NBA free agency starts on June 30th, and for teams with cap space (like the Boston Celtics) this generally means they have a chance at bringing in an elite player. The big fish this summer are Kevin Durant, who will likely miss next season, Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving, and Klay Thompson.
Of these four names, not one of them has considered the Boston Celtics as a potential destination. That includes Kyrie Irving, who according to reports has completely ghosted the Celtics.
Even some of the lower tier max contract players such as Jimmy Butler, Kemba Walker and Khris Middleton have shown absolutely zero interest in signing with the Celtics. In fact, the only big signing that comes to mind in recent memory for the Celtics is Gordon Hayward which begs the question, why don’t stars want to play in Boston?
Between the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins, Boston has won 12 major sports titles in the past 20 years. However, even with all this success and the legacy and history of the Boston Celtics, they are having a difficult time bringing in top free agents.
They have a bright young coach, no bad contracts (unless you count Gordon Hayward) and two budding young players who have all-star potential. Despite all of this, not one marquee free agent has talked about joining the Celtics.
Is it the cut-throat mentality that Danny Ainge has been operating the team with? Isaiah Thomas comes to mind here. Remember when he had an MVP caliber season and then was traded just like that for Kyrie Irving?
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Thomas laid it all on the line for the Celtics, he came back in the playoffs knowing there was a high chance of re-injury, not to mention his sister had passed away days before. While dealing with all that, Thomas still suited up and played his heart out for the city of Boston and how was he repaid?
By being shipped off to Cleveland and we have not heard from him since. When Anthony Davis demanded a trade last year, his father even brought the Isaiah Thomas situation up in response to why he would not want his son to play in Boston.
Another potential example of Danny Ainge’s cut-throat mentality is Al Horford. Now, I do not know for certain what happened here, but it seems odd to me that a 33-year-old would just decline an option that would have paid him 30 million dollars next season.
It is entirely possible, based off of Ainge’s track record, that he told Horford to opt out and that they would work on a new deal when in reality, Ainge had no intention of re-signing him, he just wanted to clear that 30 million off the books.
Now, it is also entirely possible that Ainge sincerely wanted to extend Horford and nothing could be agreed upon, but as a betting man I would say the inverse it just as likely.
We have discussed the way Ainge has treated his players, but is that really enough to deter top free agents from coming to Boston? Just because they traded away one player who, by the way, was not as good as the player they got in return?
I mean, Bill Belichick has run the Patriots with this mentality for nearly two decades and he is considered one of if not the best head coach/general manager of all time. Why is it ok for Belichick to operate this way, but not Danny Ainge?
Perhaps because Belichick has six championships and has been to nine Super bowls, everybody just accepts his way of doing things. Or, perhaps the NBA is just a different animal and poor treatment of players by the front office is considered a bigger deal in the NBA than it is in the NFL.
Boston is a historic sports town and again has probably been the most successful in terms of championships in the past two decades. However, potentially due to a cutthroat general manager and the looming shadow of racism, it seems that the Celtics will not land a top free agent this offseason, or even a lower tier max contract level player.
This is not cause for immediate concern however, because the Celtics still have a decent roster and could add some complimentary pieces to the ascending duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown and still make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. In the long-term however, this will be a problem if top free agents continue to dismiss Boston as a potential destination.