BOSTON— Admit it!
When you first saw Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins giving the verbal business to a Sacramento columnist twice his age and half his size earlier this week, “trade ‘em to [pick a team]” came to mind.
And when Philadelphia’s Nerlens Noel reminded us all that his value is worth more than eight minutes, yup, he needs to be sent packing as well.
The Celtics have been linked with both players in the past.
And while there’s no question each has a skill that would benefit Boston, there’s only one of these two that makes sense for the Celtics to consider.
It’s Nerlens Noel.
Let’s forget for a moment that he’s a Massachusetts native, which I have been told multiple times has “absolutely zero” to do with Boston’s interest in him.
Noel is an athletic, rim-protecting big man whose biggest knock up to this point in his career is how injuries seem to dog him at every turn.
And while no team likes the idea of players grumbling about minutes, there’s a different tone when I talk to league executives about Noel and what’s happening in Philadelphia.
“I never like to hear that stuff, guys complaining about minutes publicly,” an assistant GM told CSNNE.com on Saturday. “But Philadelphia...they have too many bigs and they’re trying to make it work but you know and I know and Nerlens knows, somebody is going to get the short end of things when it comes to minutes. And Nerlens doesn’t want to be that guy.
The assistant GM added, “young guys don’t mind learning and not playing if the guy ahead of him is better or more experienced. They see it as paying their dues. But that’s not the case with Nerlens. He’s as good or better than all their bigs except maybe [Joel] Embiid. So he’s like, ‘why am I not playing?’ And whatever they’re telling him, it’s not what wants to hear for sure.”
In addition to Noel, the Sixers are also trying to find minutes for Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, Dario Saric as well as Robert Covington, who has looked strong in their small-ball lineup at power forward. And while Ben Simmons is considered more of a wing player, at 6-foot-10 he too will likely see some playing in the frontcourt because of the mismatch potential he presents.
In other words, Philly’s frontline isn’t going to get any less congested anytime soon.
But the Sixers have been reluctant to trade him not only because of his talent, but also because of their track record of bigs getting hurt is pretty extensive. The last thing they want to do is part ways with a big and then find themselves experiencing a shortage up front if there are added injuries to their roster.
And as far as Cousins is concerned, the Celtics’ connection with him has been more fantasy that for real, according to a team source who indicated they have not had any talks at any time with the Kings about acquiring Cousins.
That coincides with reports that the Kings have not made it known to other teams that they are interested in trading Cousins, even as all involved understand that moving him is becoming more and more inevitable.
The Celtics may not be pursuing Cousins, but if the Kings get to the point where they are willing to trade him you can bet Boston will be one of the teams they will talk to.
Boston has young, up and coming talent, lots of draft picks and players whose character isn’t an issue – an important factor that will come into play if Sacramento does in fact try to trade Cousins.
Look, talent is not an issue here.
The 6-foot-11 center has lots of it.
But here’s the issue.
As much talent as Cousins has, it doesn’t trump the trouble that seems to follow him at every turn.
The recent blowup he had with a Sacramento-based columnist was just the latest in a long string of bad predicaments that Cousins consistently finds himself involved with.
If all the NBA were about was securing the best talent, acquiring him would be a no-brainer.
But that’s not how this works.
And for those of us who have spent some time talking with Cousins in the past, he comes across as a very likeable guy who is often misunderstood.
But as you talk to him and listen to his words and see his actions, he’s misunderstood because he consistently allows himself to be put in predicaments that don’t portray him in the most flattering light.
And he gets upset at those who call him out on it, rather than him making the obvious changes needed.
He’s a talented headache waiting to be had, which is the last thing Danny Ainge or Brad Stevens wants or needs right now.
This group of Celtics certainly have their flaws, but you really don’t see them play the blame game too much.
When a guy screws up, he knows it, usually owns it, and they move on.
And the screw-ups are usually limited to what happens on the floor, not what transpires at a night club.
There is no denying that the Celtics are in the market for adding a player who can provide a stronger frontline presence whether it’s better scoring or an upgrade defensively.
And if you know anything about Ainge, he’s always looking to get as much talent while rendering the least amount of assets which makes both Cousins and Noel palatable because their respective teams have to know by now that they’re not going to get comparable value for them via trade.
If you’re the Celtics, you take a call from either franchise if they want to talk about these players.
But as far as seriously considering a trade, there’s only one choice that can help the Celtics (it’ll be later rather than sooner), both on and off the court, and that’s Noel.