C's trade exception set to expire; Stephenson an option?

C's trade exception set to expire; Stephenson an option?
July 7, 2014, 6:30 pm
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ORLANDO, Fla. — One of the Boston Celtics' biggest assets this offseason was the $10.3 million trade exception they generated in dealing Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn last year.

The exception will expire on Saturday and according to Danny Ainge, no deal is near completion.

But a viable option for the Celtics in using the exception may be Indiana's Lance Stephenson.

An unrestricted free agent, Stephenson has already turned down a five-year deal worth $44 million to return to the Pacers. He is apparently seeking a deal with a starting salary of at least $10 million.

And according to ESPN's Chris Broussard, the Celtics are among the teams interested in Stephenson.

However, recent history dictates that the Celtics will most likely let the trade exception expire.

"Most trade exceptions go by the wayside," Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, told CSNNE.com prior to the Celtics' 96-77 summer league loss on Monday to of all teams, the Indiana Pacers. "They aren't utilized."

Cleveland and Toronto each received $14.5 million trade exceptions in sign-and-trade deals that sent LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Miami in 2010. Both teams allowed the exceptions to expire without using them.

"People aren't giving away players you want," Ainge said. "We'll continue to explore that and see if there's anything there that peaks our interest."

Stephenson is certainly a player that, talent-wise, would be an upgrade to the Celtics roster. However, his questionable attitude and the Celtics' logjam on the perimeter, doesn't seem to make the addition of Stephenson a logical one.

Boston is still very intent on making a run at Minnesota's Kevin Love, and the addition of Stephenson might be with an eye towards moving him on to the Timberwolves as part of a potential package for Love.

One of the main reasons why Golden State and Chicago have moved ahead of the Celtics in the race for Love, is that Boston's greatest asset comes in the form of draft picks and exceptions while the Timberwolves seem more inclined - for now at least - in acquiring proven talent that can help them get to the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

Regardless of whether they make a deal for Stephenson, there is a sense of urgency on the Celtics' part to upgrade the roster.

However, Ainge isn't about to rush into a deal that he doesn't believe has enough upside for the franchise.

"You can't feel pressure to do trades and to do deals," Ainge said. "You have to be opportunistic and take advantage when good ones come along. We're talking to a lot of teams and seeing if anything is there. Nothing is imminent."

Of course the Celtics have been actively working the phone to inquire about potential free agents, too.

However, the most likely route to significantly upgrade the team's roster this season is still by way of trade. 

"Free agency was never our main focus," said Ainge. "Our main focus was trades. We haven't been able to do any trades that we would like to do. There's still a lot of time left in the summer, but we're also prepared that if there are no deals we like, we'll just be patient."

The Celtics are like a number of teams in the NBA, eagerly awaiting the game's biggest free agent stars - LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony - to decide where they'll take their talents to next season. 

"A lot of things are on hold throughout the league right now waiting for some of the bigger free agents to get some things done," Ainge admitted. "We're just trying to develop the players we have."

That is essentially at the heart of what summer league is about for Boston and the other nine teams competing in the Orlando summer league. 

Among the players Boston would love to get a better look at is James Young.

However, that's not happening after team officials determined to keep him sidelined for the rest of the week. Young has a sore neck injury from a car accident a couple weeks prior to the NBA draft.

"He still has symptoms from the car accident," Ainge told reporters.

Ainge is not only concerned with Young's health, but also the health of this team going forward. 

Of course he would like to get the Celtics back to winning sooner rather than later. But he is well aware that patience is required.

"It's part of the job," Ainge said. "You know going in, that's what happens. That's what happens every year. There are certain things that happen. Everyone is trying to get the players that are the special ones, first. Everything kind of revolves around that."