NEW ORLEANS — There seems to be no question Danny Ainge, the Boston Celtics president of basketball operations, is shooting for a big move by Thursday’s trade deadline. But if one is not available, he appears more than willing to play the patience game.

According to several sources here at the NBA’s All-Star Weekend, the Celtics are heavily involved, at least in terms of discussions, on a number of fronts as both a main participant and as a facilitator. As yet, however, there has been nothing truly available that is worthy of their top assets.

“Danny’s let it be known that he’s willing to talk about the Nets’ picks,” said one league executive, referencing the first-rounders owed by Brooklyn this year (in a swap of first-round positions between the Celts and Nets) and next (unencumbered). “But if you want one of those guys, you have to be willing to give up a star.”

And, apparently, a star who can’t break free this summer or after a year. Ainge has said he doesn’t want to take on any rentals, and opposing front offices are supporting that statement – with a caveat. The Celts will take a shot on a short-term player if the price is right, but that has not yet been the case. The Celtics did investigate the Serge Ibaka situation, but word is they didn’t want to give up a lot when there is no guarantee they’d be willing to meet his price when he becomes a free agent this offseason.

One very large key in the Celtic thinking is the free agent market. It has become clear from sources that the club doesn’t want to make any move that could take away its chances to do business in the summer when all it could cost for a marquee player is cap space.

The belief here is that Ainge would, indeed, pull the trigger on a deal for a player such as Jimmy Butler or Paul George – should either become available – because such a talent would be their de facto free agent signing. But absent that, all indications are that he will continue to work the edges and maintain flexibility.

It is interesting to see, too, how things have changed for the Celtics in the last 12 months. While they are still hoping to get a shot at Butler, their view of Jahlil Okafor, one of the other players about whom they had discussion at the 2016 deadline, has been altered by circumstances.

Last year, Okafor was seen as a nice upgrade, and with a rookie-scale contract, it might have been intriguing to see how he’d develop under Brad Stevens. But after signing Al Horford, any big the Celts acquire would have to be able to complement the veteran.

Thus 76ers teammate Nerlens Noel might be a better fit, but in either case, what the Celtics would be willing to spend has to be diminished.

In addition, on the subject of big people, Ainge has said he doesn’t want anyone who would hinder the Celts from playing their preferred offense where the floor is spread.

He’s also acknowledged the critical need for better defensive rebounding, so, if he’s trying to satisfy both desires, maybe the president of basketball operations is doing a little unicorn-hunting here.

One aspect that could change the trade market in a hurry is if some teams see their playoff chances as either slim or nonexistent and become sellers.

The Celtics would most likely welcome Andrew Bogut from Dallas, even though he is on the last year of his deal, but, again, as noted above, cost is the issue. They wouldn’t be offering a ton to the Mavericks, who would have to decide what is a fair return for the 32-year-old 7-footer in his 12th season.

You can expect the Celts to keep an eye on Danilo Gallinari, a shooter they’ve tried to get in the past, and most likely Ainge has interest in someone who hasn’t been on the rumor radar, as was largely the case when he went after Isaiah Thomas two years ago.

But there is no doubt Ainge is aware the Celtics need another significant and consistent scorer to complement Thomas if it is to honestly contend for a championship.

“But,” said one league source, “you have to avoid situations where you’re pretty much trading places with a team. If you give up all your best assets for a guy, then you might be putting yourself in (his former team’s) position.”

For now, the Celtics don’t seem to mind their position, which could make them less likely to make a mistake as they wait for a trade that would have real impact.

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