BOSTON — Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens, having already politely sidestepped an Anthony Davis inquiry from an ESPN producer dispatched on the tiny chance that the Celtics might acknowledge The Brow's public trade request, was asked Monday night how he deals with some of the nonsense that tends to dominate the NBA news cycle this time of year.
"I learned very early on… that there was a lot that’s not true, a little that’s true, and you don’t really pay attention to any of it until it crosses your desk from somebody that’s involved in a conversation,” said Stevens.
Former Celtics coach Doc Rivers calls it “Silly Season” and NBA headlines this time of year tend to feature all sorts of outlandish claims from everyone in the Sources family (League Source, Team Source, Sources Close to the Situation). What the casual fan might not realize is that a lot of these sources are talking to reporters because it pushes certain agendas, and those with motivation can sometimes twist and stretch the truths of situations.
Sometimes rumor becomes gospel and readers are left to parse truth from fiction.
The Celtics have found themselves at the epicenter of much speculation in the aftermath of Davis’ declaration. What’s grounded in truth, and what’s more likely conjecture? Let’s play a game of Buying or Selling with some of the most buzzworthy news items of the past couple of days:
REWIND FOR LEBRON?!
On the heels of LeBron James singing Fetty Wap to a tagged Kyrie Irving in his Instagram story, Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher wrote: a source close to the Celtics confirmed that Kyrie Irving is genuinely interested in reuniting with his former Cavaliers teammate. "That is for real," the source said.
SELL. After Irving made public his call to James earlier this month, there’s been this odd rush to suggest that Irving is both rethinking his decision to sign in Boston and maybe even eager to play with James again. While trying to get inside Irving’s head is an impossible chore, it would be a wild change of heart for Irving to decide, just 18 months after asking out of James’ shadow in Cleveland, that he actually wanted back in. While Irving has admitted that being a leader has been a tougher task than he probably imagined, he routinely seems invigorated by the challenge of trying to get the 2018-19 Celtics on track and playing their best basketball. Having now tasted what it’s like to be the leading man, it’s very hard to see a scenario where Irving would be eager to rush back to supporting cast. Sure, Irving wants to win, and he wouldn’t mind more top-level talent around him in Boston to aid that quest, but the idea of a LeBron reunion seems like a Hollywood concoction at best.
GROWING BELIEF OF UNCERTAINTY?
In detailing how the Lakers and Knicks were preparing to make offers for Anthony Davis, Yahoo! Sports’ Chris Haynes wrote: Boston is not a top target for Davis, sources said. There’s a growing belief of uncertainty that Kyrie Irving will re-sign with Boston, sources said, even though he vowed to do so at the beginning of the season.
SELL. While it’s absolutely fair to wonder if Irving might eventually change his mind about re-signing in Boston, nothing he’s said recently has suggested any deviation from when he told season ticket holders his desire to re-sign here before the season. Irving routinely references his appreciation for the way Boston brass — from ownership to front office to coaching staff — have been open with him and, while the Celtics season has not gone to script, Irving often makes reference to playing with certain pieces of this core for years to come.
Sources sometimes have an agenda and might push a certain narrative in hopes that it can aid their own cause. It doesn’t make what’s being said true — nor is it wrong that a reporter relays such a message if taking their source at face value. Sometimes fans simply have to step back and question motives, no easy task when sources so frequently request anonymity.
Could something happen between now and July that forces Irving to reconsider what’s best for his long-term future? Absolutely. But any suggestion of uncertainty is more likely the product of outsiders speculating on Irving’s future rather than a recent change of heart.
TRADER DANNY WILLING TO ROLL THE DICE?
After the Pelicans released a statement suggesting they wouldn’t be pressured into a move, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski wrote: Danny Ainge is undeterred on making a trade for Davis, even without an assurance that he would agree to an extension with the Celtics, league sources said. Boston has been calling New Orleans for the past year-plus on Davis.
BUY. Boston’s lust for Davis has been the worst-kept secret in the NBA. From the very moment that Kevin Durant decided to sign with the Golden State Warriors in the summer of 2016, the Celtics essentially turned their attention to when Davis might become available.
Along the way, Boston managed to scoop up Irving when he surprisingly landed on the trade block. It should be noted there was no guarantee Irving would commit to Boston longterm — and, technically, that uncertainty lingers despite his verbal commitment — and Ainge made the deal with Cleveland knowing that Irving could opt out and walk away this summer.
The Celtics have long trusted that the combination of the franchise’s history, the stability of its leadership, and the quality of talent assembled on the floor would be enough to convince players to stick around. That’s why, even before Irving’s October declaration, Stevens brashly suggested that the team had “no intent to sell” Irving on Boston and they would let the product speak for itself.
All of which is to say that Ainge would probably have no qualms about dealing prime assets to obtain Davis, even with the possibility of a flight risk after the season. The Celtics would bank that immediate title contention and a season in green would be enough to ensure Davis decided to plant roots with Boston.
HAYWARD THE LIABILITY?
With Gordon Hayward marred in an obvious January funk, a Warriors player suggested to CLNS Media’s Jeff Goodman that Hayward had become a “liability” on both ends of the floor.
BUY. Listen, liability might be too strong of a word but, Hayward is really trying to grind through a rough patch. He actually had a strong start to the month, putting together maybe his first stretch of true consistency with four double-digit scoring efforts in wins over Minnesota, Dallas, Brooklyn, and Indiana.
It’s unfair to pin all the team’s struggles in his floor time on Hayward and backup point guard Terry Rozier has put up some eyesore numbers as well (his net rating, on the court, in the last 10 games is minus-6.2 and that jumps to plus-11.5 when he’s on the bench).
You could hear the frustration in Hayward’s voice as he addressed reporters after Monday’s win over Brooklyn. He’s still fighting his body and mind to get back to the impact player he was before the injury. Stevens seems content to let Hayward grind and figure it out, though Hayward’s minutes have dipped a bit in recent games.
Even as his shot defies him, Hayward has had positive stretches based on playmaking and defense. He might simply need those shots to start dropping to prevent the obvious frustrations that invade and seem to derail him at times.
The Celtics know that Hayward could be a key part in just how successful they are later in the year. They might just have to let him work through those struggles in hopes he can be a more consistent presence in April or May.
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