Why have the Boston Celtics lost 10 of their last 15 games? Danny Ainge believes the answer is clear.
"We’re not playing with the passion that we need. I think that’s on the players. And the players on the team are on me," the Celtics' president of basketball operations told The Boston Globe's Dan Shaughnessy on Monday.
"... This is a team that was put together by me, and we’re not playing with enough consistency and urgency, and it’s my job to look to see what we can do to improve the team, but that’s always much harder than improving from within.”
Back-to-back losses to the Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards increased the calls for Ainge to use Boston's $28.5 million traded player exception to acquire talent before the March 25 NBA trade deadline.
Could such a move serve as a wake-up call for the downtrodden Celtics?
"Just changing faces doesn’t always change things, but it may have to come to that," Ainge said.
Ainge appeared to specifically call out longer-tenured players like Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Daniel Theis and Semi Ojeleye, who got used to winning over the previous three seasons in Boston.
“I’m not making judgments on all of my players, but I am seeing that there is a lack of consistent urgency, and some of that is our success," Ainge said.
"We started out 8-3, and we’ve got a lot of young guys and we have a lot of guys that have been to the conference final three times. I think sometimes you don’t realize how hard winning is every night.”
The C's indeed have reached the Eastern Conference finals in three of the last four seasons and haven't won fewer than 48 games since 2016. They hit some rough patches during that span -- particularly during the 2017-18 season -- but this current group hasn't really faced this level of regular-season adversity.
While Ainge is encouraged by players like Kemba Walker and Brown taking responsibility for the team's struggles, he clearly isn't pleased with how the team has handled that adversity to date.
"You can go through bad stretches of regular season because of schedule and because of injuries and many excuses you can come up with, but right now we have a pattern of not competing with the urgency that we need," Ainge said. "It’s that simple."
Perhaps Ainge's comments or Smart's eventual return from a calf injury will light a fire under the 13-13 Celtics, who sit fifth in the East as of Monday. But don't be surprised if Ainge pulls the trigger on a deal to shake up this underwhelming squad.