So, with LeBron James gone to the Lakers, the Celtics path to the top of the NBA's Eastern Conference is clear, right, Danny Ainge?
He's looking beyond the East.
Ainge, the Celtics president of basketball operations, talked about James again leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers - this time for Los Angeles - and a number of other topics with a group of reporters in Las Vegas, where the C's are playing in the NBA Summer League.
"I'm not sure what you're asking," Ainge said when asked about James' departure from the East. "What do I care about the Eastern Conference? I don't really care about that. We're trying to win championships. You still have to play LeBron. I think that there's a lot of good teams in the East that get undersold a little bit. I think Washington and Milwaukee's an up-and-coming team and Toronto was the best team in the conference last year during the regular season, and I think they're a fantastic team. So, the East is going to be tough."
Ainge also said that signing restricted free agent guard Marcus Smart is a "priority" this summer. Smart has met with at least four NBA teams - none of which are the Celtics - the past two days, according to a Boston Globe report. Two of those interested teams are reportedly the Brooklyn Nets and Sacramento Kings. Smart's agent said he was hurt by the lack of attention being shown to him by the Celtics, who can match any offer he gets.
It's possible Smart could sign the Celtics' $6.1 million qualifying offer or a more lucrative one-year deal from Boston before hitting the unrestricted free-agent market next summer.
While the Celtics will likely get through next season without paying the luxury tax, "We plan on being a taxpayer for sure," in 2019, Ainge said. The Celtics have $112.3 million in committed salary for next season and the luxury tax line is $123.7 million.
On the Celtics' first-round draft pick, Texas A&M big man Robert Williams, the 27th overall pick whose rocky start has included knee trouble, a reported artery condition in his legs, and no playing time since his brief Summer League debut last week, Ainge said the priority is to get him healthy and the Celtics are unsure when or if he'll play this summer.
"Depends how he feels," Ainge said. "I'm not planning on it. I'm not putting any pressure on him to play. We'll just see how it goes."