Celtics Pregame Live

Danny Ainge shares one concern for Celtics, advice on how to win title

The Celtics need to 'just trust each other.'

NBC Universal, Inc.

It wasn't long ago that Danny Ainge was calling the shots as the general manager of the Boston Celtics. Filling the role from 2003 to 2021, Ainge is still partially responsible for the team that hits the court this season -- most notably drafting Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum -- and still keeps tabs on the team.

Now the CEO of basketball operations for the Utah Jazz, Ainge joined NBC Sports Boston's Celtics Pregame Live to discuss the Celtics this year and what he thinks of the new-look lineup featuring Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday.

"He's done an amazing job," Ainge said of his successor, Brad Stevens. "They have good coaching, great management, great ownership, great players -- I mean, the Celtics from top to bottom are sitting pretty in this league right now."

With the Celtics' Friday night win over the Orlando Magic, Boston continues to sit on top of the league standings with a 19-5 record and is undefeated at home. Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla has seemed to instill a team-first mentality amongst his players, empowering a team-over-self ideology that the players have clearly bought into.

"They have shooting, maybe the best shooting in the NBA," Ainge added of the Celtics. "You do worry about the defense a little bit, if they have an injury somewhere."

The Celtics have shot very well to begin the season, combining for 47.6 percent from the field and 36.6 percent from deep. Comparing players with over five attempts per game, Porzingis and Al Horford are leading the way in field goal percentages with 52.5 and 49.6, respectively, with Tatum not far behind at 48.7. Boston's roster also currently features two players shooting over 40 percent from deep, with Derrick White shooting 42.7 and Sam Hauser at 45.7.

Ainge mentioning the defense as a concern may come as a surprise. While the Celtics are tied for 25th in the NBA in steals per game (6.7), they're averaging the sixth-most blocks per game with 6.0, compared to the league-leading Phoenix Suns at 6.8. They're also averaging the third-most rebounds per game at 46.7.

"I do like their bench, their depth, their size," Ainge said. "They are never too small because Tatum and Brown are good sized for a three and a four [small forward and power forward] or a two and a three [shooting guard and small forward]. I like their team, a lot."

The Celtics are not shy about changing their lineup around. Still early in the season, the Celtics have already used 10 different lineup combinations. While the most played rotation has featured Holiday, Derrick White, Brown, Tatum, and Porzingis for a plus/minus of +22.1 in just under 241 minutes, the most efficient lineup has actually been Payton Pritchard, White, Sam Hauser, Tatum, and Al Horford with a plus/minus of +54.3 in just under 20 minutes together.

"Just trust each other," Ainge said about his one piece of advice for the Celtics to get over the hump and win the Finals. "A lot of times when things aren't going well, when you have great players like Jaylen [Brown] and Jayson [Tatum] who can get easy baskets, that's the tendency, to try and get them easier than you need to.

"When things aren't going well, they have such great shooting and spot up shots by White, and Sam [Hauser], and Pritchard, and Jrue [Holiday], and Porzingis -- those are great shots anytime they get an open look. I just think that trust on the offensive end, and keep moving the ball, and trust in what you're doing."

While Tatum and Brown are the clear difference makers, Ainge is saying that the two stars need to be able to trust in their teammates rather than try to do it all on their own. If the team can trust one another, Ainge believes they are untouchable.

You can check out Ainge's full interview on YouTube below:

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