started out 8-3, and we’ve got a lot of young guys and we have a lot of guys that have been to the conference final three times. I think sometimes you don’t realize how hard winning is every night.”

That’s shorthand for “some of these guys are overrated when they look in the mirror.”

What's next for Danny Ainge and the Celtics?
What's next for Danny Ainge and the Celtics?John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

After Sunday’s embarrassing blowout against Washington, the Eastern Conference’s worst team, Brown said, “If you let it be a ‘rock bottom’ mentality, then that’s what it’s going to be.”

“I don’t think it’s rock bottom, because we’re not healthy, we’re not playing well, and we’re young,” said Ainge, a former NBA coach. “Rock bottom would be if we expected to win a playoff series and lost to a team we were supposed to beat. That would be rock bottom.

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“I’ve seen too many bad stretches of regular-season basketball to consider this rock bottom. But having said that, we’ve been playing very, very poorly and inconsistent and not with enough urgency for the last few weeks.

’'I know these players very well. I’ve watched ‘em play from the time they were young. We’re not playing well right now and unfortunately each player individually is imperfect, and I don’t think this has anything to do with coaching.

“When teams aren’t playing well, every player has their own individual idea of what it is that somebody else should be doing better. It’s very refreshing to hear some of the players — not all of the players — say, ‘I need to be better. I need to play harder. I need to be more prepared.’ ”

Brown and Kemba Walker said those things after Sunday’s debacle.

Ainge understands the restlessness in Green Team Nation.

“I like the fact that the fans aren’t patient,” he said. “We need to have more urgency. I like when players come to the realization that our fans hold our players and all of us to high accountability.

“To wear this uniform, there’s a lot goes into it. People are gunning for you because of the success you’ve had, and part of it is you’ve got to go out and perform and live up to the expectations.

“Some of this sounds harsh, and it’s not; it’s reality.

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Could Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens make a move to shake the team out of its current funk?
Could Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens make a move to shake the team out of its current funk?Jessica Rinaldi

“I need to be patient to see what a big picture is on top of our next five games. It’s not easy to really have a recognition. What’s most important is to see the big picture. What’s most important for the players is that they win the next game.

“I’m not that results-oriented in the regular season. I’m more about the process of what we are becoming. You can go through bad stretches of regular season because of schedule and because of injuries and many excuses you can come up with, but right now we have a pattern of not competing with the urgency that we need. It’s that simple.”


Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at daniel.shaughnessy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.