Celtics

Could there be a Kevin Durant-Kyrie Irving duo... in Boston?

Could there be a Kevin Durant-Kyrie Irving duo... in Boston?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Conventional wisdom had us all believing that Kyrie Irving would be using every moment he has this weekend to huddle up with Anthony Davis who like Irving, will be in high demand this summer. 

But as you watched Irving navigate through various All-Star related activities and functions, there was another superstar that Irving seemed to be bonding with quite a bit - Kevin Durant. 

Yes, Kevin Durant of two-time defending NBA champion Golden State who is part of what will be one of the most star-studded free agency classes ever beginning on July 1. 

Despite the success Durant has enjoyed with the Warriors, there is a general consensus among league executives that the perennial All-Star will at least give serious thought to taking his talents elsewhere this summer. 

And among the most talked-about locations for him has been New York, a team that has made no secret about wanting to pair him and potentially Kyrie Irving together which can actually happen now that the Knicks have sliced and diced their payroll to the point where they can absorb a pair of max-salaried contracts this summer. 

All of this follows a logical train of thought on Irving’s intent and motives this weekend … which is why I’m not buying it. 

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If there’s one thing we know about Kyrie Irving, it’s that he operates in a manner that doesn’t necessarily subscribe to traditional or predictable patterns of thought. 

He’s an individual unlike any individual in the NBA, something that can frustrate some while leaving others to sift through his sayings and see that if you dig deep enough you’ll find substance - something you can’t say with any certainty about most NBA players. 

And that substance often comes in the form of something that again, doesn’t necessarily subscribe to conventional wisdom.

So while everyone may see him and Durant bonding as a sign of them looking to take their talents to the Big Apple, should anyone be shocked if Irving might be trying to sell Durant on Boston?

And unlike Davis, Durant (or his people) have consistently shown respect and admiration for the Celtics franchise. 

In fact, it was only a couple years ago when the Celtics were legitimately in the running to land Durant when he was a free agent following his last season with Oklahoma City. 

Durant, fresh off a trip to the Western Conference finals with the Thunder that ended in defeat to the soon-to-be NBA champion Golden State Warriors, had invited five teams for a face-to-face meeting: Golden State, the Los Angeles Clippers, San Antonio, Miami and Boston. 

The Celtics’ contingent on the visit included key players and members of the front office, in addition to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady whose legion of fans included Durant. 

As impressed as Durant was with meeting Brady and getting a better sense of what it would be like to be a larger-than-life star in Boston, it didn’t resonate how they had hoped.

“I mean, I love Tom Brady, but I don’t know if he can help me if he was on the court with me right now,” Durant told Tim Kawakami of The Athletic at the time. “I love that people wanted me on their team, but at the same time, I just wanted to hear from the coaches and the players about what they needed or why they wanted me on their team and what I needed to do as a player.”

There’s no way of knowing for sure where the Celtics fell in the ultimate pecking order of those teams that failed to land him then, or where they stand now as Durant will once again hit the free agency market.

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But it’s fair to say that the Celtics have done nothing to hurt their chances at landing him since then, with Boston having split the season series with Golden State each of the last three seasons and will look to do the same when the two meet next month.

Which brings us back to Irving, whose comments earlier this month gave increased optimism that he would seriously consider signing with the New York Knicks this summer, and potentially arrive with a superstar like Durant or Davis. 

As alluring as the bright lights of New York may be, you have to wonder whether they are more focused on winning at the highest levels now versus helping build a winning environment that may take a couple years before it can evolve into a title-contending culture.

Because both Irving and Durant in Boston next season would automatically make the Celtics the team to beat in the East and frankly, the biggest threat to the Golden State machine in years. 

But if they decide to play for the Knicks, New York becomes one of the top teams in NBA but are far from a legit threat to topple Golden State and for that matter, not necessarily a favorite to emerge from the East immediately. 

So as much as we will continue to monitor Davis and Boston’s efforts at landing him, don’t sleep on the Celtics and their potential pursuit of pairing Irving with Durant, a superstar who has shown nothing but respect and admiration for what the Celtics have done in recent years.

As Kevin Garnett reminded us in 2008 … “Anything’s possible.”

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Al Horford says Celtics' tampering suggestions are 'ridiculous'

Al Horford says Celtics' tampering suggestions are 'ridiculous'

Al Horford said it’s “ridiculous” if the Boston Celtics are upset about any sort of tampering that occurred last month after Horford opted out of the final year of his deal.

Horford, appearing on the Dan Patrick Show on Monday, said he was aware of an ESPN report that suggested the Celtics had “stomped their feet” about what they considered tampering with Horford before the start of free agency. But Horford, who declined a $30.1 million option before signing a four-year, $109 million offer with the Philadelphia 76ers, dismissed it.

"I just think it’s -- what can I say? — it’s ridiculous,” said Horford. "It is what it is. Danny [Ainge] -- I love Danny. Danny was really good to me. I know he’s definitely frustrated that things didn’t work out with us.”

Horford opted out in mid-June and initial reports suggested he was eager to work towards a new long-term deal with Boston. Later that same day, however, reports shifted to suggest that Horford was seeking a four-year deal that Boston wasn't offering to that point.

While tampering seemed pretty evident across the league this summer, the Celtics could be upset that, before the start of free agency on June 30, it became clear that Horford had at least one mystery suitor ready to throw big money at him over four years. That took away any leverage Boston had and made it tougher for them to negotiate a deal they felt comfortable both in terms of years and money with Horford.

Last week after introducing Kemba Walker, Ainge said that he was unsure if Horford would have made the same decision if he knew Walker was coming to Boston.

"I don’t know if Al makes the decision he makes if he knows that Kemba is coming, as an example,” said Ainge. "I have no idea if that makes -- but that’s how free agency is, sometimes you gotta make decisions before you know other certainties. But I’m not worried about that. We just have two new guys that have chosen to come play for us that really want to be here and we wish them well. I’m grateful for Al and Kyrie choosing to come play in Boston and grateful for all that they gave us.”

Earlier in his interview on The Dan Patrick Show, Horford said opting out of the final year of his contract and departing Boston was no easy choice.

"It was a very difficult decision, just looking at everything that had gone on with the season, my time in Boston, it wasn’t a decision that was taken lightly by me,” said Horford. "We thought things were going to work out a certain way with Boston and they didn’t, and, yeah, I had to start looking at the next step. But it was not easy.”

Asked what went wrong with the 2018-19 Celtics, Horford suggested expectations weighed the team down.

"We had a lot of high hopes for our group,” said Horford. "I just think that we never were able to gel like we needed to, coming together as a group, and playing at the level consistently that we needed to play.” 

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Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart on 'short list' as Team USA replacements

Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart on 'short list' as Team USA replacements

As All-Stars continue to defect from the Team USA roster ahead of the 2019 FIBA World Cup, USA Basketball could turn to Celtics guards Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown as replacement options. According to Joe Vardon of The Athletic, Brown and Smart are on the "short list" for USA Basketball President Jerry Colangelo. 

James Harden, Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal, Eric Gordon and CJ McCollum have all withdrawn from the team.

"You’ve just got to go about your business and, if the phone rings, be ready to go,” Colangelo recently said of Brown. “But we have a lot of respect for him as a player."

Should Brown and Smart both get invitations, the Celtics could have as many as four players on Team USA. Kemba Walker intends to play despite the lack of enthusiasm from other All-Stars, and Jayson Tatum is currently battling for a roster spot. 

Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon and Golden State Warriors guard D'Angelo Russell will also be considered as replacement options. Vardon also reported that Lillard and Kevin Love will decide whether they'll stick with the team in the coming days.  

Meanwhile, 76ers forward Tobias Harris withdrew from the team on Monday afternoon, leaving 14 players fighting for 12 spots. Brown and Smart could both help with the team's lack of wing depth and defensive-minded players. Harris's departure also may lock up Tatum's spot on the team

Here is an updated list of players still on the roster as of Monday at 4 p.m.:

Guards: 
Kemba Walker, Boston Celtics
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz
Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors

Wings: 
Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks
Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
Harrison Barnes, Sacramento Kings
P.J. Tucker, Houston Rockets

Bigs: 
Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers
Kyle Kuzma, Los Angeles Lakers
Paul Millsap, Denver Nuggets
Brook Lopez, Milwaukee Bucks

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