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Stephen A. Smith on D&C: ‘If Kevin Love wants to win, Boston is not the place to go right now’

06.03.14 at 10:15 am ET
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ESPN NBA analyst Stephen A. Smith joined Dennis & Callahan on Tuesday to discuss Kevin Love, the Celtics and the NBA Finals. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Love was spotted in Boston this past weekend on a tour of the city that included a trip to Fenway Park for Sunday’s Red Sox-Rays game. The Celtics have the assets to trade for Love, who reportedly wants out of Minnesota to play for a contender, but Smith said the odds are against Love ending up in Boston.

“Anything is possible, you can’€™t rule it out,” Smith said. “Danny Ainge has pulled off some heists in the past, we all know that. Not everybody is his friend like Kevin McHale was when he was in Boston and gift-wrapped Kevin Garnett. Regardless, you never know what he can pull off.

“In the end, however, Kevin Love says he wants to be with a contender. He mentioned Chicago, he mentioned Golden State. Boston simply doesn’t fall into that equation at this particular moment in time. It’€™s not something that I believe is plausible. … The Boston Celtics at this juncture are in a rebuilding mode and simply not good enough. If Kevin Love wants to win, Boston is not the place to go right now.”

What makes the Celtics worthy suitors for Love is their bevy of draft picks over the next five years thanks in large part to their blockbuster trade that sent Paul Pierce and Garnett to the Nets last summer. However, Smith sees Love as worth no more than “a first-round pick and a decent player or two on your roster.”

Love’s trip to Fenway on Sunday was capped off by a brief exchange with Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo. Acquiring Love to play with Rondo would undoubtedly make the Celtics a better team, but, according to Smith, not good enough to contend for a title.

“Rondo can’€™t shoot from the perimeter. He’€™s an elite point guard in terms of his ability to run the team, he’€™s definitely somebody worthy of having. I love his game with the exception of his ability to hit perimeter shots,” Smith said. “Kevin Love can hit perimeter shots better than most, and we all know that. … But at the same time, let’€™s take into account that even though he can do those things offensively, he’€™s somewhat of a defensive liability.

“So you combine the defensive liability that [Love] is along with Rondo’€™s inability to shoot perimeter shots, at some point in time or another one of those elements are going to let you down when it counts.”

Two teams that have certainly done enough to contend over the last few years are the Heat and the Spurs, who meet in a rematch of last year’s NBA Finals on Thursday night. The Heat won last year’s meeting in seven games, an outcome Smith said he expects to see again this time around despite the Spurs’ resiliency to make it back.

“It’€™s something I’ve been saying for months because [the Spurs] gave those indications very early on,” Smith said. “It was a very devastating loss they suffered in the finals last year, we all know that. To show the professionalism and the focus they showed by being who they were throughout the season to capture something they believe belongs to them, I think makes for a very epic encounter. I’€™m looking forward to it.

“In the end, I think they should’ve won last year, they blew it in Game 6, they’€™re clearly the better team now. It’€™s just that at this point and stage in LeBron James‘€™s career, it’€™s pretty close to impossible for me, personally, to bet against him.”

If the Heat were to win a title for the third straight year, Smith said James will establish himself as the greatest small forward of all-time, even ahead of former Celtic Larry Bird.

“Even though Larry Bird is a better shooter, Larry Bird is a three-time champion, three-time league MVP, Larry Bird is definitely someone I would prefer in the clutch,” he said. “In terms of versatility, all-around game over the course of 82 games in the regular season and so much time during the postseason, I definitely think when you consider the entire arsenal that LeBron James brings to the table, he will at the very least go down as the greatest small forward of all-time. And somebody that’€™s at least worthy of consideration to be on the Mount Rushmore of the NBA.”

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