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. 

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Bill Russell posts touching tribute to late, former NBA commissioner David Stern

Bill Russell posts touching tribute to late, former NBA commissioner David Stern

Former NBA commissioner David Stern passed away earlier this month after dealing with complications following a mid-December brain hemorrhage. On Tuesday, a memorial service was held one of the NBA's biggest off-the-court legends.

Many former stars honored Stern's life and legacy on Tuesday. And among them was 11-time NBA champion Celtics center Bill Russell.

Russell posted a touching tribute to Stern on his Twitter account late Tuesday night: 

It's clear that Stern meant a lot to the Celtics legend. His legacy will surely be carried by former and current players alike.

Stern is widely credited with the globalization of the NBA and is responsible for the construction of the league today. The Basketball Hall of Famer helped found the WNBA, the NBA G League, expanded the NBA's digital presence and established NBA Cares, an NBA social responsibility initiative in his 30 years in charge of the NBA.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Grizzlies-Celtics, which begins Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 7:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

As Grizzlies arrive on rise, the value of their pick for Celtics falls

As Grizzlies arrive on rise, the value of their pick for Celtics falls

The Memphis Grizzlies, improbably in playoff position at the midpoint of the 2019-20 season, make their lone visit to Boston on Wednesday night. Every flashy Ja Morant crossover or loud Jaren Jackson slam will be a painful reminder of how Memphis’ unexpected rise has diminished the value of the future first-round pick they still owe the Celtics.

The Grizzlies' pick, obtained by Boston in January 2015, once seemed destined to become a glitzy unprotected 2021 selection. At various times, it’s seemed untouchable or, at very worst, the prize gem in any big-splash move the Celtics might make to enhance their roster.

Instead, the Grizzlies jumped on the rebuilding accelerator and, suddenly, the value of that Memphis pick is very much in flux. Winners of seven of their past eight, the Grizzlies currently sit eighth in the West and are more likely to convey a pick in the teens this season, barring a lottery-night vault.

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The Memphis pick is top-six protected this year, meaning it conveys to Boston if it lands at No. 7 or worse in this year’s draft. According to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index, the pick currently has only an 11.3 percent chance of slotting in spots 1-6. If the Grizzlies make the postseason, the pick would be no better than 15th overall but even a second-half slide might not push it below double digits. A pick can vault into the top four spots under the new lottery format and teams are slotted by order of finish after that.

This is less than ideal for the Celtics, if only because of the value the pick would have otherwise held this summer if it had rolled over to 2021 and become unprotected. Even if the Grizzlies projected as a legitimate playoff contender, the unpredictability of an NBA season would have kept the value high.

What’s more, the tepid outlook on the 2020 draft class could further diminish the overall value of a conveyed pick. Don’t misconstrue, it’s still a luxury for the Celtics to have another potential lottery selection in their possession and the opportunity to add more cost-controlled talent to a top-heavy cap sheet could aid the team’s quest to be a long-term contender.

Still, these Celtics are already trying to figure out where 2019 first-round picks Romeo Langford (14th) and Grant Williams (22nd) fit with this team. And what will become of 2018 first-rounder Robert Williams once healthy? All of this year’s rookies have had encouraging moments but, as the lopsided win over the Lakers on Monday night showed, the rookies probably don’t project for big roles in Boston’s playoff rotation.

So, the lingering question with the Grizzlies pick is whether Boston would be better served to use it as a trade asset — whether that’s in-season this year to pursue additional veteran help, or over the summer when they might have more glaring needs to fill.  Remember, too, the Celtics already have two other first-round picks in the 2020 draft — their own, currently projected at No. 23, and the Bucks’ pick, currently projected at No. 30.

The Celtics learned the hard way how fast draft picks can shift in value. In between all the Nets picks — which Boston hit home runs by drafting Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, but whiffed on mid-round pick James Young — and Griz pick there was the much-ballyhooed Kings pick. Much like the Grizzlies this year, Sacramento made an unexpected charge at the playoffs last season and Boston settled for the No. 14 pick in the 2019 draft that they used to select Langford.

Could the Celtics have sold higher? Maybe. It certainly had more value in the summer before it conveyed when the Kings tied for the sixth-worst NBA record at 27-55. Adding insult to injury, the Kings have reverted to a pumpkin this year, and now sit tied for the second-worst record in the West.

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If nothing else, the Kings pick should encourage Boston to at least consider the idea of moving the Grizzlies pick should an intriguing deal emerge — or at least one in which Boston's two late first-round picks wouldn’t be enough to make it happen. Ultimately, the Celtics played the long game with the Grizzlies pick and will be rewarded one way or another — maybe just not as handsomely as they once hoped.

A roster-churning Celtics squad originally landed the pick in 2015 after dealing Jeff Green to Memphis as part of a three-team swap that also brought back Tayshaun Prince and Austin Rivers. The pick, dealt when the Grizzlies were in the midst of a 55-win season, had enough protections to make it a very low-risk maneuver for Memphis. But then the team’s Grit-and-Grind era ended sooner than anticipated and an uncertain rebuild arrived. It looked like the pick could very well convey as unprotected in 2021.

Instead, Morant has muscled his way into being the frontrunner for the Rookie of the Year award and morphed Memphis from a 20-win projection to a team pushing the Spurs for the final spot in the West.

This is the first of two matchups between the Celtics and Grizzlies this season. Boston can help its own draft cause with a win. That Memphis pick might never be as sexy as it once was but it’s still a key asset for the Celtics in shaping their roster moving forward.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Grizzlies-Celtics, which begins Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 7:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.