Celtics

Bean: Weighing the obstacles of LeBron-to-Boston

Bean: Weighing the obstacles of LeBron-to-Boston

I would love for LeBron James to be on the Celtics. Why? Because he's the best player in the world and it would probably get the Celtics at least one NBA title in the near future. Championships rule. LeBron rules. 

But it's not as simple as just signing the player, as we all know. In addition to having to ship out at least one key player to make the money work, it would also mean abandoning what seems to be a pretty clear path to a long run of Eastern Conference dominance. 

Yet if there's any player worth changing plans for, it would have to be LeBron. Here are the things - assuming LeBron chooses the Celtics, which is a big "if" - that could get in the way: 

1. YOU CAN'T TRADE GORDON HAYWARD


Technically you can, of course, but if the Celtics were to trade Gordon Hayward one year after selling him on Boston, it would be Danny Ainge's coldest move. Much, much colder than trading Isaiah Thomas. 

The IT thing was cold, of course, but it was also similar to a lot of trades. Teams trade players at the end of their contracts all the time. As for the personal tragedy recently endured by the player - and this isn't to downplay that at all - but it's actually more common than you'd think for players to be traded while going through something awful in their lives. The details just aren't always brought to light. 

But convincing a top free agent to pass up more money elsewhere to play for you and then trading him before he's played a full game? That very rarely happens in any professional sports. This is because executives are well aware (and rightfully fearful) of the message it sends to future free agents/trade targets whose blessings would be needed to complete a deal. 

Obviously, the fact that a potential Hayward trade would be for the best player in the world is an important thing to note. It wouldn't be like the C's signed Hayward and then flipped him for a couple of draft picks. LeBron is a once-in-a-generation, so in the moment, we'd all understand why the Celtics would do it. 

And it wouldn't even hurt the Celtics in free agency immediately. A team with LeBron, Jayson Tatum and others? Free agents would be champing at the bit to join that. 

But what about in a few years when LeBron's gone and the Celtics are back to what they were when they signed Hayward: a good team hoping to add a player and be great? Those free agents will have other choices just like Hayward did, but the other suitors won't carry as big a threat on pulling the rug from under the player. 

THE KYRIE THING


If Kyrie Irving is willing to play with LeBron, which could be a possibility, great. Those guys obviously play well together. If not, you're risking pissing off your franchise player one year before he can opt out and sign somewhere else. 

If not, what are you doing? Kyrie doesn't make enough for him to be easily traded as the outgoing piece in a sign-and-trade, so then what? You sign old-ass LeBron, trade Al Horford to make room for him, then trade Kyrie somewhere else? 

The first thing that comes to mind there is trading Kyrie for a big. Karl-Anthony Towns would be a hell of a get. Then ask yourself this: If the Celtics should supposedly be concerned with Irving potentially walking after next season, wouldn't any team trading for him be concerned as well? Irving is one of the best players in the league, but he's also coming off knee surgery and could potentially hit free agency next summer. Would a team really trade a Karl-Anthony Towns for him now? I'd guess not. 

IT WOULD INTERFERE WITH WAITING OUT THE WARRIORS


After next season, the Warriors could start to finally take some hits. Klay Thompson will need a raise. Depending on what he does this summer, Kevin Durant could also be up. Draymond Green will be a free agent the following summer. 

By the time all that happens, Chris Paul will be 35. So, you'd have the Warriors potentially breaking up and the Rockets getting old. Even if the Celtics don't have any titles between now and then, their current plan would have them in position to be favorites once those teams endure their roster challenges. 

If the Celtics add LeBron, they'd be making themselves better now - while the Warriors and Rockets are also loaded - while not being as potentially dominant a few years from now when the competition may be less daunting. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Curran: Why do Celtics want a player who quit on his team?

Curran: Why do Celtics want a player who quit on his team?

It’s in Danny Ainge’s DNA to be in on everybody at every moment.

And because he’s willing to constantly tinker, barter, wheedle and maneuver, the Celtics will likely enter the 2018-19 season as odds-on favorites to be the best team in the Eastern Conference.

But there comes a time when you have to stop flip, flip, flipping your houses. Just settle in and live in one for a while. The Celtics owe it to themselves to allow the team Ainge and Brad Stevens conjured from relative dust to play together.

MORE TOM E. CURRAN

Especially when it comes to Kawhi Leonard.

The lion’s share of the local conversation surrounding Leonard since it came out Friday that he wants to be traded and no longer wants to be a “Spur for life”  has revolved around what he can do for the Celtics and what Boston should give up to get him.

He’s a “top-five player.” He’s a “Durant stopper.” The Celtics have more than enough to go get him.

He also just quit on his team, has a year left on his contract before he can flee, and purportedly wants to play in Los Angeles.

I don’t get it. How does a guy go on wildcat strike for almost an entire season, never even attempt to publicly explain what his particular problem was, and still have that messy little detail brushed away like it isn’t a red flag?

Our guy Sherrod Blakely is one of those saying caveat emptor when it comes to Kawhi, but with the draft bearing down and the fact the Celtics reportedly had Kawhi interest back at the trade deadline, we are going to hear more and more spitballing about why adding him is a great idea!

All we have are intimations of what went sideways for Leonard in San Antonio. The quadriceps tendinopathy that limited him to nine games is just the root of the problem. The Spurs dodged, ducked and parried the issue all year. Leonard eventually went to get a second opinion in February. He’s pissed at Spurs GM RC Buford. He’s pissed at the medical staff. He’s all set with his Spurs teammates who tried to convince him in March to rejoin the team during a players-only meeting.

It may all just boil down to Leonard deciding he was going to protect his No. 1 asset -- his body -- as he approaches free agency after next season. That’s no sin. You don’t have to look any further than the case of Isaiah Thomas and his hip injury for a cautionary tale about playing through pain and the massive financial loss that decision can lead to.

But if you’re going to make the decision to sit and collect your paycheck while your teammates are thinking you’ve deserted them and not say anything to explain, then you have to accept that you’re going to forfeit trust.

Which is what Charles Barkley said this week. “I blame Kawhi for a lot of his stuff,” Barkley told ESPN. “If he wants to leave, he’s got to come out and say he wants to leave. . . If he wants to leave, just say, ‘Hey, I’ve had enough of San Antonio’, don’t use the doctor's excuse . . . I think that is cowardly using the doctor's excuse. He is upset at the Spurs’ misdiagnosis . . . 

“Do you think the Spurs doctors really wanted to make a mistake on arguably the second- or third-best player in the world?” Barkley asked. “They might have screwed up, I don’t know the answer to that question. But the notion that they tried to do this and alienate one of the two or three best players in the world is laughable.”

MORE LEONARD

Aside from not knowing when (or if) Leonard is going to be willing to play again are the factors that exist in Boston.

Their best player, Kyrie Irving, is up at the end of next season. If Kyrie isn’t involved in a deal to land Leonard then the Celtics are looking at a scenario where they could potentially lose both players after next season. And they will have given up a huge asset (the Kings pick in next year’s draft, Jaylen Brown, etc.) for the privilege of leasing Leonard who, it’s been reported, just wants to get to LA. At that point, maybe Irving looks around and sees a Celtics team that doesn’t have near the upside it did just a year earlier.

Any team that puts together a package for Leonard will be flirting with the unknown. And it’s naïve to think plenty of teams aren’t going to shrug and say, “Who cares? It’s Kawhi Leonard. Two-time Defensive Player of the Year. This is a player you bet on.”

Those teams that don’t have as much to lose as the Celtics. Boston can’t afford to be wrong on Kawhi Leonard. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Chris Mannix on Kawhi Leonard to Boston; how healthy is he?

Chris Mannix on Kawhi Leonard to Boston; how healthy is he?

Chris Mannix talks with Toucher & Rich about the Celtics' interest in Kawhi Leonard, and what it would probably take to get him. Also, would the Spurs trade him to a team in the West, and how healthy is Kawhi right now?