Celtics

How close did C's come to Harden trade? Ainge addresses rumors

Celtics

We can officially put the James Harden rumors to rest. 

The Houston Rockets traded their superstar guard to the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday as part of a four-team blockbuster deal.

Reports suggest the Harden sweepstakes came down to Brooklyn and the Philadelphia 76ers, but ESPN's Ramona Shelburne revealed Thursday morning that the Boston Celtics were next in line. 

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"There's really three teams: the 76ers, Nets and Boston Celtics," Shelburne said on Thursday's ESPN Daily podcast. "The Celtics kind of ducked out and weren't in it at the end."

Does Shelburne's report check out? Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge confirmed Thursday on 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Toucher & Rich" that Boston indeed spoke with Houston about a Harden trade.

"Yeah, we had conversations regarding James," Ainge said. "Not recently, but yeah. We did have conversations."

So, what led Ainge and Co. to steer clear?

"We had numerous talks, but the price really wasn't changing," Ainge said. "The price was really high for us. It was just something we didn't want to do.

"Even the people within our organization that respected him and wanted him more -- I think unanimously we decided it wasn't the time for us and it wasn't the price."

Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix relayed Wednesday night that the Celtics were firm on not including Jaylen Brown in a deal for Harden. If the Rockets were unwilling to trade Harden to Boston without getting Brown in return, it sounds like that was the sticking point.

 
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Ainge described Harden as "one of the best offensive players that have played the game in any era" and noted that "every team in the league respects him and fears him as an opponent."

But it appears the Celtics would rather Harden stay an opponent than give up one of the NBA's most promising young players to bring him to Boston.