The Boston Celtics have made several tweaks to upgrade their roster while maintaining future flexibility, but have yet to make the big splash that we're all waiting for. Some fans remain discouraged that Danny Ainge was unable to convince a top-tier free agent to come to Boston, but attracting a star may not be as hopeless as many seem to think.
The Celtics may not have landed a star in free agency this summer, but that doesn't mean that Boston was off their radar. Count Kevin Love among the high profile free agents that was at least willing to consider a move to Boston. A non-Celtic source recently revealed to the Boston Herald's Steve Bulpett that if things hadn't worked out in Cleveland then Love may have ended up wearing Celtics green.
"If there was some reason Cleveland didn't want him, which sounds pretty silly... but if they wanted to go in a different direction, I think Boston was going to be his second choice," claims Bulpett's source.
To be clear, this doesn't mean that Love was all that close to ever becoming a Celtic, as Cleveland was always his first choice. Boston has a young core that is on the rise, but the Cavs are a team built to win now. If winning is Love's priority then it wouldn't make much sense to ditch LeBron James for a crew of promising young kids.
It's a moot point now anyway, considering Love has already re-signed with Cleveland. Coming in second place in the Love sweepstakes isn't going to be much consolation for fans eager to make the leap from rebuilding team to contender.
What we can take from this is that Boston may not be the NBA Siberia that some have made it out to be. There is a misconception that the chances of attracting a star in free agency is hopeless because Boston isn't a glamour market, warm weather city or in an income tax free state. Those are certainly benefits that other markets have, but they aren't deal breakers for Boston. Love could have gone almost anywhere he wanted this summer, yet his top choices came down to Cleveland and Boston. That should dispel the myth that star players will only flock to certain markets.
There is also the notion that the Celtics struck out because you need a star in order to land a star. While there may be some truth to that in some cases, it's not always the case. According to Bulpett's source, Love wasn't afraid to be the first one in, believing that his presence would be enough to attract another star to join him once he got here. It didn't work out this time around, but Love can't be the only star player with that type of mentality.
Ainge has wisely managed the team's payroll to remain flexible in future seasons. Boston could potentially carve out room for two max contracts next summer, so if a star free agent were willing to bet on their own recruiting skills then the Celtics would suddenly become a very appealing option.
With the salary cap spiking dramatically over the next two years, most teams are going to have significant cap space. Teams that already have a star on board may have a leg up in the competition and there are a limited number of franchise altering players that will hit the market. Convincing free agents to switch teams is hard - just ask the Dallas Mavericks. Having the cap space to sign a star doesn't entitle you to one, but it at least puts you in the game.
Ainge will play the free agent game again next summer, armed with cap space and a bundle of assets. It's possible that he'll walk away empty handed, but it's foolish to rule out Boston as a desirable location. Love may not have ended up here, but his thought process in making his decision provides a glimmer of hope for attracting other stars in the future. Boston may not be as far out of the picture as many seem to think.