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Celtics on short list for Kevin Durant sweepstakes

So you're saying there's a chance...

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Many considered Thursday's draft a little underwhelming after Danny Ainge seemingly missed out on deals to acquire Jimmy Butler and Nerlens Noel. Well, that hasn't deterred one of the biggest free agents of the summer from showing interest in the Celtics. The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski has the details:

Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant is planning to host free-agency meetings at a singular location starting July 1, league sources told The Vertical.

Durant's representatives at Roc Nation are working to solidify invitations with the Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs and Thunder, league sources said.

Woj reports that OKC is still the frontrunner to retain Durant's services, but the Finals runner-up Warriors are not far behind. Meetings will take place in New York, and a decision will be made before July 9th. He's expected to sign a 1+1, making him a free agent next summer when the salary cap will increase even more.

Durant has shown love to Boston as recently as last spring when he said, "the tradition of being a Boston Celtic is second to none." He praised Boston's "family atmosphere" and its fans as the franchise's attractive qualities. Former teammate Kendrick Perkins hinted at KD's interest a month later, and there's been Isaiah Thomas's constant recruiting of Durant. Maybe he knew something two days ago when he tweeted "it's getting real!" On the same day, he was on Jason Terry's Sirius XM Runway show talking about the real possibility of KD landing in Boston:

"We definitely have a shot," Thomas said. "I know that for sure. And I'm just trying to reach out when I can and stay in his ear a little bit here and there. I know it's a tough time for him because everybody's probably trying to reach out and get him to go where they want him to go. But my relationship with him is real genuine, and hopefully I can get him to come to Boston and we can bring Banner 18 here."

Unlike the five other teams that are securing a sit down with KD, the Celtics are in a unique position with the ability to sign two max free agents while retaining their core players—the same core players who won 48 games last season, tied for the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. There were rumors earlier this month that Durant's representatives had already reached out to Ainge and the front office with a list of players who Durant would prefer to team up with. That could explain why Ainge was hesitant to make a draft-day trade and add unwanted salary. Instead, he added an NBA-ready rookie in Jaylen Brown to his arsenal of hard-nosed, defense-first players on a roster that's custom made for a superstar to join.

There are no moral victories, but the fact that a player of Durant's caliber would consider the Celtics who are in the early stages of its rebuild is a win for the franchise. It speaks to the admiration and respect that Brad Stevens, Danny Ainge, and his front office commands around the league. They'll go into that meeting without a fancy PowerPoint presentation or promises of marketing opportunities outside of basketball. Stevens and Ainge will pitch a plan to win a championship in the city of champions and raise Banner 18. Pure and simple.

There are no fireworks yet, but at least there's a fuse to be lit.

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