|What LeBron James’ decision means to the Celtics||07.11.14 at 1:42 pm ET|
“My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball,” he told Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins. “I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now.”
Over the next 24 hours, you’ll see thousands of stories about what LeBron’s decision means to Cleveland (everything), Miami (oh, man) and the NBA in general (those ripple effects won’t reach shore for quite some time), but what exactly does it mean for the Celtics?
LeBron’s arrival in Cleveland immediately makes the Cavs a contender. While James admitted the team’s rookie head coach and youthful roster makes a title this season far from easy, a supporting cast of Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggins, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett and Anderson Varejao isn’t a bad start.
Given the youth surrounding the game’s best player — only 29 years old himself — Danny Ainge‘s job just became that much more difficult for the foreseeable future. Conservatively, the Cavaliers could be contenders through 2020.
Of course, LeBron will also lure more talent to Cleveland. Chief among his recruits could be Kevin Love, who the Celtics have coveted for the past several months. The Cavaliers could offer Wiggins, Waiters, Varejao’s expiring contract and a future first-round pick for Love, potentially beating any offer Ainge could create. (Ironically, the Cavs still own a protected No. 1 pick from the Heat as a result of LeBron’s sign-and-trade in 2010.)
If the C’s lose out on Love to Cleveland, Ainge would only have himself to blame, since his recent three-team deal created the cap space necessary for the Cavs to sign James. Still, it’s hard to hold Ainge entirely responsible for LeBron landing in Cleveland, since Dan Gilbert would have created space come hell or high water.
The Celtics also acquired a first-round pick from the Cavaliers in the trade for Marcus Thornton and Tyler Zeller, so LeBron’s decision just made that pick a whole lot less attractive. However, the Celtics own Miami’s second-round pick in 2016, and that could be somewhere in the 30s should Chris Bosh sign in Houston as expected.
Wherever James ultimately landed — Miami or Cleveland — the Eastern Conference was always going to go through LeBron for the next several years, so in that regard little else has changed for Ainge. In fact, the currently constructed Cavaliers may not be the immediate force that the Heat have been for the past four years. Regardless, Ainge’s focus remains on landing Love, and LeBron’s return to Cleveland just made that more difficult.
|The Creative Kevin Love Trade Idea of the Day||07.07.14 at 10:59 am ET|
Over the weekend, Yahoo! Sports columnist Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted, “Here’s something that remains unchanged: Danny Ainge‘s relentless pursuit of creative ways to engage Minnesota on a Kevin Love deal.”
It should come as no surprise that Ainge is continuing to target Love. After all, Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck promised fireworks this summer, and a Love connection is the only big splash left to make. Go ahead, look at the available free agents at point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward and center.
News flash: LeBron James, Chris Bosh and/or Carmelo Anthony aren’t coming to Boston. The Suns, Pistons, Rockets and Jazz are respectively expected to match offers for restricted free agents Eric Bledsoe, Greg Monroe, Chandler Parsons and Gordon Hayward. Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, Kyle Lowry and Marcin Gortat are off the board. Lance Stephenson, Luol Deng, Pau Gasol and Paul Pierce are rumored elsewhere. That leaves one top-20 player in Tom Ziller‘s great free agent rankings: 5-foot-9 point guard Isaiah Thomas.
Considering he plays the same position as Rajon Rondo and Marcus Smart, Thomas doesn’t exactly qualify as fireworks. Now, look at the unrestricted free agents available in 2015. The two biggest names: Rondo and Love. If Ainge doesn’t pair them now, how confident are you he can do so when they hit the open market next summer? If nothing else, the first week of July has proven high-profile free agents have no interest in the Celtics. Re-signing Rondo and Love would be a different story, since the C’s could offer significantly more money.
In other words, the C’s only real shot to compete in the near future is pairing Rondo and Love. This is a stars league, and those are the only two that set foot in Boston this summer. Other pieces will follow. Otherwise, Ainge might as well trade Rondo and start from scratch, because the Celtics won’t be contending for quite some time.
Ainge will exhaust all options to acquire Love, including every attempt to involve other teams and satisfy Minnesota’s desire to land a legitimate player in return. Since we can get creative, too, here’s one such option he could try.
|Report: Celtics still pursuing Kevin Love||07.06.14 at 12:14 am ET|
Saturday afternoon, Wojnarowski tweeted the following:
Here's something that remains unchanged: Danny Ainge's relentless pursuit of creative ways to engage Minnesota on a Kevin Love deal.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 5, 2014
Stay tuned …
|Three ways to survive in the East: Imagining Celtics president Danny Ainge’s phone conversations on NBA draft day||06.26.14 at 12:49 pm ET|
Well, it’s here. The day that will shape the Celtics‘ future, for better or worse. The 2014 NBA draft, where anything can happen happens.
With a wealth of picks, an All-Star point guard, tradeable contracts and expiring deals, Celtics president Danny Ainge is the annoying guy at a party, inserting himself into every conversation in the room.
With only hours left until Cleveland is on the clock, here are the three best possible phone conversations Ainge could have on Thursday.
1. MORTGAGE THE FARM FOR KEVIN LOVE
Danny Ainge: “Hi, Flip, it’s Danny again.”
Timberwolves president/coach Flip Saunders: “What do you want this time?”
Danny: “Are you sure you don’t want our two first-round picks this year, next year’s Clippers pick and Kelly Olynyk for Love?”
Flip: “I’m not sure how many times I can say no, but no.”
Danny: “But …”
Danny: “I’m not sure you’ve consider quite how awesome Kelly’s hair really is.”
Flip: “No means no.”
Wyc Grousbeck enters Danny’s office.
Wyc: “Fireworks, Danny, fireworks!”
Flip: “I’m sorry, did I just hear Wyc say fireworks?”
Danny: “Oh, yeah, we’ve got this Fourth of July party in a few days. It’s nothing. Didn’t you get the invite? Anywho, what if I throw Jared Sullinger into the deal?”
Flip: “Let me think about it for a second. Aaaaaaannnnnnndddddd no.”
Danny: “Ah, can you hold on for a second?”
Flip: “No …”
Danny puts the phone down. “I’d Do Anything for Love’ plays on hold.
Wyc: “We can’t afford another losing season, Danny. I met with Bob Kraft, John Henry and Jeremy Jacobs for our weekly tea and crumpets yesterday, and they were all making fun of me, telling me we’re the fifth wheel behind the Revolution. The Revs, Danny, the Revs! When Wyc promises fireworks, Wyc delivers fireworks.”
Danny picks up the phone.
Danny: “You still there, Flip?”
Danny: “How about one of Brooklyn’s picks, too?”
Flip: “Just so we’re straight: You’re offering four first-round picks, Sully and Kelly?”
Danny: “Well, when you put it that way …”
Flip: “You’ve got yourself a deal.”
|The official Celtics-centric Kevin Love timeline 2.0||06.25.14 at 2:06 pm ET|
The Celtics-centric story surrounding Kevin Love actually began before the All-Star break, but Boston’s Love affair reached “Fatal Attraction” levels when the three-time NBA All-Star spent three days in the city a few weeks back.
Since then, Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders and Celtics counterpart Danny Ainge have seemingly pulled the puppet strings masterfully, casting sources in a drama worthy of Michael Douglas and Glenn Close. The plot thickens every day, so here’s the storyboard updated through the latest episode.
- Feb. 16, 2014: Love declares, “Boston is a great city.”
- Feb. 19, 2014: The Celtics are in Love’s sights.
- Feb. 26, 2014: The Celtics are the odds-on favorite to acquire Love.
- May 18, 2014: The Celtics, Warriors, Lakers and Suns are making hard runs at Love.
- May 18, 2014: The Celtics are “the sleeper gathering momentum” for Love’s services.
- May 19, 2014: Love likes the Warriors and Bulls.
- May 26, 2014: The Kings would trade for Love without assurance he’d re-sign.
- May 26, 2014: Love wants out by July 1.
- May 30-June 1, 2014: Love spends a weekend in Boston.
- June 2, 2014: The Timberwolves expect Love to remain in Minnesota.
- June 3, 2014: The T-Wolves aren’t interested in Jared Sullinger, Avery Bradley or Kelly Olynyk.
- June 4, 2014: Sacramento “will trade anything but [DeMarcus] Cousins,” lead in Love sweepstakes.
- June 9, 2014: The Suns will offer Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe and picks for Love.
- June 11, 2014: At a video game conference, Love will answer all questions except those about the Celtics.
- June 16, 2014: Love won’t be traded by July 1.
- June 17, 2014: A C’s offer of the No. 6 and 17 picks, future No. 1(s), Sullinger and Olynyk is the best offer.
- June 18, 2014: The Nuggets and Warriors have better offers than the Celtics.
- June 18, 2014: The Celtics are the “heavy favorites” to acquire Love.
- June 19, 2014: Denver’s offer of Kenneth Faried, No. 11 pick, Wilson Chandler and J.J. Hickson is better.
- June 19, 2014: The Warriors will include Klay Thompson in a deal for Love, becoming odds-on favorite.
- June 19, 2014: The Timberwolves aren’t prepared to trade Love — yet.
- June 22, 2014: The conversation between the Timberwolves and Celtics is put on hold.
- June 23, 2014: Talks between Minnesota and Golden State are “dead.”
- June 24, 2014: The Cavaliers offered the No. 1 pick for Love, but he refused to re-sign in Cleveland.
Rumored Kings, Warriors, Lakers, Suns, Bulls, Nuggets and Cavaliers offers have been put out to pasture. All the while, the C’s package remains with the possibility of Ainge sweetening the deal. If the Wolves are looking to trade Love — and it seems inevitable given his stated goal to leave via free agency next summer and the ensuing circus the past six weeks — then the Celtics still stand among the favorites (if not the favorite) for his services.
For further analysis, read about Ainge’s final play for Love.
|Weekly NBA Draft Watch: Mock draft v4.0||at 1:45 pm ET|
This year’s draft is starting to feel like it could be one of the most entertaining in years. Seriously, how could there be any more drama?
The old projected top pick, Joel Embiid, is injured and sliding down draft boards. We have no clue if Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker will be the No. 1 pick by the Cavaliers. We don’t even know that Cleveland will keep the first pick — teams like the Magic, Jazz and Celtics are rumored to have interest.
The Celtics also are rumored to be one of three finalists to acquire the No. 8 pick from the Kings. Then the Lakers seem pretty serious about trying to package Steve Nash and the No. 7 pick in an attempt to get young talent. Or, dare I say, the Lakers could be trying to clear cap space to make a play on Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James.
A mock draft seems almost pointless since we are expecting so many trades. Let’s not forget that Kevin Love‘s name will be one we hear in rumors a few times Thursday. Expect to see one of the wildest drafts in recent memory, but if there is less movement than expected, here’s how it could shake down.
1. Cavaliers, Jabari Parker (Duke, freshman) — Embiid has been projected as the top pick for a while, even with his back issues. His broken foot is a whole different monster, though. Those two red flags will cause him to slip, and Parker is the best player in the draft right now. Wiggins will get a look here, especially if the Cavs are looking for a player to fit alongside LeBron (in their dream scenario). Owner Dan Gilbert wants to be very involved in the pick, and he reportedly likes Wiggins. That’s a risky strategy for Cleveland, so just take the sure thing in Parker — the Cavs really can’t afford to blow this one.
2. Bucks, Andrew Wiggins (Kansas, freshman) — The Bucks now hold the easiest pick in the draft. Sit back and see what the team with the top pick does, then take the other top prospect. If Parker goes No. 1, then Wiggins goes to Milwaukee to play with a decent young core. The Bucks may prefer one to the other, but they have to be pleased either way it plays out.
3. 76ers, Dante Exum (Australia) — Philly ends up the biggest loser as a result of the Embiid injury. The Sixers would have been the team that ended up with the third top prospect that was passed over, but now they have a difficult choice to make. Embiid probably still is too risky this high in the draft, so Exum is the best overall talent available. Exum would either come in to be a backcourt-mate to Michael Carter-Williams or to take MCW’s job if the 76ers look to trade the Rookie of the Year.
4. Magic, Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State, sophomore) — With Exum off the board, and Orlando seeking a point guard, Smart makes sense with this pick. Of course, any of the big men on the board will be tempting to the Magic, but they have been most interested in Smart and Exum all year.
5. Jazz, Noah Vonleh (Indiana, freshman) — The Jazz already have a lot of young talent in their frontcourt. But if all the guards are taken early, and Utah does not trade up, Vonleh may be the most appealing piece. Vonleh is more capable of stepping away from the basket than the remaining bigs; that could be the determining factor.
6. Celtics, Joel Embiid (Kansas, freshman) — One of the big questions of the draft becomes how far Embiid will slip. Danny Ainge will face a tough decision if he slips to No. 6, and in the end he won’t be able to pass up Embiid’s potential. If Ainge is unable to add an All-Star caliber player through a trade, Embiid is a fantastic fit for the future to play alongside Jared Sullinger in a rebuild scenario.
|If Celtics can’t land Kevin Love, then Rajon Rondo should be traded||06.24.14 at 11:59 am ET|
I recently wrote that Kevin Love is going to become a member of the Celtics on draft night. I still believe that. However, there’s a whole other question that needs to be addressed.
What does Danny Ainge do if he is unable to add an All-Star to the core he has right now? The answer is to trade Rajon Rondo.
There are two clear-cut directions in which the Celtics can head. They can trade their assets for a proven veteran, like Love, or they can break ties with Rondo, Jeff Green and their older players to start a youth movement. Most fans prefer to win now, but if that option is not available, selling off pieces to rebuild is the right move.
So what is a reasonable trade offer for Rondo?
If you remember from the start of the season, there was a pretty realistic offer rumored to be coming from Sacramento. If the trade offer remains something in the ballpark of Isaiah Thomas, Ben McLemore and a draft pick (which would be No. 8 overall), that would be something Ainge considers. One note: Thomas is a restricted free agent, meaning Boston would be getting his rights. The C’s could re-sign him or let him walk for a higher offer.
Rondo has no interest in sticking around for a full rebuild, nor should he. Ainge knows this, and also is smart enough to know that there is no purpose to keep his star player on a roster that is not ready to win. The Celtics would then become one of the youngest teams in the league, with building blocks that have the potential to make them even younger.
Boston’s core would look something along these lines next season if Rondo were to be dealt to Sacramento (an easy example to use): The Celtics would roll out a lineup of Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, McLemore, Thomas, Avery Bradley (a restricted free agent like Thomas) to go along with the players they draft at Nos. 6, 8 and 17. Keep in mind Ainge also would hold two first-round picks in the next two drafts.
No doubt there is risk involved with having so many young prospects on the roster. Some disappointing draft picks and developments are expected. At the same time, a couple of those players likely would become stars, while another couple should turn into good role players.
It’s nerve-racking to think about if you’re a Celtics fan, simply because there would be so much that would need to occur just to contend. But with other teams deep into trade talks for Love, this is a realistic alternative that everyone needs to be ready to accept. You know, just in case I’m wrong about Love.
Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow.
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