Blakely: A ready-made rival to Warriors awaits LeBron in Boston

Blakely: A ready-made rival to Warriors awaits LeBron in Boston

BOSTON – Golden State once again steamrolled towards another NBA title while leaving LeBron James and the Cavaliers as the last bit of roadkill on the journey.

But the Warriors’ third title in four years was a secondary topic of discussion as James’ impending free agency was to the surprise of no one, the center of attention.

The future of James will dominate the NBA rumor mill for weeks with several teams – including the Celtics – being talked up as a possible landing spot.

But James coming to Boston will require a bit of role reversal to come to fruition.

In the past, teams have gone through a series of salary cap gymnastics, spending months, sometimes years, shedding salary to create enough space to bring James into the fold.

Boston hasn’t done anything like that with an eye towards acquiring James and won’t even consider going down that road unless James makes it absolutely crystal clear that he wants to be a Celtic.

Success at the highest level tends to travel with James, in part because of what’s already in place but also because of what – and who – he brings with him.

In Boston, the only thing James needs to bring is his ridiculously impactful game.

Because with or without James, Boston is built to compete for an NBA title now and in the near future.

The Cavs have very little financial flexibility to make major upgrades to their roster, which few envision will be good enough to contend for a title next season even if James decides to return.

Trades in Cleveland are always possible, but who’s really trying to holla at George Hill for $19 million? Or Jordan Clarkson, who has two years and $25.9 million left on his deal? J.R. Smith is owed $14.7 million next season, but considering his up-and-down, erratic – no, make that bad – decision-making...there’s not a viable market for him, either.

And while the Los Angeles Lakers have been the most aggressive team in terms of creating space to make a strong run at James, the Lakers will have to add at least one more proven star (Paul George? Trade for Kawhi Leonard perhaps?) to convince James to join the Purple and Gold.

Even LeBron-to-L.A. came to pass, the Warriors would still be the odds-on favorite out West with the Houston Rockets a close second.

Boston came one win away from being in the NBA Finals instead of Cleveland and the Celtics’ entire postseason run came without their two best players in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.

With those two back in the fold next season, the Celtics will begin the season as the odds-on favorite in the East along with Philadelphia.

The Sixers are one of the league’s youngest teams and looked the part in their second-round exit from the playoffs courtesy of the Celtics.

So, the need for them to add James is great.

As for the Celtics, like the rest of the league, they would love to have James on their roster for next season.

But the difference is that most teams see the addition of James dramatically improving their chances of competing for an NBA title.

The Celtics?

They’re already on the short list of title contenders and the addition of James would put them over the top.



Kyrie Irving apparently called LeBron James at wildly coincidental time

Kyrie Irving apparently called LeBron James at wildly coincidental time

The NBA universe works in mysterious ways.

Kyrie Irving admitted Wednesday night he recently reached out to LeBron James to both apologize for past misunderstandings and ask his former Cleveland Cavaliers teammate for advice about leading a young Boston Celtics team.

👉 FORSBERG: Kyrie's call to LeBron proves he's focused on winning

That begs the question: How did LeBron react to Kyrie's call?

Thanks to some great reporting, we have an idea: According to The Athletic's Joe Vardon, James was at an "upscale pizzeria" in Los Angeles on Sunday night when he got the call from Irving.

At the table with LeBron: none other than another ex-Cavs teammate, Kevin Love.

"LeBron looked down at his phone and he showed us,” Love told Vardon. “He was like, ‘I wonder what he wants?"

You can't make this stuff up.

The Cavs played the Lakers in L.A. on Sunday night, which explains the incredible coincidence that James was with his ex-Cavs teammate of several years when a third ex-teammate called him out of the blue.

LeBron's agent, Rich Paul, also was at the pizzeria -- as was the head of Nike basketball, Lynn Merritt, and several others -- and showed James' call history to Love, according to Vardon.

"Yeah, I haven’t really absorbed all of it yet,” Love told Vardon. “I was always close with Kyrie, we had a good a good relationship.

"I don’t know, I was having some vino and enjoying the night when LeBron showed me the call.”

James called Irving back "in private" and was "very appreciative" the ex-Cavs guard reached out to him, a source close to James told Vardon.

Maybe the wine and Italian food put him in a good mood.

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Danny Ainge sounds off on Celtics' so-called drama: "These aren't stories"

Danny Ainge sounds off on Celtics' so-called drama: "These aren't stories"

After a roller-coaster seven days for the Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge would like to make one thing clear: The sky is not falling.

During his weekly appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Toucher & Rich" show, the Celtics' president of basketball operations addressed several "incidents" -- Jaylen Brown's spat with Marcus Morris during a loss to the Miami Heat; Kyrie Irving's disagreement with Gordon Hayward in Orlando and subsequent call-out of Boston's young players; Jaylen Brown's call-out of Irving's call-out -- that have led some wonder if the locker room is divided.

"To me, these aren't stories," Ainge said. "They're not a big deal. I mean, yes, Kyrie could have done better. Yes, Jaylen could have done better. But these are people. These are kids. These are guys playing with emotion in a glass house. They're real people with real emotions; they're not perfect and I don't ever expect them to be."

But could these overflowing emotions be the product of a "toxic" locker room?

"It only becomes toxic if guys are sensitive," Ainge responded.

" ... Everybody's so sensitive, or they think everybody's so sensitive. We live in a real sensitive society now, and all these things that we're talking about: 'Oh, you mean a veteran player called out the young guys? Oh wait, a young guy stood up for himself?'

"I mean, where is the drama? I don't understand it. Quit being sensitive. That's the story. That's my story."

Ainge played for the Celtics in the pre-social media era, though. So, while he doesn't think his players are sensitive enough to be affected by the ups and downs of an NBA season, he's aware they're at least more exposed to the news surrounding them.

"I don't think so, but sometimes when people are reading Twitter every day and have to answer all of these questions all the time, I don't think it helps," Ainge said. "It think it makes them more sensitive. Maybe I should be worried about these things that happen."

Ainge still insists these dust-ups don't affect the core chemistry of the team, however.

"Jaylen told me at the end of last year that Marcus Morris helped him through last year as much as anybody on our team," Ainge added. "They're friends, they're teammates.

"Kyrie was obviously frustrated. That's not the right way to do it. He knows that. ... It's just people being people, and that's what I love about the NBA."

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