Celtics

Blakely: Celtics should pursue Noel, but Cousins? No thanks

Blakely: Celtics should pursue Noel, but Cousins? No thanks

BOSTON— Admit it!

When you first saw Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins giving the verbal business to a Sacramento columnist twice his age and half his size earlier this week, “trade ‘em to [pick a team]” came to mind.

And when Philadelphia’s Nerlens Noel reminded us all that his value is worth more than eight minutes, yup, he needs to be sent packing as well.

The  Celtics have been linked with both players in the past.

And while there’s no question each has a skill that would benefit Boston, there’s only one of these two that makes sense for the Celtics to consider.

It’s Nerlens Noel.

Let’s forget for a moment that he’s a Massachusetts native, which I have been told multiple times has “absolutely zero” to do with Boston’s interest in him.

Noel is an athletic, rim-protecting big man whose biggest knock up to this point in his career is how injuries seem to dog him at every turn.

And while no team likes the idea of players grumbling about minutes, there’s a different tone when I talk to league executives about Noel and what’s happening in Philadelphia.

“I never like to hear that stuff, guys complaining about minutes publicly,” an assistant GM told CSNNE.com on Saturday. “But Philadelphia...they have too many bigs and they’re trying to make it work but you know and I know and Nerlens knows, somebody is going to get the short end of things when it comes to minutes. And Nerlens doesn’t want to be that guy.

The assistant GM added, “young guys don’t mind learning and not playing if the guy ahead of him is better or more experienced. They see it as paying their dues. But that’s not the case with Nerlens. He’s as good or better than all their bigs except maybe [Joel] Embiid. So he’s like, ‘why am I not playing?’ And whatever they’re telling him, it’s not what wants to hear for sure.”

In addition to Noel, the Sixers are also trying to find minutes for Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, Dario Saric as well as Robert Covington, who has looked strong in their small-ball lineup at power forward. And while Ben Simmons is considered more of a wing player, at 6-foot-10 he too will likely see some playing in the frontcourt because of the mismatch potential he presents.

In other words, Philly’s frontline isn’t going to get any less congested anytime soon.

But the Sixers have been reluctant to trade him not only because of his talent, but also because of their track record of bigs getting hurt is pretty extensive. The last thing they want to do is part ways with a big and then find themselves experiencing a shortage up front if there are added injuries to their roster.

And as far as Cousins is concerned, the Celtics’ connection with him has been more fantasy that for real, according to a team source who indicated they have not had any talks at any time with the Kings about acquiring Cousins.

That coincides with reports that the Kings have not made it known to other teams that they are interested in trading Cousins, even as all involved understand that moving him is becoming more and more inevitable.

The Celtics may not be pursuing Cousins, but if the Kings get to the point where they are willing to trade him you can bet Boston will be one of the teams they will talk to.

Boston has young, up and coming talent, lots of draft picks and players whose character isn’t an issue – an important factor that will come into play if Sacramento does in fact try to trade Cousins.

Look, talent is not an issue here.

The 6-foot-11 center has lots of it.

But here’s the issue.

As much talent as Cousins has, it doesn’t trump the trouble that seems to follow him at every turn.

The recent blowup he had with a Sacramento-based columnist was just the latest in a long string of bad predicaments that Cousins consistently finds himself involved with.

If all the NBA were about was securing the best talent, acquiring him would be a no-brainer.

But that’s not how this works.

And for those of us who have spent some time talking with Cousins in the past, he comes across as a very likeable guy who is often misunderstood.

But as you talk to him and listen to his words and see his actions, he’s misunderstood because he consistently allows himself to be put in predicaments that don’t portray him in the most flattering light.

And he gets upset at those who call him out on it, rather than him making the obvious changes needed.

He’s a talented headache waiting to be had, which is the last thing Danny Ainge or Brad Stevens wants or needs right now.  

This group of Celtics certainly have their flaws, but you really don’t see them play the blame game too much.

When a guy screws up, he knows it, usually owns it, and they move on.

And the screw-ups are usually limited to what happens on the floor, not what transpires at a night club.

There is no denying that the Celtics are in the market for adding a player who can provide a stronger frontline presence whether it’s better scoring or an upgrade defensively.

And if you know anything about Ainge, he’s always looking to get as much talent while rendering the least amount of assets which makes both Cousins and Noel palatable because their respective teams have to know by now that they’re not going to get comparable value for them via trade.

If you’re the Celtics, you take a call from either franchise if they want to talk about these players.

But as far as seriously considering a trade, there’s only one choice that can help the Celtics (it’ll be later rather than sooner), both on and off the court, and that’s Noel.

Bean: Kawhi in Cleveland makes great theater for everyone

Bean: Kawhi in Cleveland makes great theater for everyone

Other than LeBron Watch, Kawhi Watch will likely be the most captivating Watch of the NBA offseason,  and there's obviously a chance the two end up in the same place. Regardless of what happens with LeBron, I've officially decided where I want Kawhi to land. 

Cleveland. 

I've got my reasons, but I'll start with why I'm not clamoring for the C's to get one of the five best players in the league. Yes, the C's can offer the best package, but I don't want them to make an offer the Spurs can't refuse. I don't want them to trade Jaylen Brown and the Sacramento pick for a flight risk. I don't want them to trade Kyrie Irving. I want them to be loaded, as they currently are, and set to add to that in the future. 

Leonard supposedly wants to be traded to the Lakers. The more well-connected basketball reporters have noted the Spurs wouldn't have any motivation to turn the Lakers into a Western Conference powerhouse, which makes sense. 

So, if it's not going to be the Lakers, make it the Cavaliers. 

This might sound ridiculous, but I want LeBron James to be a character in this Celtics group's run. One of the things that made the 2017-18 Celtics' run so exciting was that it culminated in a showdown with LeBron, the best player in the league and the centerpiece of great Celtics series past. 

I don't want the Celtics to go on runs with LeBron in a different time zone. I want battling (and beating) the best player of this generation to be part of what the Tatum Era does. If the Cavs can land Leonard, maybe that will keep James from bolting in free agency. 

They're also rumored to be inquiring about Kemba Walker's availability from Charlotte to help surround LeBron with another star.

To be fair, I wrote last week that I'm fine with LeBron going to the Lakers and even forming a super team with Kawhi and Paul George. That's because I think either that team or the Warriors would be all tuckered out by the time they got to the finals against a Celtics team that just waltzed through the East. 

That wouldn't be as fun though, especially if the Lakers kept getting eliminated by Golden State. If the Celtics have another championship run coming during the final years of LeBron's career, I want it to involve a Kyrie/LeBron matchup. I certainly want it to involve a competitive underdog, and I don't trust the 76ers for that yet. Considering they probably wouldn't be able to get much else, a team of LeBron, Kawhi and a bunch of junk still wouldn't be favored against the Celtics at full health. 

If LeBron goes somewhere West this offseason, I'd still want the Cavs to get Kawhi. Assuming Kawhi actually plays, he'd at least keep the Cavaliers a playoff team and an interesting opponent. 

Could the Cavaliers actually get Kawhi? I don't see why not. If his status as a player who can opt out after next season scares some teams away, the eighth overall pick and whatever they could get for Kevin Love would already make their offer better than whatever the Lakers would try to scrape together. Sacramento could always trump everyone by offering the second overall pick for Leonard, but that would be stupid. Then again, sometimes the Kings are stupid. 

Kawhi in Boston? Not at the likely price, and not if it means that much risk. LA? Predictable. Put Kawhi in Cleveland, keep the East exciting and give LeBron a real decision to make. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE