With the Cavaliers looking at the possibility of a sweep at the Warriors (again) and a four-year record of 3-1 in The Finals, it’s not too early to start talking about where LeBron James might play next season. After ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith reported that he’ll talk to the Celtics in July, CelticsBlog’s writers discussed whether or not they want the team to pursue LeBron and potentially what it might take.
Tim MacLean: Call me crazy, but no.
By the way, where does Kyrie factor into this? He already tried to get away from LeBron once. With his free agency looming in 2019 who says he doesn’t do that again? At 25-26 he’s much closer to both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown’s timeline. Even Hayward is almost 5 years younger than LeBron. Would the Celtics win a championship with LeBron? Probably. But why not go for multiple while also avoiding just being another stepping stone in LeBron’s narrative. LeBron is the greatest player in the world, I get it. It just doesn’t make a ton of sense.
For the record I should probably mention I wouldn’t be upset if the Celtics somehow got LeBron. I just prefer the alternative.
Andrew Doxy: It’s a no for me. LeBron James is the best basketball player on the planet, but it feels…dirty. Like, I have morals! Also, acquiring James would require a trade of one of our young guys, and in a vacuum, you shouldn’t hesitate to essentially trade for the best basketball player in the world, but the context surrounding the 2018-19 Celtics suggests that we shouldn’t. From everything that I’ve seen in the 2018 Playoffs, I haven’t seen a single shred of evidence that suggests that the fully healthy Boston Celtics wouldn’t have won a championship. I still think our team fully healthy would beat even Philadelphia with LeBron James. The Golden State Warriors aren’t nearly as scary, especially after seeing them struggle with Houston. If being crazy means that I don’t want to sacrifice this current team for a shot at LeBron James and all of the drama and stunted growth that comes with him, then I’m crazy and I will own that. Also, I don’t believe this rumor one bit.
Keith Smith: Yes. That is assuming he’s open to even considering the Celtics. LeBron James is the best player in the world and him alone immediately makes you a title contender. The challenge is moving other pieces to be able to afford to add James. That makes it possible, but highly unlikely. For that reason, I’d be surprised if James even takes the rumored meeting with Boston. He’s not going anywhere that starts with a pitch of “Once we make these trades and do this and this and this, we can clear enough space to sign you.”
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Shirley Coshatt: I am very much against bringing in LeBron to this Celtics team. The core needs to stay together and it won’t be possible if LeBron is signed. Also, the Celtics are a TEAM and they pride themselves for being a team. I loved the we are one superstar” shirts from two years back. With LeBron, it’s never a team. It’s LeBron and his court and immediately, they cease to function as one team but have to revolve around him. Besides, he is on the cover of NBA 2K19 and he will probably be hit with the cover curse. I just don’t see getting rid of pieces that could have us contending for many years for LeBron who will probably leave in a year or two.
Simon Pollock: It makes total basketball business sense to take a meeting with LeBron and look at the possibility of getting him.
The prospect of this happening, of trading away some part or parts of the promising core the Celtics in order to win right this damn minute, can feel icky for fans. But imagine for a minute a future in which Lebron admits, “You know, I really had my eyes on Boston in 2019 after I saw what that team could do. Too bad they didn’t take a meeting with me.”
If you’re the Celtics you have to know. You have to ask about the price. He’s the best player in the world, who is somehow improving in his fifteenth season.
It probably wouldn’t happen. Like Keith said, it’s highly unlikely. But it’s Danny Ainge’s job to find out what it would take and then weigh the options. It’d be silly not to.
Alex Kungu: When the Boston Celtics began this new rebuilding journey, their goal was for “sustainable success.” The Big 3 era was fun, but only lead to one ring and the C’s were headed right back for mediocrity had it not been for the Nets. This time around, the team has a Spurs mindset in mind where they want to compete for titles every year while consistently putting out a winner. That takes patience and belief. Patience in your core to slowly improve and believe that they will do so. The Spurs model also calls for a team to put their program in front any player, regardless of stature. It’s part of the reason Irving was so interested in Boston which he implied that the move would allow him to go after “something bigger than [himself].”
With that being said, we understand that what comes with LeBron James is a system in itself. For all of James’ greatness, having him on your team requires you to abandon whatever plans you had and focus everything on him. His presence makes him the entire offense, the captain, the de facto coach, and his power wields its way in the front office by compelling teams to go after players that fit within his world. The man has been to 8 straight Finals and runs the Eastern Conference so he’s not putting his teams in the worst situations in the world, but his age begs the question: at what costs? Is tearing down the work that set you up to be the team that dethroned James worth it for maybe 2-3 years of elite James? What’s the plan when he leaves? Will you have enough after bending to his demands to dethrone the Warriors?
Rings are no promise, but an accelerated clock with a hard capped deadline are. It’d be foolish to pretend that the Celtics wouldn’t do whatever it takes if James did in fact have legitimate interest in wearing green, but unlike previous years, they’ve built up far enough that the risks of the move might just outweigh the potential benefits.
Bobby Manning: I’m beholden to the LeBron effect that clearly gripped Kyrie Irving and led to his eventual departure in Cleveland. Whether it’s the increased microscope the media points at James’ teams, the intensity and micromanagement of James or the ball and stat dominance he commands on the court, there’s a shakiness instilled in the players around James. While LBJ clearly plays a style of basketball that gets the players around him better shots, more space and a guaranteed spot in the NBA Finals there’s something else that comes with it.
Maybe it’s the short-term deals that stranglehold an organization to his whims, maybe it’s the constant question of whether his teams are fully engaged or “trying” through points in the season or possibly the storylines that it’d be “LeBron’s team” and not the Celtics. All those things add an extra element and weight on top of the unmatched all-time talent James would bring to the Celts.
That’s why a rumor would pop up about the C’s possibly adding arguably the greatest player of all time and some in this roundtable balked at it. While I have little doubt followers of the team would quickly talk themselves into rooting for James, Boston’s developed a roster that deserves its own shot at beating James rather than playing 2K roster management to build an automatic title contender. While there’s clearly no sanctimony to winning anymore as these NBA Finals once again show, there are legitimate long-term concerns to buying all in on James given the mercenary nature his career would inherently enter by joining the Celtics in the first place.