Bean: Everything is turning up Celtics this week

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Bean: Everything is turning up Celtics this week

There have been a lot of great days in Celtics history: The day they won their first title. The day they won their 17th title. The day they got the 76ers to draft Markelle Fultz. The day a brave fan first yelled at Ben Simmons to shoot a 3, coward. 

June 18, 2018 might not be on the same level as any of those, but damn, it was good. I really only needed to see two things happen this offseason: for the C's to keep restricted free agent Marcus Smart and for Kawhi Leonard to end up anywhere for Philadelphia. 

Check and check. What a day. 

Actually, I suppose the stars getting healthy would also be a biggie for the Celtics. 

What a day. 

Let's focus on the Kawhi thing. If he had gone to the 76ers and made friends with some of those goofballs -- enough that he'd want to re-sign at least -- the Celtics would be in trouble. Kyrie Irving could theoretically leave in free agency next summer, and a big three of Kawhi, Simmons and Embiid would likely trump a Kyrie-less Celtics roster longterm. 

But that's not going to happen. Kawhi is in Toronto, perhaps for a year before he goes to the Lakers. In the immediate future, the Raptors are no threat to the Celtics, or perhaps even the 76ers. Longterm, there's a good chance he won't even be in the Eastern Conference. 

So the Celtics' path to the NBA Finals remains clear. As long as everyone -- or really even mostly everyone -- is healthy, they'll get there easily. 

A big part of that will be due to them being the deepest team in the conference, a status that should remain with Marcus Smart banging out a four-year deal with the Celtics for $52 million. (He officially signed on June 19, yes, but the two sides got close to the finish line on June 18.)

It wouldn't have been the end of the world if Smart just came back on his $6.1 million qualifying offer and then walked in free agency next summer, but paying more to have him around for what could be championship runs should have always been the better option. 

Yes, the Celtics are kind of negotiating against themselves because Smart is an RFA and hasn't received an offer sheet, but if after Dante Exum signed for three years at $11 million per, didn't it make sense for Smart to get something similar? 

So Smart got four years and $52 million. That's $2 million more a year to have him for four years. More importantly, it isn't the $16 million some team could have given him to get the Celtics to either overpay or walkaway. Smart isn't one of the Celtics' five best players, but he's one of the better defenders in the league. The Celtics seemingly don't have to pay through the nose to get him for four more years, so they'd be smart to wrap something up for the numbers that have been reported. 

Also, a picture surfaced of Jayson Tatum cropping Stephen A. Smith out of a picture with Denzel Washington. What a day. 

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Bean: Fact is, LeBron took escape route away from Boston

Bean: Fact is, LeBron took escape route away from Boston

Jayson Tatum's Game 7 dunk did not influence LeBron James' decision to leave the Eastern Conference, no matter how much I will continue to say it daily. 

The truth, as we've all realized, is that LeBron's mind was made up long before Tatum boomed him right in the face. 

But while it wasn't about that specific play, it kind of was about Tatum dunks. And Jaylen Brown dunks. And Al Horford dunks. And these heartbreakers:

For as much as we talk about the Celtics having a wide-open path to the NBA Finals now, the truth is they had that anyway if LeBron stayed with Cleveland. The ever-careful superstar had to know his options were to either stay in the East and get smoked by the Celtics or go out West and get smoked by the Warriors. If the results are the same, he might as well experience them in a nicer city. 

James' decision to go to the Lakers clearly wasn't about winning. If it were, he would have explored options like the Celtics, Rockets or taken the 76ers seriously.

His decision to leave the Cavaliers, however, had to at least be partially about winning. Just being home for Cleveland isn't enough; it was the fact that it could be a winner that got LeBron to return in the first place. With it no longer a title contender because of the Celtics' roster, staying in Cleveland was probably no longer worth it for James. 

What's interesting is that the Celtics knew it, too. Jaylen Brown's comments last week about wishing LeBron stayed in Cleveland were bang-on. Now that LeBron's gone, the Celtics' waltz to a Warriors matchup will be accompanied by talk from dumb people that they weren't able to do it when LeBron was in the conference. 

Here's why it's a smart move PR-wise on James' part: If LeBron stayed in the East and got beaten by the Celtics every year, people -- dumb people, but people nonetheless -- would talk about a torch being passed and how James was no longer dominant because he wasn't winning. 

The West presents a different narrative. Do you know what you're considered to be if you lose to the Warriors in the West? A victim. A victim of a super team and a victim of Kevin Durant's cowardice (the dumb people's words, not mine). 

So LeBron made an easy choice to leave Cleveland and the Celtics had to factor into it at least a little. If Kawhi Leonard eventually joins him, perhaps he can see the Celtics in the NBA Finals one of these years. That's a big "if" considering what we just saw Paul George do, but the fact of the matter is that LeBron's road to the finals was blocked whether he was in Cleveland or Los Angeles. 

Did LeBron run away from the Celtics? Not necessarily, but he clearly saw the effect the Celtics would have had on him if he stayed in Cleveland. It wasn't as pretty as L.A. 

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