Now that we've had a few days to digest and move on from the trade deadline, I thought I'd think out loud about some of the rumors and speculation surrounding the Celtics on and around deadline day.
In particular, I am still wondering about that mystery trade that fell through. Apparently I'm not the only one. I've heard a few in the media question the accuracy of the report that the trade target was actually Jahlil Okafor. In particular, Zach Lowe shared his emphatic disbelief (via his podcast) that Okafor was the guy Danny was after that day. He stressed that this was his opinion, not based on inside knowledge, but I tend to agree with him.
I say that with the highest respect for Steve Bulpett and his source-vetting process. Remember too that I have no inside information either. I'm content being an outsider and reading and reporting on what I hear.
Let's back up and look at this with a fresh set of eyes, shall we? Let's pull everything out, put it on the table, and examine it piece by piece. Feel free to fit yourself with whatever tinfoil hat you prefer.
Here's what we know. Danny Ainge talked openly about a mystery trade that was discussed but didn't happen.
"One story I probably can share with you is -- I can't tell you the team or the name -- but it was very close," Ainge said. "It's something that we had been deliberating on for two days straight. The other team was doing that, and we were wrapping ourselves around a big package to do a deal. And at the very last minute they just said they did not want to do it. They just backed out. So it was a deal that was talked about, thought about, and that was probably the closest that we came."
"We were willing to do one deal," Ainge added, "and it just didn't happen. Both teams weren't ready to go. And it was a really tough, close deal. And it was certainly not a no-brainer. There was risk on both sides' part. But at the end of the day both teams were not ready to do it."
Let's stop right there for a moment. What does Danny Ainge have to gain by giving us a peek at goings-on under the hood and sharing such a juicy piece of rumor fodder? If everything was so hush-hush before the deal happened, why is it so free and easy now?
The answer seems to be simply PR. Ainge knows that the fans have been waiting for "fireworks" since the moment Pierce and Garnett exited Boston, and this was another window of opportunity passed by without a major move in that direction. He knows that he worked hard to get something done, but he wanted the fans to know that too. So out comes this fisherman's story of "The One That Got Away." I'm not saying he was outright lying. But exactly how close things got is an entirely subjective interpretation.
Beyond sharing his story, the question that begs to be asked was in fact asked. Who was the guy? Interviewer Adam Kaufman pressed Ainge for details, and he would only divulge that it was not one of the "previously reported rumors."
If it involved the Nets pick, it wasn't likely going to be for impending fee agents Al Horford or Dwight Howard. The hint that Ainge gave seems to rule out guys like Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, and others since all were heavily involved in rumors in the previous few days. But do we know for sure it wasn't one of those guys? How do we know what rumors Ainge was talking about?
There was a pretty widely circulated (and quickly shot down) rumor of a three-team deal involving Lowe, Carmelo Anthony, and the Celtics. But aside from the usual "Celtics not giving up on Love" rumblings, did we ever get a direct "Kevin Love to the Celtics" rumor?
There was a lot of talk about Doc listening to offers for Blake Griffin and then strongly denying that any such deal would happen. But I don't recall a direct rumor with a package being discussed with Griffin going to the Celtics. All I'm saying is that there's room between the lines for Danny to operate, and he has always been skilled at saying a lot to the media without giving away anything at all.
Moving on, let's get to the Sixers rumor. Steve Bulpett reported that the mystery trade target was Jahlil Okafor. Here's his exact quote.
While a league source has indicated the late target Ainge has referred to in radio interviews was Philadelphia's Jahlil Okafor, Ainge has turned silent on the matter.
I don't know (or care to speculate) on who the league source was, but I know that Steve doesn't run with stuff that he's not comfortable with. But what if that source was outright lying? Or what if the source knew that Danny Ainge had talked to the Sixers (seriously or not) about Okafor and was connecting the dots to his "mystery trade" rumor? Perhaps Okafor was one target but not necessarily the blockbuster that Ainge mentioned specifically. For all I know, the source was tied to the Sixers and was trying to pump up the guy's trade value for this summer.
That brings us to the coming summer. What's past is past, but it may be prologue for the story yet to be written.
Maybe the mystery deal was for Okafor. I don't think he's an ideal fit or the guy for whom I would invest all of Boston's assets, but maybe Danny sees something in him that I don't. Even so, this summer we aren't going to be limited to returning to this same deal and pushing it through. All the options will still be on the table.
In fact, I do believe that more options will be on the table. Depending on how the playoffs go, we could see Griffin, Love, and others hit the market (quietly or otherwise). Depending on how the lottery goes, Danny could have higher valued assets or higher incentive to make a deal.
Regardless, Boston is on pace to make the playoffs and add a little shine on their free agent recruitment pitch. The fans know that Danny is ready and willing to make a big move to vault us further into the stratosphere of contenders.
So basically, Ainge got exactly what he wanted with that story.