As the free agent courtship of forward Kevin Durant ramps up in the coming days, the Celtics will do all they can to stand out from the other teams. A league source confirmed that Boston is on a short list of teams scheduled to meet with the former NBA MVP, and now a careful plan must be crafted.
There are some obvious selling points, such as the fact that the Celtics can sign two free agents to maximum-salary deals, or the fact that they own the glowing first-round draft picks of the Nets the next two seasons, or the fact that Brad Stevens is their coach.
But with Durant, there has always been a sense that the rich tradition of the Celtics might have some cachet, too. He seems to care about the history of the game, and maybe the possibility of becoming the next in a line of Celtics legends could sway him, if only slightly.
Some have even suggested that the team make a presentation to Durant that includes a lineup of Celtics greats who could sell him on what it means to wear a Boston uniform, what it would mean to be next.
But Celtics legend Bob Cousy, 87, is not involved in any such plan as of now, and he is actually a bit skeptical of the impact the past might have on a free agent’s future.
“All things being equal, I guess at some point tradition plays a role,” Cousy said in a telephone interview. “But cold weather could also play a role. A lot of guys don’t like those Boston winters, I’ll tell you.
“So I’m just not sure in the grand scheme of things, if all things are equal, whether Durant is going to care whether these old farts out here named Cousy and [Bill] Russell and [Tom] Heinsohn and whoever did all these wonderful things 50 years ago.”
For the unfamiliar: Cousy was a 13-time All-Star and a six-time NBA champion, and the award for the top point guard in college basketball bears his name. And even though he does not think a superstar such as Durant would be greatly affected by a franchise’s rich history, he also acknowledged that he is not familiar with Durant’s thoughts on the matter.
The potential free agency impact aside, Cousy remains fiercely proud of what the Celtics have accomplished, particularly as they won 11 NBA titles in 13 seasons from 1957-69.
“This history, however you want to sell it, is something that only the Celtics will have forever, so however they manage to sell it, whether they sell it to Durant or not, the history is important,” Cousy said.
“Whenever I think of that accomplishment, that’s what I’m most proud of in my time with the Celtics. That will never be done again. That is something the Celtics have and will always have, and however they market it is up to them.”
Cousy said that when Michael Jordan and the Bulls were forming their own dynasty in the 1990s, he would get calls from reporters asking if Chicago had crafted the best team ever.
“And I’d say . . . ‘Until they win 11 in 13 years, let them build up some damn history before you ask me if this team is better than our Celtics teams,’ ” Cousy said.
Boston’s total of 17 NBA titles are more than the other primary players in the Durant sweepstakes — the Thunder, Warriors, Spurs, Clippers, and Heat — have combined.
Cousy said that if he met with Durant, he would preach the importance of integrating his otherworldly skills into the equation without disrupting a team-first ethos.
“When you get an individual like Kevin who has been so successful and is such an offensive threat — I don’t know him, maybe he’d adopt this very easily — but I think this would be Brad’s biggest challenge, selling the team concept to him as opposed to just saying, ‘OK, you’re the chief,’ ” Cousy said.
Cousy has followed the Celtics closely and has become a great admirer of Stevens. At the end of each season, he has sent Stevens a note congratulating him on a job well done.
“This year I said that 48 wins is about as much as you can squeeze out of that team, so it was a great job,” Cousy said, “and I said I’m sending it before the Coach of the Year award comes out, so you’ve got my Bob Cousy Coach of the Year Award.”
A few weeks ago, Stevens visited Cousy at his Worcester home for a couple of hours.
“He looks like he could be my teenage son,” Cousy said with a chuckle.
Cousy urged Stevens to continue to embrace a fast-paced, transition style, saying it was clear that Boston is not far from taking one more step.
“They do need one superstar player,” Cousy said. “They’re one player away from getting to the next level; we both agreed on that. But I’m not sure, frankly, if it will be Kevin Durant.”