Wednesday , Mar , 21 , 2007 C.Y. Ellis

Ainge getting a head start for next season

(Sports Network) – The only thing the Boston Celtics have left to play for is
pride, and that may be a stretch for this abysmal squad.

Boston is still the second-worst team in the NBA with a dreadful 20-47 mark
(Memphis – 17-51) and will certainly gain many chances for a top pick in
the upcoming lottery draft. Apparently Celtics general manager Danny Ainge
can’t wait until that happens after the franchise was reportedly fined
$30,000 for excessive contact with a possible draft prospect.

Ainge sat next to the mother of Texas freshman sensation Kevin Durant during
the NCAA Big 12 tournament for an excessive amount of time, a violation of NBA
rules. According to the league, contact must be kept to a minimum between team
executives and possible NBA draft picks. The fact that Durant hasn’t even
declared for the NBA Draft was even more of a black eye to the NBA.

Now Ainge is back in China to learn more on NBA prospect Yi Jianlian.

Any team executive, though, would be drooling if they had a chance to take
arguably the best college basketball player in the country. It was reported
months ago, however, that Durant will stay at Texas for another year instead
of opting for millions at the next level. It would be a great boost of
confidence for the Celtics if they could have Durant suiting up with star
forward Paul Pierce on a daily basis.

Teaming up with Al Jefferson isn’t a bad idea either. Jefferson was inserted
into the starting lineup back on December 6 and is averaging 16.6 points and
11.8 rebounds ever since. Jefferson owns 19.6 ppg and 12.2 rpg since the All-
Star break in mid-February, including nine double-doubles. The Celtics are
11-8 when ‘Big Al’ scores 20 or more points, but 7-34 when he nets 19 or less.

After Boston finally put the brakes on a franchise-record 18-game losing
streak, it has gone 8-9 over the last 17 games with losses in four of the last
six games. On an uplifting note, the Celtics finally ended a lengthy, 18-game
losing streak to San Antonio with a 91-85 triumph on Saturday. Pierce led the
way with 30 points for Boston, which last defeated the Spurs on January 8,
1997. The Celtics also collected its first road win in the series against
the Spurs since February 14, 1990.

The Celtics will now open a four-game homestand on Wednesday against
Charlotte, Dallas, Toronto and Orlando. They are an NBA-worst 9-23 at the
friendly confines of TD Banknorth Garden this season.

BOS