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Chad Finn

The Klay Thompson-to-Celtics rumor was fiction that made a lot of sense

Klay Thompson is averaging 18.8 points per game this season.AP

Do I believe there’s something real to the report that the Celtics and Warriors were commiserating about a juicy deal involving Klay Thompson, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, and a first-round pick via Brooklyn?

Well, I did for about a dozen hours there, until the real purveyor of the rumor proved not to be former Warriors assistant coach and current Celtics broadcaster Brian Scalabrine (credible! plugged in! tall!), but an obscure internet daydreamer who, as Celtics reporter Jay King discovered, also recently wrote about Nostradamus predicting World War III’s imminence.

I suppose I’ll hear the writer’s argument on the World War III thing, not that it’s an especially bold call nowadays. But it appears his “inside info” on the NBA falls near the direct opposite of Adrian Wojnarowski’s must-read news flashes. On his SiriusXM show, Scal mentioned hearing the rumor, only later elaborating that he had read it online and had not actually discussed it with any of his Warriors and Celtics cronies.

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Scal debunked the same rumor that he had inadvertently given credence to. And so it looks like the Thompson to green is little more than an entertaining piece of fiction that will ultimately leave the Celtics with further Splash Brother envy.

I have to be honest with you, though. I’m considering pulling a George Costanza here and going with the it’s-not-a-lie-if-you-believe it defense. Because for those dozen hours, man, did I believe it. I believed it like I believed in Kevin McHale’s up-and-under, Larry Bird’s pull-up 3-pointer off the break, and Dennis Johnson delivering in the clutch.

OK, maybe not as much as Larry Legend’s jumper. But I believed it, and I believed it wholeheartedly – for the same reason that the rumor caught fire in the first place and still could conceivably pivot from fiction to fact in the long run: It made a heck of a lot of sense.


And not just for the Celtics. The parameters of the daydreamed deal are logical for the Warriors as well, especially if the season continues to trend the way it has. It’s not a clear heist for either team. That’s the sign of a win-win trade – you love what your team is getting, and yet you’re bummed to discover the departures. I think both fanbases would feel precisely that way if it happened. So too might each team’s bold basketball boss, the Celtics’ Danny Ainge and Warriors’ Bob Myers. It would be a daring deal, dually.

First, let’s consider it from the Warriors standpoint, since they’re the marquee team giving up the marquee player in this debunked-for-now deal. It doesn’t make sense to do it right now, no. Of course they can’t trade Thompson at the moment. The Warriors won 73 games last year. They came up a win short of a second straight title. Then they went out and added Kevin Durant, the best player in the league among those who didn’t appear in the Finals last year. It feels like the Warriors have started slowly, in part because they lost their opener, 24 games earlier than they suffered Defeat No. 1 last year. But they’re 8-2, they’re still figuring it out, and there have already been moments of pure and electric joy. They need to let this percolate.


It would be a panic move to trade Thompson, superstar in his own right and a shooter so supreme that textbooks steal their form from him, now. And Myers doesn’t do panic deals.

There’s a key word there, though. Now. The Warriors have problems that are going to need to be repaired, and perhaps externally. They struggle to rebound and protect the rim, and their defense is in the middle of the pack after ranking among the league’s best the past two seasons. They knew they would miss Andrew Bogut, their tough center with elbows as sharp as his wit, but I don’t think they knew they’d miss him this much, even if his absence in the Finals last year might have foreshadowed it.

The Warriors have more extraordinary prime-of-career scorers than any team in NBA history. But scoring has never been this issue. They need someone to do the dirty work, and it sure as heck isn’t a guy named Zaza.

If they continue on this path – winning 80 percent of the time, dominating like they’re playing against an AAU team half the time, and getting outmuscled 20 percent of the time – Myers knows that’s not a formula that ends with another banner.

Especially if one of their otherworldly offensive players starts wondering whether he’s getting enough shots. Remember, Thompson is the one who broke up the room during the Warriors’ recruiting pitch to Durant by noting helpfully that KD would help him get shots. Sometimes the person who makes the joke isn’t always in on the joke.


The deal would make their roster more conventionally awesome, especially if, as Nostradamus Trade Rumor Guy suggested, they wheeled the draft pick received in the deal for a shotblocker like the Sixers’ Nerlens Noel. A Curry-Avery Bradley backcourt would be beautifully symbiotic; Curry could handle the ball, Bradley could dog the opposition’s top scorer. Durant could fire away as much as he wants without an inkling of worry about his teammates’ touches. Draymond Green is going to do his thing anyway, and Noel enhances the defense, albeit in a different way than Bogut did.

And the quality depth would be something else: Crowder, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livington would make the Warriors the best eight-deep team in the league, Cavs included.

Now let’s try the same exercise with the Celtics. Their post-trade starting lineup would be Al Horford, Kelly Olynyk (or Amir Johnson), Jaylen Brown (or Marcus Smart in a three-guard set), Thompson, and Isaiah Thomas. The Celtics would gain a superstar and lose a little bit of their identity with Bradley and Crowder gone – but that identity has been AWOL for much of this season anyway.

It would be a thrill to see Thompson come here, and a disappointment to see admirable players go (as well as that pick, though Brooklyn isn’t as terrible as we’d hoped), and that’s exactly how it’s going to feel whenever Danny Ainge gets around to making a blockbuster.


And make no mistake, one is happening at some point. Kevin McHale, now with Turner Sports, told me a couple of weeks ago that he thinks Ainge will make a major trade in season – and he knows a little something about dealing with Ainge.

This deal may have been born a fake, but you can bet Ainge would try to make it real if Thompson really did become available. I suspect he will be checking in with Myers periodically, and by periodically I mean roughly as often as he lunches at Chipotle.

I’m telling you, this fake deal is not dead yet! Just give it time and room to breathe. Hoping for some escalating where-are-my-shots? tension and a negative rebound margin for that team in Oakland might help too.

Now if you need me, I’ll be in my bunker, passing the time before the fulfillment of Nostradamus’s prophecy by watching ’80s Celtics highlights and habitually refreshing Woj’s twitter feed.

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