Danny Ainge and company have a few months to prepare the welcome wagon, but come July there should be at least a few free agents stopping by Waltham to get a feel for Boston as a place to play in the future.
The Celtics have the money and willingness to spend that money to win. For all the hand wringing over the weather and all the inferiority complex to "destination cities" the bottom line is usually the bottom line figures. To butcher a phrase from Field of Dreams, if you PAY them, they will come.
But a lot of teams will have cap room. Shorter contracts have allowed teams to manage their books better and the promise of TV money right around the corner will embolden even the most stingy of owners to open the purse strings. So there does have to be something else drawing free agents to Boston.
All of which is why the Celtics fun run to the playoffs was so important. I'll allow Steve Bulpett to explain.
The hope around the C’s is that the four national television exposures have raised the club’s profile in the minds of potential free agents. Sure, that may be a bit of a reach, but when you consider players live in the here and now and generally have the memory of a gypsy moth, this was a reminder that Boston is not NBA Siberia and that taller than average citizens of the world with basketball skills may want to consider taking their talents to (fill in your favorite eastern Massachusetts beach here). "Let’s hope some people got a chance to see what we’re building here might take a closer look at us now," said one ranking member of the organization. "Let’s hope they look at see the coach we have and maybe think he’s someone they’d like to play for."
That last point is key. The biggest draw that the Celtics have right now is the man who finished 4th in Coach of the Year voting. He's got everyone's respect and players will (hopefully) be drawn to that.
"I highly respect their coaching staff and especially their head coach," James said. "A very well-coached team, he put those guys out there every night and put them in position to win the game and I think Brad Stevens is a very good young coach in our league."
Obviously all other things being equal, a free agent will prefer to spend his off days at the beach or hanging out with Hollywood stars or whatever. But things aren't equal and wise free agents won't be making their decisions based on frivolous things. Good, smart agents will remind their players about which teams treat their players right. Intelligent players will see the way a coach has impacted the careers of the players under his wing and take note.
And when it boils down to it, if a free agent doesn't want to play in Boston because of the cold or because of something silly like that, then we don't want him here anyway. Let him go sit on a beach and wear sunglasses inside all he wants.
I'm a little biased, but I think the prospect of playing for one of the great organizations in all of sports still has an unidentifiable pull all its own. So my message to free agents is this. Come to Boston, help us win banner 18, and you'll understand what it is like to become legendary. Enough said.