When it comes to the Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge never has been afraid to pull the trigger.
Not as a player. Not as a general manager, either.
Neither on a shot, nor on a deal.
If there's an opening, Ainge will take it. If there's an opportunity, he'll seize it.
Regardless of whether a buzzer-beating jumper went in to win the game or bounced off the rim, or whether his latest, deadline-beating trade results in a championship, you've got to admire a guy who has the guts and confidence to take a big shot, to take a big chance.
Ainge doesn't hesitate. He doesn't dither. He steps up at the crucial time and does what he believes needs to be done.
He did it in the summer 2007, when he brought the players to Boston who would end a two-decades-plus championship drought.
Ainge had played with Boston's original "Big Three" -- Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale. As the Celts' general manager, he assembled the New Big Three, bringing in Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to join Paul Pierce.
Allen arrived on Draft day, from Seattle, along with rookie Glen "Big Baby" Davis, in exchange for Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak and first-round pick Jeff Green, chosen fifth overall.
That move was quickly followed by the mega-deal in which Ainge sent five players -- Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Sebastian Telfair and Theo Ratliff, plus a pair of future first-round picks -- to the Timberwolves for Garnett.
A 17th championship for the NBA's most storied franchise.
Now, Ainge has made a deal that was both surprising and gutsy in a bid for title No. 18.
The final evaluation on his trade-deadline swap of fan-favorite Kendrick Perkins, along with 5-9 backup guard Nate Robinson, in exchange for Oklahoma City's Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic won't be made until after the playoffs are over.
But regardless of how it turns out, Ainge should be at least applauded -- and perhaps even lauded -- for making the deal.
Much has been made of the fact that the starting five of Perkins, Garnett, Allen, Pierce and Rajon Rondo never lost a playoff series.
Perk, you will recall, injured his knee in Game 6 of the NBA Finals last year and was sidelined for the deciding Game 7 loss to the Lakers.
So, some Celts fans could legitimately say, if Perkins were able to play at anything close to 100 percent, the Celts might well win it all in 2011.
That is, of course, Ainge's aim. He, and everyone else who pays any attention to the NBA, knows that the proverbial Window of Opportunity for the aged Celtics is now open, if not exactly only a crack, then certainly not a whole lot more than that.
Garnett will turn 35 in May. Allen is 35. Pierce is 33.
It's not exactly now or never again for the New (but also old) Big Three. But it's pretty close.
Clearly, Ainge feels he has enhanced his team's chances of winning this year by bringing Green, along with 7-footer Krstic to Boston.
Green, a 6-9, 235-pound forward -- he can play both the three and four spots -- is only 24, so may well figure in Ainge's future plans if a contract can be worked out.
The contract appeared to be the problem with Perkins, who rejected a four-year deal worth $22 million. Probably wisely so, because he'll certainly be in line for more -- perhaps much more -- now.
Oklahoma City has been seeking a powerful center that can rebound and play rugged defense, and Perkins certainly fits that bill.
The question in Boston, of course, is how the Celtics will get along without him.
The answer depends on the health of Shaquille O'Neal, who turns 39 on Sunday. Currently sidelined by problems with an Achilles tendon, he'll need to be able contribute throughout the playoffs if the Celts are to go all the way.
It doesn't help the Celtics' situation that Jermaine O'Neal, already sidelined much of the season by a knee injury, isn't expected to be ready until at least April, and may not be able to return at all.
But Ainge is hardly done dealing.
He has cleared roster space by trading away Luke Harangody, Semih Erden and Marquis Daniels, and has now brought in veteran Troy Murphy, bought out of his contract by Golden State, to help in the playoff run.
The 7-foot Krstic -- although not a strong rebounder, and a jump shooter rather than a low-post player -- could provide some interesting options for Celts coach Doc Rivers once Shaq is back.
Chemistry also is a question. Perkins was well liked by his teammates, as well as the fans. But the Big Three are the key elements in the formula for success for Boston, and those veterans should find a way to work Green quickly into the mix.
Even if the deal isn't enough to raise another banner to the rafters, no one should be ranting about hanging Ainge in effigy.
He's a gutsy guy who deserves to be praised, not pilloried.