Celtics

Notebook: Danny Ainge remains defiant about appeal of Celtics as free agency approaches

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With two of the team's top players expected to head out the door when free agency kicks off June 30th, the optics of playing in Boston is being seriously questioned by insiders around the league. Danny Ainge sees no reason why players would be hesitant about coming to town in the wake of some unexpected cap room emerging.

"I don't think so at all,” said Ainge. “No.”

We will see in a matter of days just how much Ainge's defiance will end up being true, but the president of basketball operations made no secret about what his intentions are for team building in the wake of an ugly 2018-19 campaign.

“I think it just makes life more enjoyable when everybody is humble, hardworking and will play any role they have to to help the team succeed,” Ainge said when being asked about drafting 'good people' as rookies. “You do have to have a certain amount of talent to win in our league, as we all know, but good people make coming to work more fun.”

Whether or not that was a shot at Kyrie Irving can be subject to interpretation, but it certainly serves as a nod to creating a better atmosphere for Brad Stevens to work in as he tries to maximize the remaining talent leftover in Irving's wake. Ainge will have plenty of tools at his disposal as he attempts to maximize up to $34 million in salary cap room left behind with Horford and Irving walking out the door. While there is no clear cut plan for the first time in several summers, it will be telling to see how top tier free agents will view the Celtics as a potential landing spot.

"I like the fact that we have different opportunities,” said Ainge. "And we have some flexibility but I don’t really know what is realistic yet. That’s what we’ll spend the rest of this week trying to figure out is what even do we have a chance to do and where should be our priorities? But I’m excited about the opportunity. I’m excited about the flexibility that we have. I’m excited about the youth that we have and some of our returning players. I think it’s going to be a really fun year. Looking forward to it.”

With nearly 50 percent of the league expected to hit the free agent market, the Celtics front office will have their work cut out for them in weighing different options. Targeting one max player, several players on smaller deals or