BOSTON — Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge understands why other teams keep calling to see if he will trade Rajon Rondo.
The Celtics traded away coach Doc Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers for a first-round draft pick. And a deal to send the team’s biggest stars, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, to the Brooklyn Nets for a package including three more No. 1 picks is just waiting for the NBA signing period to begin.
“Maybe the assumption is that we’ll give away any of our players,” Ainge said on Monday, listing not just Rondo but Jeff Green, Courtney Lee, Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger and first-round draft pick Kelly Olynyk as players who have attracted interest. “There’s been calls for all those guys. And maybe the assumption is we are just changing everybody, but we’re not.
“We’re starting to get younger.”
Speaking at the news conference to introduce Olynyk and second-round pick Colton Iverson, Ainge said he was not interested in stripping the Celtics down as much as building with younger players and draft choices. A key part of that is Rondo, he said.
But other GMs don’t seem to believe him.
So, the calls continue.
“The calls are coming in,” Ainge said, “the calls have not been going out.”
Ainge said he was in no rush to hire a coach, and he repeated — definitively — that he would not take the job himself. But asked for a similar pronouncement to put the end to Rondo trade talks, Ainge said, “I always listen to calls and listen to what ideas are, but we have no intentions of moving Rajon.”
NBA free agency began on Monday, and it was a quiet day for the Celtics, who aren’t likely to be active in the open market. While other teams were showing up on the doorstep of free agents at 12:01 a.m., Ainge said the Celtics don’t have the cap room to add a free agent this summer — or the interest.
“Free agency right now is not a priority for us,” Ainge said. “We have too many players. We have logjams … I think our job is to try to clean that up through the summer.”
Ainge traded up twice in the draft to grab a pair of 7-footers in Thursday’s draft, sending two second-round draft picks to Dallas to move up three spots and take Olynyk from Gonzaga and then buying the 53rd overall pick from Indiana and taking Iverson of Colorado State.
The players soon learned lesson No. 1 of life with the Celtics: There aren’t too many low numbers available on the NBA’s most-decorated franchise. The Celtics have retired 21 numbers, including 17 from 00-25, and Pierce’s No. 34 is almost certain to be next (unless Ainge’s No. 44 goes first).
Olynyk got No. 41, which was most productively worn by James Posey as a member of the 2008 NBA championship team; Iverson took No. 37, which has never been worn by a Celtic in an NBA game, according to BasketballReference.com.
“There’s not a lot of numbers left, so obviously (there have been) a lot of great players,” Iverson said. “No matter what happens here, I’m excited to be a part of it and I’m going to do whatever it takes to be in a Celtics jersey.”
Olynyk said playing with Garnett and Pierce would have been a privilege, but joining a team that is in the process of trading away its two biggest stars (along with its coach) creates a chance for meaningful rookie minutes.
“Learning from those guys would be unbelievably exciting,” he said. “Hopefully there are opportunities for us.”
Olynyk has already made a splash in Boston — with his long hair.
Ainge made several cracks about Olynyk’s shoulder-length mane, saying it “looks like a hippie from Eugene, Ore., in 1977.” Asked by reporters if there was any thought of cutting back now that he’s in the NBA, Olynyk said genially, “We’ll definitely have a look at that in the near future.”
But co-owner Steve Pagliuca put his foot down: “We’re fine with it here at the Celtics,” he said with a chuckle.