BOSTON -- Kevin Durant lingered in TD Garden while waiting to board the 10:25 p.m. team bus after the Thunder trounced the Celtics. To pass the time he chatted with reporters about Kendrick Perkins' career, and then as he walked towards the bus he was overheard saying, "man, there's a lot of history in this building."
It's these behind-the-scenes moments that indicate he's sincere about what he says publicly about Boston. The odds still are Durant will re-sign with the Thunder, but it's clear he absolutely has genuine interest in the illustrious history of the Celtics franchise.
"You can feel the tradition walking in here," Durant told ESPN. "You see all the guys plastered on the walls as you walk into the locker room. The tradition of being a Boston Celtic is second to none. So, it's amazing playing here. The fans, they're very energetic and they cheer for their team. It's amazing to see as a player to have fans that care about the game so much. It's an amazing sports town and they have a great team to cheer for."
In Year 3 of the rebuild, it's quite amazing that the franchise has come so far that this is something fans are seriously thinking about. A "Durant to Boston" Twitter page has already been created, and fans even serenaded Durant with a "Come to Boston" chant. Danny Ainge and the Celtics front office deserve a lot of credit for assembling this team and giving fans a reason to dream. It doesn't get much better than when fans can root for a playoff team while simultaneously getting excited about a top pick in the draft.
It's an appealing situation for players, too.
The Celtics are one of the thirty NBA teams interested in acquiring Durant, but they're likely one of the few Durant would even consider. Go through each team, because there aren't many. There are hometowns like Oklahoma City and Washington. There's the limelight of Los Angeles and New York. There are the super teams like Golden State and San Antonio. There are the stable organizations like Dallas, Miami, and Boston.
The Celtics have a lot going for them. They have the history, with 17 championship banners and a bevy of retired numbers hanging from the rafters.
They have Brad Stevens, one of the NBA's top Xs-and-Os coaches who has inspired his team to play at an optimal level. "They're scrappy, they play hard, they love their coach, they love their city," Durant said of Boston's style. The soft-spoken Durant also cited Boston's "family atmosphere," which could be more appealing than the harsh media spotlight of L.A. or New York.
The Celtics also have the ultimate recruiter in Isaiah Thomas, who brought his son into the Thunder locker room to meet Durant after the game.
But the team's history and the promise of a bright future probably aren't enough to entice Durant to come to Boston. They need something that gives them a clearly defined edge over teams "lurking in the weeds" and the Thunder, who still are clearly the favorites.
That's where the Nets' unprotected pick comes into play. They need their "Ray Allen" to set up "Kevin Garnett." If the ping-pong balls bounce a certain way and the Celtics are fortunate enough to land a top-3 pick, they might have the ammo necessary to land a superstar through a trade. And they'd still have cap space to make other impactful moves.
It's not worth listing who those targets could be, though you can speculate if you'd like, but having a top pick does give Boston more potential this summer. Even then, they still might not be able to convince Durant to join the Celtics, but it would increase their chances, and ultimately that's all you can hope for. The Celtics will get a better idea of their chances of executing "Plan A" after the NBA Draft Lottery on May 19, where they'll find out if they're in a prime position with one of the top picks in the draft.
Don't let it be something that you're counting on, but you shouldn't stop dreaming about the potential of Kevin Durant suiting up for the Celtics on Opening Night 2016.
My 2016 NBA Draft Guide can be ordered by clicking here. You can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook using @KevinOConnorNBA.