So, now what?
Kevin Durant chose Golden State. The Celtics had a shot, and they felt like they were still in it up until Durant revealed his free agent decision on The Players’ Tribune, Monday.
The deal is worth $54.3 million over two years, with a player option after the first year. Some have teased the idea of Durant leaving Golden State after just one season, giving hope to one of the finalists, like the Celtics, if he decides to hit free agency once again next summer.
I’m here to completely rule out that philosophy. As optimistic as I was that the C’s had a legitimate shot at landing Durant this summer, I’m here to tell you that the dream of him wearing Green is now officially dead.
If Durant does “opt out” after next season, it will be strictly for salary purposes. With all the talk of the NBA salary cap increasing, Durant knows he can just sign his long-term deal with Golden State next summer and increase the average-annual value of that contract.
Simply put, Durant is in Golden State for the long haul. Which means, it’s time for the Celtics to move on.
I get it, the story is still fresh, and the idea of him actually up-and-leaving Oklahoma City to join forces with a 73-win star-studded team is somewhat nauseating. But in the NBA world that we currently live in, this type of decision should come as no surprise.
This is an era in which star players want to play with other star players. They want to be part of a “Big Three” or even a “Big Four.” One day, I’m convinced, we will see a starting lineup consisting of five All-Stars.
For choosing to join forces with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green — especially since it was that trio that eliminated Durant from the playoffs last year — Durant will continue to be criticized. His decision to go to Golden State will always be described as a “bandwagon” move.
However you want to characterize it, it happened, and it doesn’t help the Celtics to sit there and plan for Durant to come to Boston next summer. Because it’s just not going to happen.
So, again, now what?
Recent reports say the Celtics are still trying to pull off a major trade, even after signing Al Horford to a four-year, $113 million deal. And after losing Evan Turner to the Portland Trail Blazers, the Celtics will need to find some more offensive production somewhere.
In a perfect world, the C’s add a scorer like Jimmy Butler in a trade this summer. But there are also reports that Butler and the newest Chicago Bull, Rajon Rondo, are on the recruiting trail themselves.
Accepting that it’s not a perfect world, perhaps it’s time to just focus on this current Celtics roster. And while Turner’s presence will be missed, the addition of Horford — with or without another big-name acquisition — will be enough to keep the Celtics on the map as a team that won’t be easy to play against.
Sure, Durant would have made them an immediate contender for an NBA championship. But what’s done is done. If anything, the Celtics can take some positives out of being a finalist for Durant, and being able to land a big name like Horford in free agency.
Without Durant, the Celtics will survive. They’re still in good shape. And last time I checked, they’re still in the Eastern Conference. As long as Danny Ainge still has those Brooklyn picks the next two years, his options to improve the team and get it to a championship level — either by draft or trade — are wide open.
Now, we just wait. But first, we need to move on from Durant.