The Boston Celtics refused to make Jayson Tatum available in Anthony Davis talks, as we discussed in our story about the blockbuster Lakers trade, and they’ve done so for a very specific reason.
Adam Himmeslbach of the Boston Globe reports that the C’s simply weren’t willing to risk Tatum and, in general, the bounty it would have taken to acquire the disgruntled superstar.
Per Himmelsbach, when the Celtics landed Kyrie Irving from the Cavaliers back in the summer of 2017 they knew that even if Irving left (which seems ever more likely to be the case), they wouldn’t be crippled by the amount that they had to give up for him*. That’s not the case this time around.
While small market teams may be somewhat emboldened by the success of the Kawhi Leonard and Paul George trades that ended in a title and long-term deal respectively, Davis’ agent recently made it abundantly clear that his client had zero intention of signing in Boston long-term.
“If the Celtics traded for Anthony Davis, we would go there and we would abide by our contractual [obligations] and we would go into free agency in 2020. I’ve stated that to them,” Paul said in a Sports Illustrated cover story by S.L. Price.
We’ve heard general posturing from agents and camps about players with preferred destinations before but nothing so specific and so public. That line of thinking may not convince every basketball fan with an interest in Boston’s long-term future that Danny Ainge made the right move but its an understandable one to say the least.
So what, then, is next for the Celtics?
With the possibility of Davis-Irving pairing in Boston now out of the picture, the team’s slim chances of retaining the point guard have grown even more slim. Although nothing is guaranteed, there’s a strong sense that Irving could be headed to the Nets.
That leaves the C’s with last year’s roster, minus Irving, and no hypothetical reinforcements on the way. In fact, technically speaking, they could get hammered even further before next Tuesday if veteran Al Horford chooses to pass on his 2019-20 player option.
Don’t expect the 33-year-old big man to run from the $30 million he’ll earn next season – the C’s after all remain a likely playoff team in the East with or without Irving thanks in no small part to on-call replacement Terry Rozier – and Horford is a big part of that.
In any event, the decision to hold Tatum back and come to grips with the reality that Davis wouldn’t have stayed long-term, is indicative of Ainge and the franchise’s direction heading forward. There’s value in clarity, even if it’s the Lakers who get the shiny new superstar.
With Irving out of the picture and no Davis distractions looming over head, we’ll get a good long look at Tatum in the franchise player role that so many have cast him for since his debut season.
*The biggest assets the Celtics gave up to the Cavs in 2017 were an injured Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and the pick that eventually became Collin Sexton.