As we do our best to make sense of each new, bemusing Kevin Durant rumor — KD demands Steve Nash gone as Nets coach … KD wants to play with Marcus Smart … KD might be cool to reunite with James Harden in Philly — allow me to make one request of you, Celtics fans.
Think for a moment, if you would, about why you fell and fell hard for last year’s team. Think about the most enjoyable characteristics of the 2021-22 Celtics as they picked themselves up off the hardwood after a 25-25 start, won 26 of their final 32 regular-season games, wiped out the Nets, the defending champ Bucks, and the ever-annoying Heat in the playoffs before falling two wins shy of the NBA title against the noble Warriors.
I can’t imagine much memory-jogging is required to remember those reasons. They stuck together through 50 games of mediocrity. They listened to their coach. They enjoyed playing together. They didn’t publicly seek individual credit or lament that they weren’t getting enough. They didn’t give up or look for an exit when a situation didn’t go their way.
Now let me ask you one more question: Does that sound like Durant’s kind of scene?
The longer Durant’s stalemate with the Nets over his late June trade request lasts, the more convinced I’ve become that the Celtics should want nothing to do with him, even if he truly does want a lot to do with them.
Oh, the thought of Durant in green is intriguing. Tempting, even, at least on the surface. The reported Celtics proposal to the Nets — Jaylen Brown, Derrick White, and a first-round pick — is the kind of steep package it should take to acquire, what, one of the 12 best players in league history?
At age 33 — he turns 34 in September — Durant is still essentially unstoppable as a scorer. He averaged 29.9 points per game last year, more than 2 points higher than his career average, while shooting 51.8 percent from the field. Only the elite among the elite can score in such volume with that kind of efficiency.
Durant is also a whip-smart player and an underrated defender and rim protector. It’s been a privilege to watch his entire career, though I think we all know that in a just world he would have been a Seattle SuperSonic for life.
In a way, I suppose it would be fitting for him to finally end up with the Celtics 15 years after Danny Ainge coveted and darn near got him coming out of Texas, not to mention six years since Durant somehow resisted Kelly Olynyk’s recruiting pitch in free agency.
Like I said, intriguing. Tempting.
But then you start thinking about how Durant has conducted himself in his career, especially over the past few years.
After the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City following his rookie season, he spent the next eight seasons with the Thunder before heading to free agency after the 2015-16 season. Nothing wrong with that. Pretty faithful of him, actually.
He signed with the Warriors, who were coming off a near-miss on another title. Nothing wrong with that, either. Who wouldn’t want to play with those guys? Durant and the Warriors won the NBA title in his first two seasons there. It seemed like a dream realized.
Then it fell apart. He bickered with Draymond Green. He tore an Achilles’ tendon in the 2018-19 Finals loss to the Raptors. This is where his judgment began to veer. Word filtered out that he realized the Warriors were always going to be Steph Curry’s team first in the eyes of fans, as if Curry (who in my mind would be the third-most fun player in NBA history to play with, after Larry and Magic, of course) had any control over that.
Then Durant hitched his wagon to accomplished team-wrecker Kyrie Irving and joined the Nets.
And now, two years later, he wants out and/or the coach gone? The guy is involved in more botched power plays than last year’s Bruins.
Anyone who suggests that acquiring Durant would be akin to the Kevin Garnett trade before the 2007-08 season had better realize that all lanky superstars named Kevin are not equal. That Celtics team became champions in large part because Garnett didn’t care about how many touches he was getting or who was receiving the most praise. He put winning first. Maybe Durant does too. But he’ll be the first in line looking for praise.
Durant might enhance the Celtics’ championship chances in the short term — maybe for this season, maybe for two if he stays healthier than he has been recently.
But this isn’t his story. Or, it shouldn’t be.
The Celtics were two wins from the title last year, and they’ve added ideal complementary players in Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari. Bringing in Durant and sending out Brown (a flawed but conscientious All-Star who comes back a little better every year) and Smart (the heart, guts, and assorted other body parts of it all) would upset the delicate balance of a well-constructed roster.
This is the team Boston wants to ride with. Fans here build a bond with passionate, dedicated players — something, by the way, that Chaim Bloom and the Red Sox seem intent on discovering the hard way but that the Celtics understand.
Celtics fans want to see Jayson Tatum and Brown and Smart and Al Horford and Rob Williams win together. They want to see players who have had their ups and their downs, yet keep working and charging ahead individually and in unison, to get their reward. These Celtics have a chance to be champions, and it’s a chance they deserve to see through.
Trading Brown, Smart, and assorted picks — the Nets’ reported asking price — for Durant is interesting to ponder. But once you ponder it long enough, it’s easy to dismiss.
Durant is a wonderful player. An all-timer, and one with some quality miles left. But his recent behavior suggests he’s the antithesis of what the Celtics are doing here.
He’s not Kevin Garnett, The Sequel. He’s a perpetually unsatisfied guy whose so-called “super team” was used to mop the parquet in the first round last spring by the team he supposedly now wants to join.
The Celtics have no need for front-runners. They’ve worked so hard to get to their favored place in this race. The least they deserve is a chance to get to the finish line on their own.