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Celtics have options, and questions, as NBA draft nears

The Celtics are hunting big game this offseason, with a truckload of assets as ammunition.

But all their draft picks — as many as 10 first-round selections over the next five years — might not be enough to reel in a player such as Kevin Love.

It now seems more likely that, at least for now, the Timberwolves will hang onto their All-Star forward, which isn't what Celtics fans were hoping for after co-owner Wyc Grousbeck predicted "fireworks" this summer.

So what should the Celtics do? Go all in to land Love (or a player of that caliber) or focus on acquiring players through Thursday's talent-laden draft, where they hold the No. 6 and No. 17 picks?


Only Danny Ainge knows, and perhaps a few people close to the Celtics president of basketball operations. And none of them are telling.

So given the chance, members of rival teams offered Ainge some anonymous advice.

"You've got to get Love," said one Western Conference scout. "You could argue or suggest that you roll the dice on Andrew Wiggins being an All-Pro or Joel Embiid being the next dominant center, but you can't argue that anybody at 6 and 17 will be better than what Kevin Love, barring injury, will be for a minimum of the next 10 years. You're basically dealing for one of the conservatively 10 best players in basketball. You can't turn that down."

Another Western Conference scout provided a different take.

"I would draft the two players," the scout said. "First off, why is Kevin Love going to sign in Boston? Why would he go there and sign an extension? For what reason? So he can play with [Rajon] Rondo? Seriously? No disrespect, but what am I playing for? If I'm Kevin Love, I just left Minnesota, and they've got at least two or three better players than [Boston], so why would I like it there? That's no disrespect."


If Love isn't willing to sign long term with a team trying to acquire him, consider it basically a deal-breaker as no team wants to part with a package of players/draft picks for what would amount to a short-term rental.

Following a recent weekend scouting trip to Boston, Love is willing to consider signing with the Celtics for the long haul, league sources said.

The second Western Conference scout then examined what would happen to the Celtics down the road if they indeed landed Love, factoring in what they might do with Rondo, their All-Star point guard whose contract expires after the 2014-15 season.

"If I'm building for the future there [in Boston] — OK, now I've got Kevin Love, and now I've got to sign Rondo," the scout said. "I'm giving $20 million to Kevin, I'm giving $15 [million] or $16 [million] or $17 [million] or $18 million to Rondo, and these are going to be my two guys. I have Jeff Green, who I don't want. I have no center. And I have a bunch of journeyman guys and Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger.

"And Jared Sullinger, by the way, plays the same position as the guy that I just signed as a free agent and I'm paying [Love] $20 million, and I know that I can't win with Sullinger and Kevin Love. Every athletic guy will just be beating them up off the glass. They'll never be able to guard anybody.


"I don't know. If I was Kevin Love, I would say, 'Guys, I appreciate it, but I'm not re-signing with you. You can get me, but it's . . . not happening.' "

An Eastern Conference executive said he doubts that the Celtics can pull off a deal for Love, but added that Ainge won't stop trying.

"I don't know if Danny can make that happen, but I'm sure he's going to throw whatever he can at that," the executive said. "If you can get a guy at his age [25] to be the centerpiece of the next eight years, you'd be crazy not to [do it].

"I know they have a love-hate relationship with Rondo, so it's like, if they have Kevin Love here to build around, now you're able to put the pieces in place, because he's a versatile player, too. But heck, if I'm [Ainge], I'm doing whatever I can to get [Love] here.

"The problem is what Flip [Saunders] is going to do. I think he's going to hold out for whatever he can get. He's going to try to get the best deal. He's not technically shopping [Love], but he's going to listen, and then he's going to go from there."

Saunders, the Timberwolves's part-owner, president, and new head coach, will call the shots with a potential Love deal, and league sources say Saunders wants proven players over draft picks.

Even then, there's always the chance the Timberwolves try to keep Love anyway.


Saunders said Tuesday he has been inundated with calls with offers for Love and other players on his roster.

''We're fielding stuff every day,'' said Saunders, who refused to discuss specific offers. ''When I came down here just now I had three calls about our players. There is not going to be a cooling-down period. It's like catfish, when you feed 'em. It becomes a feeding frenzy . . . when they can see those [food] pellets.''

Always looming, even in a summer of uncertainty for the Celtics, are questions about Rondo's future.

The Celtics could try to keep Rondo, or move him and draft a replacement, such as Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart, who should be available at No. 6.

League sources familiar with the Celtics' line of thinking say the team is high on Smart.

If the Celtics decide to keep Rondo, he could be in line for a big payday next summer. As a Bird Rights free agent after the 2014-15 season, Rondo could earn as much as a five-year maximum deal — potentially worth something in the neighborhood of $100 million.

"If the Celtics try to keep Rondo, are you going to pay him $100 million?" one league source said. "That completely hamstrings your program, unless he is able to deliver. You get stuck between a rock and a hard spot with him.

"My guess would be they're going to try like crazy to move him. They're going to try to get something good for him. I think at one time, they had thoughts of getting something great for him. I don't think that's going to be easy [now], but who knows?"


For years, teams have called Ainge to inquire about Rondo's availability. Since Rondo has never changed uniforms, one can infer that the asking price has never been met.

But the demand for Rondo is still high, according to one Eastern Conference executive.

"Any time you have a piece like Rajon Rondo, you can build around him because he makes everyone else so much better," the executive said. "I always kind of joke, if you deal for Rajon Rondo, you usually get two All-Stars in the deal, because he'll make your best player an All-Star by himself."

No matter what, the Celtics could look drastically different when the season begins. In the meantime, their fans can only wait and hope for fireworks.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Baxter Holmes can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @BaxterHolmes.