Would C's wait until offseason to use TPE? Ainge explains scenario


The March 25 NBA trade deadline is exactly one month away, and the expectation is that the Boston Celtics will use their $28.5 million traded player exception from the Gordon Hayward deal to improve the roster in some form.

But Celtics Governor Wyc Grousbeck raised another possibility Wednesday.

"We are under a cap situation,” Grousbeck told 98.5 The Sports Hub's Felger & Mazz. “We are hard-capped at the moment and literally can’t spend more than ($138 million), which is why that TPE is probably going to be more useful — maybe we can use part of it within the hard cap at the trade deadline and if it’s available to us and we want to do it, we’ll do it if the right deal is there. Otherwise, it’s something we will look more to the offseason for."

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That may not be what Celtics fans want to hear. The C's need to add at least one player if they want to be serious contenders this spring -- Danny Ainge has said as much -- but waiting until the offseason to swing a trade might mean waving the white flag on this season.

After Wednesday's embarrassing loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Ainge joined The Sports Hub's "Toucher & Rich" on Thursday to address whether Boston really would punt on using the TPE -- which expires at the end of the 2021 offseason -- until the summer.

"The timing is important. We would use that trade exception if the right deal came along," Ainge said. "But I think what Wyc is probably saying is, because we've talked about this a lot internally, is that the most likely scenario of a deal that we would want would come along is in the offseason as opposed to the here and now.

"Doesn't mean we couldn't use portions of (the TPE) at this point, but that might prevent something bigger in the offseason."

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To Ainge's point, bigger deals tend to happen more in the offseason than in-season. (The Celtics' 2007 trades for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, 2013 trade of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets and 2017 trade of Isaiah Thomas for Kyrie Irving all went down in the summer.) Pre-deadline deals can hinge on which teams are sellers, which can fluctuate based on regular-season records unlike in the offseason, when more players tend to be available.

It's also possible the C's use part of the TPE in a deal before the deadline, then make another offseason trade with the remainder. To that end, Ainge insisted a pre-March 25 trade is still on the table.

"It's rare that trades get done (now) -- they get done closer to the deadline," Ainge said. "But we're talking and we're trying to do some things and we've been close a couple times. I don't know the answer. Time will tell."

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