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Gary Washburn | On Basketball

Celtics’ skid hasn’t knocked Danny Ainge off-balance

If you’re looking for panic, despair, and desperation regarding the Celtics’ recent losing skid, don’t approach president of basketball operations Danny Ainge.

What’s more, the highly competitive Ainge was complimentary of his roster, despite six losses in seven games before Wednesday’s 103-94 win over the Indiana Pacers. The Celtics, he said, aren’t a perfect bunch and have been wildly inconsistent, but there is hope.

“I think that we were playing bad basketball for a stretch,” he said. “I think [in Tuesday’s loss to the Knicks] we played much better, just a team got hot. Winning is hard in our league and you can play well and still lose.


“There’s different reasons of why we’ve lost each game. I don’t think there’s a pattern over a stretch of why we’re losing. Every game is unique and different.”

Leadership, or lack thereof, has been an issue. Isaiah Thomas has mentioned a few times during the skid that he needs to emerge as a better leader. In the waning moments of Sunday’s loss to the Grizzlies, Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart got into a verbal exchange following Smart’s frustration foul that cost the Celtics 2 critical points.

The Celtics are a young team with several players unaccustomed to such heavy responsibility, and it has showed the past two weeks.

“I expect everybody to be a leader,” Ainge said. “I look at everybody is either leading positively or negatively. Even if they’re not talking, if they’re nonverbal, if they’re loud and obnoxious personalities, everybody can lead in the way they go about their job, how they play together, how they behave on and off the court. They’re all leading whether they know it or not. I expect players to get better at leading with experience.

“But some players have innate leadership skills. Isaiah has a lot of great leadership skills, doesn’t mean he’s a perfect leader.”


Despite dropping to .500 for one day, sliding in the Eastern Conference, and dissension among players about playing time and roles, Ainge appears optimistic.

“I want to win every game, like everybody does,” Ainge said. “I know my coaches want to win. I know my players want to win. But I find a lot of things that I’m seeing right now that I really like. I think I can see the bigger picture a little better as I did as a player or I could as a coach. I see a lot of good things in the midst of some overall bad games. We battle consistency, and that’s been a challenge. We don’t have a lot of room for error to win; we have to play really well.

“A credit to this team, a credit to this staff is we’re the third-ranked defense without a lot of shot-blocking and with smaller guards. We’re fighting to be a good defensive team.”

There’s five weeks before the trade deadline, and there is expected to be a lot of action from Eastern Conference teams, especially since 13 teams have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs. The Celtics are one of those teams, but Ainge will not feel obligated to make a trade just to create headlines.

“What I don’t feel the need to do [is] to do a move just to do a move,” he said. “I like the guys that we have on our roster. I like the individual players but I don’t think it’s a perfect fit. I think we can get better. Like I said, there’s a lot of positive things going on with our roster.


“We’re a big winning streak from getting back in [the Eastern Conference race], but we’re also fragile enough of a losing streak to be out of it.”

Smart has returned from a bone bruise in his left knee after missing 18 games but has been inconsistent, especially offensively. Ainge attributed that to injury.

“I give Marcus a lot of credit because he’s playing really hard and he’s giving us what he can give us, but I don’t think Marcus is right physically,” Ainge said. “He hasn’t been himself.”

Meanwhile, the Celtics are likely going to have to address the situation with David Lee. A projected starter in training camp, he has fallen out of the rotation, playing in 30 of the 38 games and averaging a career-low 15.4 minutes.

Ainge said he wasn’t disappointed in how the Lee acquisition has turned out.

“What I’ve learned in this league is wait a week and see what’s happening,” Ainge said. “I’m not disappointed in anybody. I think it’s been a challenge. Our front line, it’s been a challenge for Brad [Stevens] in managing the minutes. We all get that and there has been zero injuries of any significance. We knew coming into the year about our depth and that was our advantage and that was our challenge.’’


Ainge could make some significant changes to the roster in the next few weeks or be patient and stand pat. He appears to be in wait-and-see mode, so how the team fares in the next few weeks could be critical to its long-term future.

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Gary Washburn can be reached at gary.washburn@globe.com