BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said weeks ago that he wasn’t holding his breath for his team to pull off a deal by Thursday’s NBA trade deadline.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said earlier this week that he wasn’t anticipating any change to his team’s roster.
And sure enough, both were right — nothing happened.
The trade deadline came and went and the Celtics remained the same, with the most notable fact being that Rajon Rondo is still on the team despite yet again being a part of many trade rumors involving so-called interested teams.
“I don’t know why, but he really is a lightning rod of rumors every single year,” Ainge said. “While other guys that are never mentioned [in rumors] are now playing on other teams, Rondo is a guy that’s still on our team. I don’t even understand where some of the talk comes from.
“Listen, Rondo is a good player. I think that teams see us as a rebuilding team. They question how patient Rondo wants to be in a rebuilding situation. And so there are people that inquire and there are conversations. But ultimately, for the last eight years, we have just valued Rondo more than everybody else.”
Rondo politely declined to speak with reporters at the team’s hotel.
The Celtics (19-36) will play the Lakers (18-36) Friday at Staples Center.
Ainge said he was pleased with how trade talks went.
“We tried to accomplish some things at the trade deadline, a lot of different types of things,” he said. “While we explored all of our needs, we just didn’t find any partners that would work.”
But Ainge added that there wasn’t pressure to make a deal, in part because the Celtics already have numerous assets — such as 10 first-round draft picks over the next five years — that will help speed along the rebuilding process.
“There’s a lot of conversation, a lot of talk [around the trade deadline],” Ainge said. “It’s my job to sort of know the value around the league of all my players and how certain teams value draft picks more than other teams. And so there’s a lot of that that goes on — a lot of conversations that maybe set things up for a future date.
“But I did not feel pressure to have to do anything.”
In terms of making a deal, Ainge said, “I think the summertime will be better based on what I’ve just listened to and heard over the last few days.”
As for Stevens, the rookie coach said there was some relief now that the deadline has passed, especially because the team is in rebuilding mode and it’s still not certain which players are part of the team’s future plans.
“At the end of the day, it’s a tough time, because they are all checking their phones, all the way up until the final buzzer,” Stevens said. “I think that’s just part of life in this league. Everybody is watching just out of curiosity anyways, to see who ends up where.
“It is nice to be able to know who is going to be on that bench.”
Still, he had met with his players at the hotel Tuesday in Phoenix to calm any nerves. Stevens said he stressed that, as far as he knew, no deals were in the works.
“I didn’t anticipate anything based on what I had heard and, as it got further along, my conversations with the people making those decisions were few and far between, just because they tell me when things are going on,” Stevens said. “It was pretty obvious that there wasn’t a lot on the table, there wasn’t a lot being discussed.”
Forward Brandon Bass was prominently involved in trade rumors, as playoff-bound teams viewed him as a piece that could help with a postseason push.
“To be honest, it feels good to remain a Celtic,” Bass said. “Nobody really wants to be moved last minute.”
Bass is in his third season with the Celtics — the longest he has been with any team — and said he hopes he can remain with the team for a long time.
“[It’s] very important, because you want to stay put,” he said. “You don’t really want to be floating around. You don’t want to be one of those players. And I’ve been on enough teams. I’ve been traded once. I feel like it’s time for me to stay put.”
Bass added that he appreciated how Paul Pierce spent 15 years as a Celtic.
“I was a real admirer of that, of those type of moments, of players staying put for a while,” he said. “So, hopefully I can stay here for a while.”Baxter Holmes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BaxterHolmes.