The Celtics had spent years planning for their Anthony Davis moment, but in the end he will be joining one of their biggest rivals instead.
ESPN reported on Saturday night that the Pelicans agreed to trade the disgruntled All-Star forward to the Lakers in exchange for guard Lonzo Ball, forward Brandon Ingram, guard Josh Hart, and three first-round picks, including the No. 4 overall selection in Thursday’s draft. Davis will join LeBron James to form one of the most fearsome duos in NBA history.
The Celtics, meanwhile, will pull back and most likely build around their young core, with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown as the centerpieces. According to a league source, the Celtics never felt like a deal for Davis was close as discussions unfolded this past week.
Have a feeling the Celtics' younger core. -- Brown and Tatum -- are breathing a sigh of relief tonight and both feel confident they can lead the franchise to the next level with or without Kyrie.— gary washburn (@GwashburnGlobe) June 16, 2019
Boston had a better collection of assets and young players to dangle if it chose. But the source said that the uncertainty surrounding Davis’s future had made the Celtics reluctant to overwhelm the Pelicans with their best possible offer, and that they had abstained from including Tatum in their packages.
Davis has one year left on his contract, and his camp had attempted to make it clear in recent months that his ultimate landing spot would be Los Angeles, regardless of what team traded for him now. Davis’s agent, Rich Paul, who is also James’s agent, reiterated this past week that Boston would not be a long-term home for his client if it traded for him.
The public nature in which these demands played out frustrated the Celtics and ultimately did play into how they approached negotiations. But in the end there was nothing they could really do about it.
Two years ago, the Celtics acquired All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving from the Cavaliers when Irving had two years left on his contract. But the Celtics knew that the bounty they surrendered would not be crippling if Irving declined to stay in Boston long term. The asking price for Davis was substantially higher, and if he eventually departed after one season in Boston, it would have set the franchise back for years.
There was some belief that the Celtics should chase Davis at any cost and attempt to win a championship next year, just like the Raptors successfully did with Kawhi Leonard this season. But sources said the Celtics also had concerns about giving up so many important pieces of their roster that they would not necessarily even be a championship-caliber team with Davis next season.
Now much of the attention will shift back to Irving’s possible future in Boston. The Celtics felt that acquiring Davis could help their chances of keeping Irving, but now that is not an option. According to multiple league sources, the Celtics’ confidence in bringing back Irving continues to deteriorate.
Even if Irving departs, the Celtics remain optimistic about the state of the franchise. They hold the 14th, 20th, and 22nd picks in this draft. Even though some, if not all, of those picks likely would have been shipped out in a Davis deal, sources said the pursuit of Davis did not affect the team’s draft preparations, as they carried on, business as usual.
According to a league source, the Celtics will continue to explore ways to potentially use some of those picks in deals for other current players, but that nothing was imminent.
There have been reports that the Celtics have had trade talks with the Rockets about their talented young center, Clint Capela, who has four years left on his five-year, $90 million deal. A league source said Saturday that the Celtics are intrigued by Capela, but that the sides have not had any trade talks and that a deal for Capela is unlikely because Boston would not have interest in surrendering the players needed to complete the trade.
Celtics forward Al Horford, meanwhile, has until Tuesday to decide whether to opt in to the final year of his four-year deal, which will pay him $31 million next season. Horford has indicated in the past that his preference is to stay with the Celtics, but the 33-year-old has never won a title, and if he feels like Boston is shifting back to a youth movement, it is possible he might consider other teams. Horford could also decline his option for next season and sign a longer-term deal with the Celtics at a lower average salary.
A league source said on Saturday night that Horford was still figuring out his situation for next season.