As much fun as Celtics fans have had these past few years in checking in on Brooklyn Nets scores every other night, it could prove to be just as joyous to see losses for the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls in the next 10 days.
Both the Pacers and Bulls are stuck in neutral, hovering around the .500 mark and flip-flopping between the No. 6 and No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference. Both, as of this writing, have lost three games in a row. Sitting in the middle in the NBA is the definition of no-man’s land, as you either want to be really good (obviously), or really bad (to put yourself in position to draft that next transcendent star).
It’s not exactly breaking news to point out that neither the Pacers or Bulls are going to win the title this year, so – at this point – what’s wrong with going the other way?
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The trade deadline is Feb. 23, and the Pacers have a brutal schedule prior to that date. They face the Spurs (who will be piping mad after a loss to the lowly Knicks) on Monday, and will play at Cleveland on Wednesday. They then host the Wizards on the second night of a back-to-back on Thursday. It’s entirely conceivable that the Pacers could lose the next three games – sending them into the All-Star break with a hideous six-game losing streak.
If that happens, expect trade talks to quickly heat up regarding the Pacers’ top player in Paul George, and – as always – expect the Celtics to be at the forefront of those talks with Larry Bird. It is clear by now that George is one of the few players that has been mentioned in trade rumors that Danny Ainge would relinquish the 2017 Nets pick for.
“Boston’s shown minimal interest in (Carmelo) Anthony, preferring to continue its pursuit of persuading Chicago (Jimmy Butler) and Indiana (Paul George) to engage in trade talks that involved the two younger, more well-rounded stars,” The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski wrote last week.
This coming summer, George will have played seven years in the league and will be eligible to receive the “7-9 max” contract he covets. Bird has often discussed his intention of locking George up, but his star player may be growing frustrated. The typically laid-back Indiana crowd has started to jeer its own team of late, and George has gone on the defensive.
“Obviously, I get it,” George told the Indianapolis Star of the boos. “The team’s not performing, and we’re not playing well. (But) it’s not like we’re out there not giving our all. We want to win just as much as the fans want us to win. It doesn’t help – booing us. We want to come out and play hard. We want to play hard for them. It’s not like we’re just out there to be there. I get it, though. They expect us to be at a high level. I get it. I don’t think booing is the solution.”
George is again an All-Star this season as he’s averaging 22.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. He also plays a position, small forward, in which the Celtics could use an upgrade at.
As for what Boston would have to give up in this trade, Bird would certainly demand a lot. Think Marcus Smart and/or Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, and the Brooklyn pick.
If a George-to-Boston swap were to go down, expect all the league conspiracy theorists to throw fits. In the eyes of many, Ainge’s former teammate Kevin McHale gift-wrapped Kevin Garnett 10 years ago, and now Bird would be giving his old franchise a potential path to another title.