With Danny Ainge, it’s best to read between the lines. There have been flat-out lies in the past (“We love Rajon Rondo”), but fibbing is what any competent GM does.
Interesting enough was the fact that during the pre-draft process, Ainge placed more praise on Jaylen Brown than any other prospect. The Celtics’ boss said Brown looked “very good” and had an “excellent workout” (via MassLive.com) earlier this month, and while those compliments don’t constitute as Ainge openly drooling – the comments were, for once, foretelling. As we all know now, the Celtics picked Brown with the No. 3 overall pick in the draft.
It is possible that Ainge was dropping hints when he went on WEEI’s “Ordway, Merloni and Fauria” show this past Friday as well. Discussing free agency, Ainge said the following:
“It is need based in free agency, but the need of a really good player at any position is a need,” said Ainge. “So it will be need based. But there will be some needs that if we strikeout a list of players that we seek our A list, we go to our B list, our C list , our D list. We will put an immediate call into Evan [Turner] out of respect if nothing else. But we do have interest in Evan, or we may use his cap space to sign a different player. We will be talking trades even before free agency begins. We are back at it today.”
The Celtics, like just about every other team in the league, will have gobs of money to play with this summer thanks to the rising salary cap. While Ainge said in the WEEI interview that he will not overspend for the sake of spending, it’s entirely possible that the Celtics will push hard for players on their “B list.”
That “B list” (or A-minus list) will likely include Joakim Noah and Al Horford, who were teammates at the University of Florida. At the moment, Horford seems like a better bet to come to Boston than Noah. The Knicks, now that they have Derrick Rose, are expected to go hard after Noah in an effort to re-unite the former Bulls teammates. Noah is also from New York City, so he should listen intently to Phil Jackson’s pitch.
Horford, meanwhile, would not only be a perfect fit for this current Celtics roster – as he can guard top-notch NBA bigs and stretch the floor on offense – but he would give Kevin Durant a legit reason to consider coming to the Celtics at some point. ESPN’s Zach Lowe said the following earlier this year:
“I heard from two really powerful guys [in the league], who don’t normally BS around, they said that they have heard that Horford is on the short list of guys that Durant would really like to play with.”
The idea that the Celtics are only using this meeting with Durant in July to entice him to come to Boston next summer is gaining steam. Most everyone expects Durant to re-up with the Thunder for one year because it makes sense business-wise and basketball-wise. But if Ainge signs Horford this summer, and the Celtics show considerable improvement next season, then they’ll truly be in the Durant sweepstakes.