NEW ORLEANS — No doubt, Danny Ainge would love to snap his fingers and make the Celtics’ early season malaise disappear.
No question, the borderline manic competitiveness in him would like to grab this team by the lapels and shake it into cohesion. And part of him would most assuredly wish to execute a magic elixir of a trade — as if one existed out there in the NBA ether.
Instead, one could hear the Celts’ president of basketball operations take a deep breath on the other end of the line.
“I’ve been through this many, many years, and I’m not impatient,” said Ainge, who, after Saturday’s 113-104 loss in Dallas, presides over a 10-10 team. “I feel like obviously I know the frustrations our players have felt and the ups and downs that we’ve had through this season so far.
“But I think that we all know we should be doing more and doing better and are capable of it. That’s pretty much all I’ll say about it.”
Having just returned home from a trip scouting college players in Maui and Las Vegas, Ainge will now get to hear the displeasure of Boston fans from closer proximity. And if things don’t go well here against the Pelicans, the calls for action will grow even louder.
Ainge can take all that in, but the unwritten part of his job description includes a requirement for perspective.
“You know me. I’m always open to doing something,” he said of potential trades. “But that doesn’t mean I think we have to go and get something done right now. And it’s not that simple anyway.
“But patience wins out more often than not — more than panic. It has to. I know panic is a bad way to react, so I will remain patient and allow our players to find their form. With some teams, it takes time, and some teams get it quicker. But I like a lot of things I see in our team this season, and I’m not going to be impatient.
“Look, I’m always looking to improve our team, but every one of our players is capable of playing better than they’ve played.”
The Celtic players certainly get that. Marcus Smart summed up the change from last season to this after the game in Dallas. He was quoted in the Herald’s online edition thusly: “We don’t impose our fear and will on other teams. Last year, teams, when they came in and they played the Celtics, they knew they were in for a fight. This year, teams, they can’t wait to play us, and, you know, that’s a problem. When guys aren’t scared of you no more, there’s nothing you can do about that. We’ve got to change it. We’ve got to come out and be the first ones to hit guys in the mouth. You’ve got to get that swagger back.”
Much has been made about the Celts’ trouble handling their status as preseason favorites in the Eastern Conference. And Kyrie Irving, who used to be part of The Hunted as a member of Cavaliers during the second coming of LeBron, sees an issue therein.
“It’s definitely difficult because you’re going through some things that you’re probably not used to,” he said. “I mean that in terms of having that target on your back.
“I think that last year we got away with kind of just subtly winning games, going on a win streak and then managing throughout the season. But this season, having expectations, having that target, it’s something that we all have to get used to as a team. I think individually some of us have been through it, but as a team collectively, having that attitude, knowing that some teams are going to junk up the game, some teams are going to come at us, some teams are going to put their forearm in our chest and try us — the way we’re responding now, we have to respond better.”
It is telling, too, that when asked about the state of the Celtics’ chemistry, Jaylen Brown, still smarting from a bad fall on his back late in Saturday’s loss, said, “Acquiring chemistry is the term I’ll use.”
And, from the looks of how things have been going, it’s not about to be attained in anyone’s finger snap.