Love could be Celtics answer during rebuild

Love could be Celtics answer during rebuild
December 17, 2013, 1:30 pm
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Boston and Minnesota have an interesting sports relationship. To be more specific, an interesting and one-sided sports relationship. As it’s worked out, over the last 10 years, Boston teams have won seven championships and more than half of them were due largely to contributions from the North Star State.
2003: The Twins let David Ortiz walk in free agency. He landed at Fenway, and you know what happened next. And next. And next.
2004: The Twins were one of three other teams involved in the deal that sent Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz to Boston and helped push the Sox over the top.
2007: The Timberwolves traded Kevin Garnett to the Celtics, and less than a year later, he raised Banner 17.
That’s three Minnesota moves that berthed four Boston titles. Two former Minnesota athletes who will live on forever in Boston lore. And let’s not forget about Randy Moss. He may have arrived indirectly, and his Pats may have ultimately fallen short, but the one-time Vikings legend obviously shined in New England. He gave this city one of the most dominant seasons in NFL history and had a heavy hand in Tom Brady’s ascension to the top tier of the QB record books. He was also bat **** crazy, and that’s always fun.
Anyway you cut it, Minnesota has been a pipeline for Boston sports success. And we thank them for it. But without sounding — or at least, “trying to sound” — too greedy, it might be time to head back to the well.
I’ll explain.
Although given the title of this column, you already know where it’s headed.
The Celtics beat the Timberwolves last night at the Garden. It was a solid win against a solid Western Conference team. Sure, it was a team that played in Memphis the night before and didn’t arrive in Boston until 3 am yesterday morning, but that’s life in the NBA. The Celtics took advantage. They still earned that win. Their fifth in the last seven games and the latest in this surprisingly successful season. OK, relatively successful. They’re only 12-14. But in the East, that makes them royalty.
Over this stretch, two things have become clear:
1. The Celtics aren’t as bad as they want to be: Brad Stevens won’t let them. The rest of the conference won’t let them. As a result, short of Danny Ainge making a trade or a few trades to dismantle the current roster, Boston will make the playoffs or if they miss, it won’t be by much.
A dismantling is certainly possible. The Celtics have been on the phone constantly these last few weeks. And not just with Houston, re: Omer Asik. With the entire league. They’re actively seeking partners and it will be a shock if the deadline passes without some kind of move.
Then again, it could just as easily be a move that makes them better. And even if it does make them worse, Stevens could probably coach Lil Funk into this year’s Eastern Conference playoff field. Bottom line: It appears the dream of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker or Julius Randle landing in Boston is dead.
2. The Celtics still aren’t good enough: Not even close. As you know, superstars reign supreme in the NBA, and the Celtics don’t have one. They need one. They need to find the next Paul Pierce. The anchor and the foundation of this latest rebuild. Someone other than Rajon Rondo. And if they won’t lose enough to put themselves in a position to grab that superstar in the draft, they’ll have to find him somewhere else. Which is to say, on another NBA roster.
But here’s the problem. There are only so many superstars. Only a handful of players capable of filling the role of “best player on a championship team.”
Who are these superstars?
Here’s the list:
(Note: For now, let’s take point guards out of the equation because it’s been 24 years since a team -- the 1990 Pistons -- won a championship with a point guard as its best player. That player was Isiah Thomas, and even if the Celtics were interested, these days Thomas seems pretty happy in Sacramento.)
LeBron James: He’ll opt out this summer, but not for the Celtics. It’s either stay in Miami, go save the Cavs, chase a title with Kobe or take a page out of MJ’s book and leave basketball for the Browns.
Kevin Durant: He’s under contract in Oklahoma City through 2016. He’s not a candidate to be traded. And it’s a safe bet that he’ll eventually re-sign with the Thunder or jump to the Knicks — who have sold their soul to CAA in the hope of making that happen.
Carmelo Anthony: I struggled with even including him here, but either way, although he’ll likely leave New York, he’s not coming to Boston. Nor would Boston want him.
Dwight Howard: All set in Houston.
Paul George: Maxed out in Indy and not going anywhere.
LaMarcus Aldridge: If he’s not there yet, he’s close. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent in 2015, but the Blazers have the cap room to keep him, and given the direction of the franchise, Aldridge will have little motivation to leave.
And that’s it. That’s the list. The only players even capable of filling the void that the Celtics face in this rebui— No, wait!
Forgot one.
Kevin Love.
The pride of Minnesota (aka the Duck Boat pipeline). The guy who posted 27 points and 14 rebounds last night against the Celtics, and who does that pretty much every night. The guy who’s stuck in one of the least desirable NBA cities, playing for a hapless organization, on a middle of the road team in an incredibly stacked conference. The guy who has a player option in 2015 and is very much a candidate to look elsewhere, and who, as a result, is also very much a candidate to be traded. The guy who, despite his West Coast roots, would be a perfect in Boston. The guy who the Celtics, given the emergence of Jared Sullinger (a potential Big Al to Love’s KG) and all the assets at their disposal, might have the means to acquire.
Sure, maybe it’s just a dream. The same way that landing Wiggins or Parker or Randle was just a dream. But that dream’s dead. The Celtics won’t suck enough to live it. So, they need to make other plans. They need to find the future elsewhere, and there are only so many places they can look. At this moment, there may only be one.
The land of 10,000 lakes and hopefully one more future Boston superstar.
Follow me on Twitter: @rich_levine