CHICAGO — The Celtics opened a roster spot when they traded Jabari Bird to the Hawks two weeks ago. The Celtics’ status as an Eastern Conference contender and their ability to offer a significant salary with the $5.3 million midlevel exception would seem to make Boston an appealing option for a good player on the buyout market.
But that roster opening remains unoccupied, and it could stay that way for some time, according to president of basketball operations Danny Ainge.
“We looked at all the players that were in buyout situations and players in the G League and so forth,” Ainge said Friday. “But, I mean, a lot of guys in the buyout market are looking for commitments and promises to play, and we don’t have minutes. And when we’re healthy, we have plenty of guys. We don’t have an obvious hole.”
Ainge said the Celtics will probably keep the spot open for now in case a significant injury creates a positional need. That is an approach Boston has taken in the past, too.
Center Aron Baynes, sidelined with a foot contusion for about three weeks, took part in portions of practice Friday and is progressing toward a return. And Gordon Hayward, who missed Thursday’s loss to the Bucks with a sprained ankle, plans to play against the Bulls on Saturday.
“I hope nothing happens to any of our players between now and the next couple weeks,” Ainge said. “But in case something does, we may have a hole that we need to fill more. But until then we just keep it open and see what we need.”
The Celtics could also try to sign a player to a two-year deal using all or part of the midlevel exception, in hopes of using the second year for salary-matching purposes in a trade for Anthony Davis this summer.
But to do that, the Celtics would have to guarantee the second year of the player’s contract, which many players could be reluctant to do, either because they plan to seek bigger long-term deals this summer or have no interest in being a trade chip.
Ainge was not able to address a possible Davis deal specifically, but when asked about the possibility of signing a player to a two-year deal with the intention of using the salary in a trade this summer, he said: “We’ve looked at all those possibilities, yeah. We’re just waiting to see. Nothing is in the works.”
Hayward says he’ll play
Hayward took part in team drills followed by 3-on-3 scrimmaging Friday and said he is confident he will be able to play Saturday.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” he said. “It was good to test it with some three-on-three and stuff. So, hopefully it doesn’t get too sore tonight. But I think I’ll be all right. Drills are one thing, but when you’re having to react, then you’re really testing it, pushing off it. So it was good to play three-on-three.”
Irving and Al Horford, who played 41 and 37 minutes respectively in the loss to the Bucks, sat out Friday’s practice to rest.