OFFSEASON

Bynum key to the Howard deal for Celtics

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Bynum key to the Howard deal for Celtics

With a player as talented as Dwight Howard on the move, you had to know the repercussions would be felt throughout the entire NBA landscape - Celtics Nation included.

And while Howard's move out West certainly puts the Los Angeles Lakers back in the thick of the title chase (acquiring two-time league MVP Steve Nash to run the point doesn't hurt, either), Boston can't worry about what's going down in La-La land.

They've got bigger problems closer to home.

With the major offseason additions and subtractions by most teams just about complete, the rosters you see now are pretty much what you'll see when games matter.

That said, Boston had every reason to feel that defending NBA champion Miami Heat, the Chicago Bulls and the Indiana Pacers were their biggest Eastern Conference obstacles in getting back to the pinnacle of the sport - the NBA Finals - and making one more run at Banner 18.

You have to add Philadelphia to the list now.

One of the residual effects of the proposed Howard trade is that it will send Andrew Bynum to the Sixers, and ship out Andre Iguodala to Denver.

Such a move bodes well for Philadelphia on two fronts.

It gives them a much-coveted center in Bynum, and it alleviates the logjam of wing players that developed on the Sixers roster this past season.

Now all of a sudden, Philadelphia has the versatility to hurt teams in both a half-court set with Bynum in the post or pick-and-pop action with Spencer Hawes, in addition to getting out to run in transition the way they did this past season with the likes of Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner on the wings.

Boston's run atop the Atlantic Division - five straight years and counting - may be legitimately threatened for a change.

"I still see Boston as the team to beat in the Atlantic," said one NBA executive on Friday. "Philadelphia is better now, obviously. But Miami getting Ray Allen out of Boston gives them something they didn't really have last year, and that's quality, veteran depth. They're still the team to beat. Boston and Indiana have great depth as well. And everybody seems to be writing off Chicago. Big mistake. They'll be right there, too. Like I said, Philly's going to be better. But there's a lot of teams they have to get past, and I'm not convinced they'll do it."

Indeed, the depth of the Celtics, maybe more than anything else, is why they'll likely begin the season picked to win the Atlantic Division for a sixth straight season. And as Celtics Nation bemoaned the fact that Boston was so thin in the frontcourt last season, the C's have done what teams are supposed to do when you can't acquire a dominant big man like Howard or Bynum in their prime - add depth.

Kevin Garnett will begin the season as Boston's starting center. Behind him will be veteran Chris Wilcox. In addition, Boston drafted power forward Jared Sullinger (The C's have already said he will play some center) and center Fab Melo. Boston also signed another defensive-minded big man, veteran Jason Collins for added insurance.

While there's little dispute that Bynum is at worst the second-best center in the NBA behind Howard, his success has come in part by playing with all-star caliber talent in the frontcourt (Pau Gasol) and on the perimeter (Kobe Bryant).

He won't have that kind of talent around him in Philadelphia, so there are some concerns as to how effective will he be now that he has to shoulder a greater amount of the load in order for his team to be successful.

So, with most of the talk in the coming days centering around Howard being the latest great big man acquired by the Lakers (Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O'Neal, to name a few), the C's could care less.

They have their own big-man issues to worry about.

OFFSEASON

Kevin Durant solidifying invitations for free agent meetings, including Celtics

Kevin Durant solidifying invitations for free agent meetings, including Celtics

The wheels of the Kevin Durant free agent train have been set in motion.

"Durant’s representatives at Roc Nation are working to solidify invitations" for meetings with a list of six teams, which includes the Boston Celtics, according to The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski. The other teams listed are the Warriors, Clippers, Heat, Spurs and Thunder. The Nuggets, Knicks, Lakers, Rockets, and Wizards could "could still find audiences with him," but they are considered outsiders.

Wojnarowski says the Thunder remain the frontrunners, but "the Warriors have Durant's attention."

If Durant chooses the Warriors, it could happen very quickly. Warriors restricted free agent Harrison Barnes could sign an offer sheet for a contract on July 1, which would mean the Warriors would have only have three days to match the deal. They'd likely need a decision from Durant before then, or they'd risk losing one of their valuable pieces without being able to fill his role.

Durant plans on making his decision before July 9 anyway, according to Wojnarowski, because that's when he's leaving for a publicity tour in the Far East.

The fact the Celtics are even on Durant's primary list shouldn't come as a surprise considering his actions after his game in Boston against the Celtics earlier this year. They do have tough competition though. Both the Warriors and Heat have the cap space to absorb Durant's likely max contract worth about $26.4 million, and the Spurs can easily create the space if necessary.

The Clippers are interesting though, because they'd have to deal one of their stars (Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, or Blake Griffin) to free the cap space to sign Durant. If he does choose the Clippers, maybe Danny Ainge could help Doc Rivers swing a deal. How about something involving Blake Griffin and Jae Crowder?

But the Celtics have an edge. They're the only team listed that can sign two max contract free agents. If Durant wants to play with his buddy Al Horford, or anyone else for that matter, the Celtics can make it happen. How about a 2007 draft class reunion with Durant, Horford, and Jared Dudley? It's an odd trio, but Dudley has already expressed interest in joining the Celtics.

No matter what happens though, the Celtics are in the race. Fans might be disappointed after Thursday night, but we're just getting started, folks.

Kevin O’Connor can be followed on Twitter: @KevinOConnorNBA