Celtics

Reported 'determining factor' in Celtics passing on Kawhi Leonard isn't surprising

Reported 'determining factor' in Celtics passing on Kawhi Leonard isn't surprising

Kawhi Leonard had a few fanbases -- the Boston Celtics' included -- wondering "what if?" after the 2019 NBA Finals.

The Celtics reportedly were one of several teams considering trading with the San Antonio Spurs for Leonard last offseason before the Toronto Raptors landed him ... and promptly won an NBA title.

Boston had plenty of assets to offer San Antonio for Leonard in the summer of 2018. So, why did Danny Ainge and Co. back down?

ESPN.com's Kevin Arnovitz shared this tidbit Monday morning:

The informed belief that Leonard had every intention of signing in Los Angeles in 2019 was the determining factor for both the 76ers and Boston Celtics in not accepting more robust proposals by the San Antonio Spurs for Leonard last summer, according to sources with each team who were close to those negotiations.

NBC Sports Boston's Chris Forsberg recently reported that Boston's trade proposals for Leonard "centered heavy on draft assets" and didn't include young players like Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown. According to Arnovitz, the C's weren't willing to give up that much for a player who many believe will sign with the Clippers or Lakers this summer.

Those beliefs aren't unfounded, as Leonard just declined his player option to become an unrestricted free agent and may ditch Toronto even after winning a championship in his lone season. Still, Raptors fans will probably tell you dealing fan favorite DeMar DeRozan for Leonard was worth it in the form of the franchise's first NBA title.

Leonard also came with injury concerns in 2018, but his situation wasn't unlike that of Anthony Davis, whose agent, Rich Paul, warned teams like the Celtics they'd only be getting him on a one-year rental if they traded for him.

The C's apparently heeded this warning like they did with Leonard, declining to move their prized assets for short-term rentals of two superstars. We'll find out over the next few seasons if they made the right call.

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Kawhi Leonard injury: Clippers star reportedly expected to play vs. Celtics

Kawhi Leonard injury: Clippers star reportedly expected to play vs. Celtics

All signs are pointing toward one of the NBA's top-five players playing in Wednesday night's showdown between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center.

Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard has missed the last three games with a left knee injury, but ESPN's Ohm Youngmisuk and Adrian Wojnarowski have reported the two-time NBA Finals MVP is expected to play versus the C's.

Leonard has played in nine of the Clippers' 14 games this season. Whether he's actually injured or just using load management to keep himself fresh for the playoffs, it's exciting that he's likely to play against a Celtics team with championship aspirations after a strong start to the campaign.

Boston leads the Eastern Conference standings with an 11-2 record and owns the sixth-best defensive rating in the league. Celtics guard Marcus Smart was named to the NBA's All-Defense first team last season, and he's making a compelling case in 2019-20 to be the Defensive Player of the Year award winner. Smart likely will be tasked with guarding Leonard, and that matchup will be awesome to watch. 

Leonard is averaging 26.8 points, 8.9 rebounds and six assists per game this season, and the Clippers are 7-2 with him in the lineup. He's not the only superstar forward the C's must stop, though. Paul George is back after missing the first few weeks of the season. He's averaging 29.3 points in 24.3 minutes over three games.

Marcus Smart reveals his pick for NBA's most unstoppable player>>>

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Clippers, which tips off Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 10 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

NBA Rumors: These Celtics players are off-limits in trade deadline talks

NBA Rumors: These Celtics players are off-limits in trade deadline talks

The Boston Celtics may need to upgrade their frontcourt if they want to compete with the beasts of the NBA's Eastern Conference.

But to get something good, you need to give something good in return ... and the Celtics don't seem willing to do that at the moment.

Here's what ESPN's Brian Windhorst reported in his column Wednesday about the prospects of Boston trading for a big man before the Feb. 7 NBA trade deadline:

While one could have some fun with the Trade Machine, Boston has made it clear to anyone who has asked that their core players are absolutely not available. That includes, sources said, both (Gordon) Hayward and (Marcus) Smart, players who have been floated as possible trade chips in the past.

Windhorst didn't confirm who Boston's other "core players" are, but we can fill in the gaps: If Hayward and Smart are off the table, Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown aren't going anywhere, either.

Can the Celtics really make an upgrade in the frontcourt without moving one of their five best players?

If they do, a trade almost certainly would need to include the Memphis Grizzlies' first-round pick, which is top-six protected for 2020 and is Danny Ainge's best trade chip. The C's also should get the Milwaukee Bucks' first-rounder in addition to their own.

But even if draft picks can lure a big man like Clint Capela, Kevin Love or LaMarcus Aldridge, the Celtics still would have a hard time matching salaries: Outside the five "core players," only Enes Kanter and Daniel Theis (both big men) are making more than $4 million on Boston's roster.

Seven-footers like Joel Embiid and Brook Lopez could pose a problem for the Celtics in the playoffs, so expect Ainge to do his big man due diligence, even as the C's enter Wednesday as the East's No. 1 seed at 11-2. A major trade at the deadline may be easier said than done, though.

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Clippers, which tips off Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 10 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.