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Danny Ainge Trying To Keep Realistic Expectations For Celtics Offseason

BOSTON (CBS) -- It's been three years since Danny Ainge shipped Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets, officially beginning the latest rebuild of the Boston Celtics.

The process has gone fairly well thus far for Ainge and the Celtics. He hired Brad Stevens to helm the team when Doc Rivers left town for Los Angeles, and under the former college coach the Celtics have seen an uptick of wins in each of his three seasons on the bench. Ainge's acquisition of talented scorer Isaiah Thomas, who made his first career All-Star Game in 2016, gave Boston the offensive player they needed, with the Celtics earning a trip to the postseason in each of the last two seasons.

That minor success prompted many to believe the rebuild was actually ahead of schedule. But those trips to the postseason were short ones, with the Celtics getting bounced in the first round each time. While just getting to the playoffs without a true star on the roster is impressive, it's clear the Celtics are a few pieces away from returning to contender status.

There's hope that with eight draft picks, including the third overall selection, and enough cash to sign a pair of max contracts this offseason, the Celtics can find those pieces and live up to Wyc Grousbeck's "fireworks" proclamation of a few summers ago. It seems like the elements are in place for that to happen.

But while some may have dreams of Kevin Durant donning green next season, or that Ainge can swing 2007-like trades for Jimmy Butler and DeMarcus Cousins, the Celtics president has been around long enough to know you can't set expectations too high. While the organization was dreaming about a top two pick in the 2007 draft, they had to get their dreams dashed (landing the fifth overall selection) before Ainge could go out and swing deals for Ray Allen and Garnett to complete that rebuild.

Sometimes, it's your secondary plans that end up coming to fruition; plans no one really thought were possible until they showed up on a transaction sheet. That's why Ainge is preaching patience as the Celtics begin a very important summer in the franchise's rebuild.

"My job is to always talk patience. I have to talk sense into people, because players and coaches live in the moment," Ainge told Dan Roche in an interview for Sunday night's Sports Final on WBZ-TV. "All of our fans and ownership live in the moment, because they want the fans to get their money's worth. We all do, but I have to sort of keep sense of it all. My 35 years of experience in the NBA, seeing everything from good trades, bad trades, good strategies and bad, I'm trying to maintain a level of expectations that are realistic.

"I expect big things this summer, but there's a chance we go the direction where we take these picks and bring in some young players," Ainge cautioned. "There are some good, young players who may not be as good as some veterans on our team, and may takes some minutes away and our team record may not be good, but we think in the long run would be better for the development of our team.

"Right now, we're trying to become a better team as fast as we can without selling out. We want to become a more significant team this upcoming year, and at the same time we want to build something that is sustainable for a long period of time," said Ainge. "Ownership would like to see something happen faster and I know my coaches and players want to see something faster. I've been in their positions and I get it; I want to see something faster too. But I have to protect us from doing something irrational from doing something that gets us a little bit better. If it's something that gets us to being a true championship contender faster, we're all for it. As long as it's a sustainable formula and not a one-year quick hit, sacrificing future assets."

Catch Dan Roche's full 1-on-1 with Danny Ainge Sunday night at 11:35 p.m. on WBZ-TV Sports Final!

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