Danny Ainge has been a busy man in the hours leading up to the NBA Draft. Our Celtics Insider A. Sherrod Blakely has some details on the kinds of possibilities being explored by Boston:
CelticsTalk: The Celtics exploring a ton of options leading up to tonight's NBA draft, including another run at Grizzlies SG O.J. Mayo. A. Sherrod Blakely (@SherrodbCSN) June 28, 2012
And then there's this. Could the Celtics be interested in bringing aboard Rajon Rondo's old high school teammate?
CelticsTalk: NBA source says any deal involving Hawks Josh Smith would most likely include sign-and-trade wBrandon Bass. A. Sherrod Blakely (@SherrodbCSN) June 28, 2012
All the free-agent focus on the Celtics has been on players -- Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard -- who they might bring in. But they have players they might lose, too.
One, of course, is Evan Turner, who's an unrestricted free agent, free to sign to anyone after July 1. But they also have two others, Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger, who could have joined Turner on the completely open market if they didn't tender them qualifying offers.
Yesterday, according to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, they did just that:
Zeller and Sullinger are still free to solicit offers. But, because they made the qualifying offers, the Celtics have the right to match any deal the two might receive and keep them in Boston.
BOSTON -- In some circles the pursuit of Dwight Howard by the Boston Celtics is just as perplexing as Boston being one of the six teams getting an audience with Kevin Durant and, with that, a shot at the Durant sweepstakes this summer.
Both serve as examples of how the Celts are no longer at the back of the line when it comes to being a potential destination for the best free agents.
Of course it’s about sealing the deal, and getting the best free agents on the market under contract, and all that good stuff.
But before that can happen, Boston has to be seen as a place to even be seriously considered by free agents. That's exactly what we’re starting to see happen right now.
It’s easy to point to the Celtics having a ton of salary cap space, which in itself makes them a possible landing spot for players who we all know will be hauling in max to near-max salaries this offseason.
But there’s just one problem with that line of thought. More than half the league enters free agency with enough money to sign one max player.
The fact that Boston is on the short list for the summer’s top free agent (Durant) and have already secured a sit-down with one of the top centers (Howard) says a lot in terms of how far Boston has come in the eyes of players.
And several factors point towards the Celtics getting an audience with other top-shelf free agents this summer if they fail to secure one or two of their top choices.
But let’s not kid ourselves. How others view this franchise is the reality of what the Celtics have to deal with when it comes to adding elite, upper-echelon talent like Durant.
The fact that Durant is willing to include Boston in his short-list of teams is a bit of a head-scratcher when you see that the Celtics are the farthest away from the group in terms of competing for an NBA title (although an argument can be made that they are neck-and-neck with the Miami Heat along those lines). Durant has said in the past that would be something he would be looking for in whatever team he signed with.
The biggest selling point the Celtics have to offer Durant or any other free agent (besides money) is that they are a franchise on the rise, they have stability on the floor with Brad Stevens as the head coach, and they have stability in the front office with Danny Ainge. Both Stevens and Ainge signed long-term extensions earlier this month.
And one of the perks that players who come to Boston quickly discover is the fan base, which is about as rabid a group as you'll find in the NBA.
There’s no mistaking they wear their emotions on their sleeves, whether it’s cheering the team on following a season-ending playoff loss, or booing the owner after the team makes a draft pick they don’t particularly care for.
They bleed green!
Add all those things up and it’s clear that Boston has the kind of environment, the kind of culture, where a star can come and thrive.
The Celtics and their fans have known this for a while.
Now it seems some of the game’s best players are starting to catch on, as well.
Mike Felger, Dan Shaughnessy and Glenn Ordway wonder why the Celtics are even getting a meeting with Kevin Durant when free agency begins. Does it mean they have a legitimate chance of signing him?