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Archive for Sunday, May 2, 2004

Ainge ready to rebuild Celtics

May 2, 2004

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— The best thing about Danny Ainge's first year running the Boston Celtics is that it's almost over.

Already on his third coach, with just three players remaining from the roster he inherited last May, Ainge finally may have turned the corner in his efforts to build a team resembling the one he played on in the 1980s. No, they're not ready to win a title, but at least Ainge is done tearing things apart and ready to start rebuilding.

"We're all on the same page," the former Celtics guard said last week after hiring Doc Rivers as coach. "That's a great feeling that I have today that I haven't had since I've been here."

The Celtics have won a record 16 NBA titles, but their last was in 1986 with Ainge supplementing the trio of Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale. Since then, the team has been good enough to make the playoffs, but not good enough to contend.

That's why Ainge was brought in last year in the middle of the conference semifinals and installed as the executive director of basketball operations. Even before the Celtics were swept by New Jersey, Ainge conceded that they weren't championship material and promised a bold makeover.

He started by trading Antoine Walker to Dallas. The Celtics were hovering around .500 in mid-December when Ainge shipped Eric Williams and Tony Battie -- favorites of coach Jim O'Brien -- to Cleveland for guard Ricky Davis.

O'Brien quit a month later. Under aide John Carroll, Boston grabbed the final playoff berth in the East, but he was let go after the season.

"The Celtics are going through a lot of changes, more than any team should have to go through in one year," center Raef LaFrentz said. "I think the waters are calming down, and now we can get back to work."

Boston failed to sell out either of its home playoff games.

"The Celtics fans are knowledgeable fans," Ainge said. "We need to give them a product to watch."

Boston has three first-round draft picks, giving Ainge a chance to reshape the team's future. And, the Celtics will have room under the salary cap to sign free agents.

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