The Boston Celtics reached the Eastern Conference Finals this season while not sacrificing any future assets, but Danny Ainge acknowledged the team needs improvement.
“I don’t know what ‘level’ that means,” he said. “I feel like wins are deceiving sometimes. I think that the fact that we were one of three teams still left playing was something to be proud of, but it’s not necessarily where we really are.
“I think sometimes teams make false assumptions of their team based on things like that. I think that our team is not that much different than a lot of our competition in the East. I think we had a good year in spite of some injuries, you know, with [Al] Horford going down early and Isaiah [Thomas] missing a short time and Avery [Bradley] missing 22 games there in a stretch. We had to overcome some injuries, and it was good because our depth got a chance to play. Everybody on our roster got a chance to prove their worth.
“But I feel like it doesn’t really matter what we’ve accomplished. If we’d lost Game 7 against the Wizards, I don’t feel any different than if we’re where we are today. I know that we’re good. I know that we’re not great. I know that we still have more to do, and, you know, that next step is by far the hardest.”
The Celtics were eliminated by the Cleveland Cavaliers in five games.
“This is what’s difficult about our business that I think sometimes... you know, I don’t think I knew this even when I was a player and maybe even when I coached as much as I do now,” Ainge said. “As I look around the league, I think sometimes the mistakes that are made are when you’re just that little bit, just that one piece away and you can’t get that piece.
“Just because you’re one piece away doesn’t mean you can get it. And if you force yourself to get it, and if you force a deal or force yourself to get the second best available or the third or fourth best available player at that position that you need, then it might not make you that much better or make you still not good enough, and you’re stuck. So, yeah, we’re not that far away, but we’re still a ways away. We still know we need to get better. Everybody in our organization knows we need to get better. We need to add.”
While the Celtics own the top overall pick and have a good core, they could make major changes this offseason.
“Time will tell on that, but, yeah, there is a potential for there to be some significant change,” said Ainge. “But maybe less change. Maybe more change; maybe not. A lot will be dependent on what we’re able to pull off in the draft and in deals leading up to free agency and then what happens in free agency. There’s just so much unknown right now. Right now it’s all talk and pipe dreams and planning. But there’s no certainty. It’s an exciting time for us, and it’s a very busy time for us.”