The drastic step Danny Ainge trying to avoid during Celtics’ free fall

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It’s time for the blame game in Boston.

After reaching the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals in three of the past four years, the Celtics barely remain afloat with a 13-13 record. An 8-3 start gave way to a 5-10 stretch that has president of basketball operations Danny Ainge trying to take the heat off of his coaching staff.

“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,” Ainge told The Boston Globe. “There are things I could have done better, but I’m not going to mention names. I’ll take this responsibility. 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.”

The Celtics built a nucleus around Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker. But Ainge could shake up the roster before the March 25 trade deadline.

“Just changing faces doesn’t always change things,” Ainge said, “but it may have to come to that.”

The Celtics are four games behind the conference-leading 76ers, but only four games separate the second-place Bucks from the eighth-place Raptors. So, a hot streak or a cold streak could dramatically swing the standings.

Brad Stevens greets Celtics players during their loss to the Wizards on Feb. 14, 2021
Brad Stevens greets Celtics players during their loss to the Wizards on Feb. 14, 2021
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Ainge warned “it’s definitely not a time to panic” and expressed confidence that improved play is coming.

“I’m not making judgments on all of my players,” Ainge said, “but I am seeing that there is a lack of consistent urgency, and some of that is our success. 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 Celtics are coming off a loss to the lowly Wizards. Ainge played 14 seasons in the NBA, coached four seasons and has been in the Celtics front office since 2003.

“I don’t think it’s rock bottom, because we’re not healthy, we’re not playing well, and we’re young,” Ainge said. “Rock bottom would be if we expected to win a playoff series and lost to a team we were supposed to beat. That would be rock bottom.

“I’ve seen too many bad stretches of regular-season basketball to consider this rock bottom. But having said that, we’ve been playing very, very poorly and inconsistent and not with enough urgency for the last few weeks.”

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