Why don't free agents like the Celitcs?


Why don't free agents like the Celitcs?

Were a few days into NBA free agency, and all things considered, the Celtics are sitting pretty.

They signed Kevin Garnett. Theyre on the verge of signing Jeff Green. Throw in Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Avery Bradley, and short of Danny Ainge acquiring Mad Cow Disease, trading Bradley for Jimmer Fredette and using the entire mid-level on Robert Swift the Celtics are on track to kick off next season with a team thats better than the one that came within a game of the NBA Finals.

Yes, it's good to be a Celtics fan. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, theres one major issue to be addressed: Back-up shooting guard.

A guy who can lead the second unit, mesh with the starters and most importantly: SCORE THE BALL. A guy who can ideally assume the role of a Vinnie Johnson, Manu Ginobili or James Harden (Note: Be on the look-out for any bearded Argentinians nicknamed after an appliance). Who can take Boston to that next level in terms of depth and offensive firepower.

The good news there are plenty of options: Ray Allen. OJ Mayo (whom I refer to as Jerod Mayo at least three times a day. Just a warning in preparation for the time it actually makes it to print). Jamal Crawford. Jason Terry. The Celtics have reportedly reached out to all four.

The bad news none of them are particularly jazzed about Boston.

You know the story with Ray: The Celtics offered him twice the money, but he'll still spend Thursday night toasting with Bron, Wade, Spoelstra and Riles down in South Beach. Crawford would rather take the mid-level from the Clippers (where he can start). Terry looks poised to let the Mavericks match any offer and Mayo straight up doesn't want to play for the C's at least according to reports.

Sure, the chips will eventually fall into place and (hopefully) one of these four guys will find a home in Boston, but the fact remains that no one's tripping over themselves to get here. That each player has an opportunity to become one of the final pieces on a potential contender; to play in front of one of the most passionate fan bases in the country; to play under all the banners and for one of the most respected, player-friendly coaches in the league. Yet it's still a tough sell.

And once again, we're left to wonder: Why don't free agents want to play for the Celtics?

We can throw Ray Allen out of the conversation, because that's a special situation, but honestly: Why wouldn't Jamal Crawford or OJ Mayo jump at the chance to join this crew? Why did Chris Paul reportedly refuse to sign an extension in Boston? Why, despite all the Dwight Howard rumors of the past two years, were the Celtics never considered a legit destination for the game's biggest center? (Related story: I ran into Jameer Nelson at a bar in Boston last summer while he was in town shooting stuff for Reebok. At one point, I asked him: "Hey, so what are the chances Dwight ends up here?" He literally laughed in my face, before saying: "Nah, no way he's coming here.")

You can talk about the weather, but Boston's not much colder than Brooklyn or Manhattan. You can say it's a race thing, but the way Kevin Garnett has embraced and loves this city should be enough to help curb that reputation. You can't use the "Celtics are old and past their prime" excuse anymore because, like I said, they're over that, they've adjusted. For the next two seasons, short of devastating injury, the Celtics will be right up there with any team outside of Miami and OKC. They're contenders.

So, then what's the problem with Boston?

Here's one theory:

It's not that these free agents hate the city. Or the weather. Or the team's championship potential. Nope.

They hate the Celtics.

Players in today's NBA hate the Boston Celtics.

Of course, this isn't exactly breaking news. Over the last five years, the Celtics have antagonized just about every team in the league. There's barely a young superstar who Boston hasn't somehow offended. In many ways, it's been one of the Celtics best weapons their ability to get under an opponent's skin. But after a half decade of chaos, the result is a league that isn't too found of green. An entire generation of NBA players who have grown to hate the C's.

And don't you think it's possible that this has trickled into free agency?

Is it really a coincidence that since 2007, the Celtics four biggest free agent signings James Posey, Rasheed Wallace, Jermaine O'Neal and Shaq were all older players from another generation, who befriended the Big 3 before they were the Big 3? I don't think so.

What's funny is that it seems to be a perception problem more than anything. After all, the guys who are traded here love it: Jeff Green was traded here and he wants to stay. Brandon Bass was traded here and he wants to stay. Keyon Dooling was traded here, and from the sound of things, it changed his life. When the guys are forced to join the dark side, they always realize that it's not so dark.

But when given the choice, free agents continue to shy away from the Boston Celtics.

Hopefully we won't have to wait another generation before that starts to change.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

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