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Celtics don't find any deals to their liking

Boston Herald

February 21. 2014 10:12PM
Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo, right, and forward Jeff Green react in the closing seconds of a 100-94 loss to the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on Wednesday. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Inaction ultimately ruled the day.

"There was a lot of talk, but I'm not sure it was negotiating," Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said after Thursday's trade deadline passed and his team — anticipated to be a big participant — finished the day with the same lineup it had at the start.

"You know, the phones really picked up in the last two days and there were conversations. Some of it was us asking questions; some of it was other teams calling to see if we could find something that worked for both of us. But there was nothing really stressful."

Since Ainge drove a spike in the heart of Celtics fans by trading Kendrick Perkins for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic at the 2011 deadline, his February moves barely have raised bubbles.

There was Jordan Crawford for Jason Collins last year, and nothing in 2012. And it appears to be back to nothing, as Ainge now will allow expiring contracts and most team options to fade from view (Kris Humphries, Jerryd Bayless, Keith Bogans, Joel Anthony).

Rajon Rondo lives to finish another season with the Celtics. Avery Bradley will be a restricted free agent this summer, giving Ainge and his staff time to decide how badly they want the guard back.

In other words, nothing changed once the trade deadline passed at 3 p.m. Thursday and Ainge had not pulled the trigger.

That's fine with his coach. Brad Stevens repeatedly has said he truly likes the "vibe" in his locker room. He now can coach without any further disruption this season.

Though his part in the front-office debates and negotiations was limited — indeed, Stevens had enough to do without chasing dead-ended discussions — it also freed up the coach to continue molding the on-court product.

"I said it earlier in the week. I told our team I liked the overall vibe in our locker room," Stevens said. "Like anything else, we can get a lot better, but I didn't anticipate anything based on what I had heard. My conversations with those people were few and far between because they tell me when things are going on. It was pretty obvious that there wasn't a lot on the table, and there wasn't a lot being discussed.

"But it's nice to at least know who is going to be on that bench. A lot of it has to do with injury and everything else. Hopefully we can get as healthy as possible for as long as possible."

Though Stevens was prepared for the possibility that he would go into Friday night's game against the Lakers with a vastly different lineup, it's also a relief to continue working with the same combinations and rotations.

"At least you know," he said. "Obviously the season is longer for the teams that play into the Finals, but every one of us wants to play for as long as possible. Just the consistency and the continuity that it brings. Will we have the same team next (season)? I doubt it. There's always going to be change, small or big. But a lot of those people will be part of that."

For the moment, anyway, that includes Stevens' lone established star, Rajon Rondo.

The Celtics point guard declined comment Thursday, citing the sanctity of his day off, but player and coach now get to continue their franchise-shaping collaboration.

Stevens, though, was careful not to single out Rondo.

"I haven't looked at it any differently in the time I've been here, but it's not just with him," the coach said. "I need to continue to invest time in every guy on this roster. That's been a good thing for us so far. The staff has done a good job investing in each player. Whether it's Rondo or one of the other guys, everyone gets better because of this experience."

Even if Ainge had pulled the trigger on a trade Thursday, Stevens is confident his own job would not have changed.

"I never stop coaching for the now, but I never lose sight of coaching for the future," he said. "The reason is you have to coach for the now to put your team in a position to play their very best on that given night."

You also have to understand, especially in college, that there are times you have to throw them into the fire, cross your fingers and close your eyes. But that never trumps the now part. People can see right through that. We're focused on the next day, and that's about it."