(cracks knuckles) Where do we start? Usually it helps to take one big step back and look at the big picture. (takes Robert Williams sized step back)
The Celtics have won 9 out of their last 10 games and have been one of the best teams in the league since Marcus Smart was inserted into the starting lineup. Kyrie Irving is having perhaps his best season of his career. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have had their ups and downs, but both have shown improvements and both have extremely bright futures.
Boston is in a unique situation where they have a legit contending team in the here and now and they also have a ton of trade assets to use for team building going forward. To put it more succinctly, they are not a team that has put all their eggs into one unibrowed basket.
Anthony Davis is an otherworldly talent and the Celtics have had their eyes on him for years, according to multiple reports. They would rightly give up a lot for Davis, regardless of his preferred destination (counting on their ability to win him over with their culture and the team they’d surround him with). Ahh, but there’s the rub. Is that working out with Kyrie Irving thus far?
Again, a little shuffle step back is in order. Is Kyrie Irving annoyed by the questions about his long term plans? You bet. Is it possible that he’s rethinking his stated intention of signing with the Celtics this offseason? He hasn’t said so but that’s a possibility. He didn’t do anything to ease people’s fears about that possibility but (as he said) he doesn’t owe that to anyone. Who knows, maybe Irving caught wind of Kevin Durant’s plans to go to New York and has already mapped out a plan to join him there in the summer. Nobody knows but Kyrie.
Trading for Kyrie Irving was always a gamble and it is one that Danny Ainge would make 10 times out of 10 (despite the unfortunate impact it had on Isaiah Thomas). Similarly, Ainge has been stockpiling assets to make a run at Anthony Davis, who apparently would prefer to join LeBron James in Los Angeles. Somehow I don’t think Ainge would hesitate to take that gamble again.
All of which brings us to today’s rumors. You don’t even have to squint to see where the source of the rumors is. Rich Paul (who represents both LeBron James and Anthony Davis) is clearly trying to steer his client to the Lakers. Davis recently hired Paul so you can bet he’s on board with that plan as well. They all know that the best way to make that happen is for the Pelicans to take what the Lakers have to offer as soon as possible (without letting Boston into the bidding).
All the chatter has been aimed at convincing the Pelicans that the Celtics’ offer might not be there this summer (if Kyrie is hedging elsewhere). If that’s in doubt, then the Lakers’ pu pu platter of meh might look more attractive. Maybe they’ll accept the Lakers’ offer just out of fatigue. I wouldn’t count on it though.
Personally I’m not convinced that any deal happens by the deadline or that the Lakers are even in the lead position. Even taking the Celtics out of the equation, it makes a whole lot more sense to see how the draft lottery plays out.
I’m also optimistic that Kyrie Irving will take a look around the league and realize that (despite some ups and downs) he’s got a really good thing going here in Boston. Of course I’m a homer optimist so feel free to take my views with a grain of salt.
Speaking of optimism, I don’t get where all the pessimism comes from. As lined out above, the Celtics aren’t in AD-or-bust territory. He’s a great Plan A but there are plenty of alternative options. One of those options is simply to let things play out with largely this roster.
Jayson Tatum has the talent and work ethic to be a superstar, full stop. Jaylen Brown has the tools to become an All Star. I’m fine lowering expectations on Gordon Hayward, but there’s still an outside chance he could be really, really good for this team. Al Horford is getting older, but he’s aging pretty well thus far. A lot of franchises around the league would gladly trade places with Boston right now.
Still, let’s say the Lakers land Anthony Davis and the Klutch Sports crew lives happily ever after in La La Land. The Celtics will still head into the postseason with as good of a shot as anyone outside Golden State to win the title. They would then enter the offseason with multiple draft picks and plenty of options.
Sure, they are under pressure to keep Kyrie Irving happy, but that was always the plan to begin with and the easiest way to make that happen is to win basketball games. They’ve been doing that lately and there’s reason to believe it will continue well into the Spring.
For many reasons, the Celtics need the trade deadline to come and go (hopefully quietly) so they can put aside the noise (at least for a few months) and focus on the task of winning.
As spoiled as we’ve become in local sports lately, things don’t always fall perfectly into place. Sometimes it takes more time, planning, and luck to achieve the ultimate prize.