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Gary Washburn | On basketball

Help for Celtics could arrive in many forms

Celtics fans would like to see Gordon Hayward back on the court this season, but he is not being pressured to return before he is ready.file/Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Thursday is the final day NBA teams can waive or reach buyouts with players so those players can be eligible for playoff rosters, giving the Celtics reasons to examine the market closely as they consider one final move for the stretch run.

Such a move is unlikely. The Celtics already have a 15-man roster and would have to waive one of their players to make such a move. And the question for teams that hold these players who may have value is whether it is beneficial to execute buyouts.

If tanking is the goal, then the answer is yes. There could be action over the next 48 hours from teams looking to dump players who could actually help them win.


There was a level of disappointment among Celtics faithful that the club didn’t make a splashy move before the Feb. 8 trade deadline. Their biggest in-season move so far has been the addition of big man Greg Monroe, who has been underwhelming in six games, averaging 5.7 points with a 41.4 field goal percentage in the six games he’s played.

“He’s going to get more used to the way that we’re trying to play on the defensive end,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said of Monroe. “I think our system is such that it accounts for individual strengths and he’s just going to have to figure out — and kind of be able to see each step of what we’re trying to accomplish against different actions. “But he’s really smart. He’s going to figure it out.

“There will be nights that are his and nights that aren’t, and it’s just part of being part of a good team. But I appreciate his approach a great deal, and I think he’s really going to help us.”

The question Danny Ainge has to answer over the next day or so is whether his club really needs an upgrade? And if the answer is yes, can that upgrade be acquired from the lot of buyout players? The Celtics have had moderate success with buyout players, but Ainge isn’t so certain that his roster needs adjustments with 20 games left in the season.


“We’re continually always looking at players that may be available,” Ainge said. “But we do like our guys.”

The Celtics enter Wednesday’s game with the Charlotte Hornets on a three-game winning streak after losing nine of their previous 15 games before the All-Star break. Of course, those wins have come over the Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks, and Memphis Grizzlies, all of whom would miss the playoffs if the season ended today. But the Celtics have been seeking any type of momentum after losing their mojo in the past month.

“We’ve been inconsistent this year; we’ve had some amazing moments,” Ainge said. “We need to be more consistent, that’s what we’re striving to be, most consistent.”

The lingering question is the health of Gordon Hayward. He fractured his left tibia and dislocated his left ankle five minutes into the season and the team has continually said it does not expect him to return this season. Hayward is walking normally, working out, and going through his rehabilitation program.

The Celtics do not want to place any pressure on Hayward to return this season when he has three more years left on his contract and essentially the same team will return next season. Still, the questions linger about Hayward because he continues to progress.


“I think we’ll all know, Gordon will know, we’ll all know when he’s ready to come back and we’ll certainly not be putting any pressure on him to come back,” Ainge said. “We’re taking our team and we want him healthy for the long term.

“We’re not planning on him playing this year. I think we’ve said that quite a few times, but people still want to ask and hold on to that hope, but we’re not planning on him coming back this year and we think he’ll be healthy and ready to go next year.”

Ainge said everything except Hayward isn’t going to play this season. There is no reason for the Celtics to push him to come back, especially when there are so many psychological hurdles to overcome from returning from such an injury. If Hayward does decide he’s ready to return, the Celtics want to be surprised about it.

But Ainge isn’t necessarily convinced this current roster isn’t capable of greatness. The Celtics are one-half game back of the Toronto Raptors for the No. 1 seed in the conference with two more matchups left with their rivals to the North.

“I like this roster, absolutely,” Ainge said. “It doesn’t matter if I think we need anything more, because it’s got to be something better. It’s not like we can go to the grocery store and pick up better players than the players we have. We have good players.”


But that doesn’t mean he won’t be paying close attention to roster moves over the next 24 hours. There could be help on the horizon.

Gary Washburn can be reached at gwashburn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GwashburnGlobe.