The Vertical’s Kevin Mannix more or less confirmed that Celtics president of basketball ops Danny Ainge will get a meeting with Kevin Durant this summer. Ainge will undoubtedly have to make the greatest pitch in the history of pro sports free agency to lure Durant to Boston.
This is not Pat Riley wooing LeBron James to Miami, as Revere Beach is not exactly South Beach. It’s the same amount of cigarettes and the same amount tattoos but the overall scene is vastly different. Plus, remember that the Heat already had Dwyane Wade – a top five player at that time – in place. Isaiah Thomas is wonderful, but he’s not “Wade in 2010” wonderful.
The only way Ainge can make Durant get real about Boston is if he already has two superstar sidekicks in place. Mannix even went so far as to name those players: Chicago’s Jimmy Butler and Atlanta’s Al Horford.
Landing Butler would be difficult in that the Celtics would most likely have to trade away the first round Nets pick that Boston fans have fallen in love with. Horford, meanwhile, did not exactly wow anyone here with his play in the first round against the Celtics, but it’s been floated that Durant really likes Horford’s game. So that’s something.
For the sake of argument, let’s say Ainge completes the difficult trade with Chicago and convinces Horford to come to Boston in free agency. Is that really enough to get the big fish to come here, too?
The Washington Wizards just hired a head coach (old OKC head coach Scott Brooks) for the specific reason of trying to get Durant to D.C.. Washington obviously believes it has a chance in free agency because Durant is from the area and it has a solid young roster in place (John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter). Two years ago the Wizards also hired one of Durant’s high school coaches. That’s some stiff competition right there and, oh, there’s the entire rest of the league that will also be bidding for Durant’s services – including the Lakers, who historically always get a franchise player during a great time of need.
In other words, the last piece of the puzzle will be the most awkward one to fit for Ainge. If he whiffs on Durant, what if the Celtics are stuck with a team that has Butler and Horford as its top two players? That’s a team that could hang with LeBron and the Cavs in the East, sure, but it’s still far from a title contender. The Celtics would also no longer have that young draft lottery stud to bring in thanks to the Butler trade and they’d be right back in no man’s land in the East. So this thing is going to be one huge game of risk one way or another.
Ainge has built up enough trust to attempt to pull this whole scheme off, mainly because he pulled off something similar before in acquiring Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. However, Ainge got those two to come to Boston via trades, and Garnett still had to be talked into it. The franchise-altering, championship-starved Kevin we’re talking about this time will be hearing pitches from all angles, unlike Garnett.
The reward of Durant is tantalizing, I get it. I’m just not so sure it’s worth the risk, especially considering the glorious position of strength the Celtics find themselves in right now.