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Ainge says tradingNo. 5 pick unlikely

By Howard Ulman

Associated Press

WALTHAM, Mass. — Danny Ainge got off the phone long enough to say he probably wouldn’t trade the fifth pick in the NBA draft.

Then he picked it up again.

Amid speculation the Celtics were hoping to add a talented veteran like Kevin Garnett or Shawn Marion — and a reported desire by Boston star Paul Pierce to leave if they don’t — Ainge was in a busy stretch drive to Thursday night’s NBA draft.

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He and coach Doc Rivers had just returned from Phoenix, where they were very impressed with three forwards: Corey Brewer and Joakim Noah of Florida and Jeff Green of Georgetown, during a workout Tuesday.

At least two of them should be available, and the Celtics also could go for forward Yi Jianlian of China. Ainge said he knows who he will take, depending on who remains after the first four choices.

"I think (a trade) is unlikely. I’m expecting to make our pick," Ainge, the Celtics executive director of basketball operations, said Wednesday. "I’ve felt that way from the beginning, that these trades are hard to come by."

A trade would have been unthinkable if the Celtics had one of the top two picks in the lottery. They had the second-best chance of getting the No. 1 choice after finishing with the second-worst record.

But when Portland and Seattle jumped into the top two spots, any chance of getting Greg Oden or Kevin Durant disappeared.

Still, Ainge said, he’s confident the fifth pick will make a major contribution next season to a very young team that is seen as many years away from contending for a title.

That bothers Pierce, who has won just three playoff series in nine seasons with Boston, but Ainge said he spoke to Pierce on Tuesday and there was no trade demand.

"It was a great conversation and Paul was very enthusiastic," Ainge said.

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But would Pierce be happy if the Celtics kept the No. 5 pick?

"It depends," Ainge said. "There’s a lot of depends and it’s a long time before October, so we’ll talk about that later."

The Celtics could trade for a veteran between the end of the draft and the start of training camp Oct. 1 in Italy.

Ainge was back home Wednesday morning to watch four other players work out — swingmen Nick Young of Southern California and Quinton Hosley of Fresno State, forward Joao Gomes of Portugal and guard Blake Schilb of Loyola of Chicago.

Young is the only one who could be taken among the 14 lottery picks, but the presence of the four could indicate the Celtics’ interest later in the draft. Their other pick is the 32nd, but they could move up or down with a trade.

After the workout, Ainge spent considerable time on the phone. Then he spoke to reporters for 14 minutes before returning to an office beside the court where he could be seen through the window with a phone to his ear.

"It’s been a lot of work for everyone," Rivers said, "a lot of film, a lot of phone conversations, lots of lying (about draft plans) and a lot of bad rumors out there, too."

Ainge said he doesn’t comment on rumors and pays "more attention to what people tell me."

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He did say "there’s a lot of conversation" among teams jockeying for position in the draft, but trades rarely are made before draft day.

Last year, the Celtics chose guard Randy Foye of Villanova with the seventh pick, then traded him. The highest pick they kept was the 21st, guard Rajon Rando.

The Celtics’ greatest need is a big man in the middle.

"This is going to come down to those three or four college guys that we like and then Yi will be in there," Rivers said, "and we’re going to have to say, ‘make the call.’"

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