NEW YORK (NEWS10) – As the clock struck midnight, July 1st marks one of the most exciting portions of the NBA year: free agency and a flurry of trades.
This past week the league was spinning as the Clippers dealt franchise point guard, Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets. The Clips received some solid role players in return, as well as a protected future first round pick. Houston in many ways gutted their bench, but proved that they and many other teams are looking to rocket launch to the level of the defending champion, Golden State Warriors.
Pairing two future hall of famers in Paul and James Harden prove that teams are not willing to stand pat, but instead create a super team of their own.
Some believed formalities took place early, as Blake Griffin decided to stay with the L.A. Clippers for a five-year deal worth around $175 million. The Warriors followed suit, by making sure to lock up their iconic two-time MVP and champion Stephen Curry with a deal over $200 million.
With NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement set to go into effect on Saturday (July 1), as well as a new television deal with ESPN/Turner that amounts to $24 billion over the next nine years, expect your favorite superstars to start making money that rivals the salaries of their baseball contemporaries.
Don’t get it twisted, Ricky Rubio being dealt from the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Utah Jazz for a first round pick was noteworthy. But, the late hours of Friday night included some pre-Fourth of July fireworks, as the Oklahoma City Thunder acquired sought after star Paul George from the Indiana Pacers.
The Thunder already has the current MVP Russell Westbrook, who just completed one of the most legendary seasons in NBA history. “Russ” not only averaged a triple double, but also set the record for most in a season. Take that Big O!
As if Westbrook needed any more energy as a one-man fast break, he now will have the versatile, almost Kevin Durant-like scorer in Paul George running the wing. George had been pacing an Indiana team for seven seasons, including a recent 2016 gold medal with Team USA. As a result, it was safe to say that he was the coveted guy to join forces with any of the top constellations in the league.
Will “PG13” stay with OKC after this coming season? Hard to say with just one year left one year left on the contract that the Thunder inherited.
If anyone was on the clock after some of these blockbuster deals, it is the 17-time NBA Champions, the Boston Celtics.
It has been no secret that the C’s are coveting Gordon Hayward from the Utah Jazz. Hayward is considered another of the marquee free agents, and will meet with both the Miami Heat and the Jazz, including Boston.
Even though Brad Stevens likely has Hayward on speed dial since coaching him in college, there are no guarantees that the current leader of the bench will be able to lure the budding star to Beantown.
So, where does that leave the Celtics during one of the most anticipated segments on the NBA’s calendar?
What other targets are out there? Who else could provide an additional punch for a team that finished last season as the number one seed, but fell valiantly to the better Cleveland Cavaliers?
Players like Danilo Gallinari (Denver), Zach Randolph (Memphis) or even Rudy Gay (Sacramento) could provide some complementary pieces. But, the Celts need another star in this new age of the NBA and it can’t come fast enough.
Team President of Basketball Operations, Danny Ainge, has been stock piling assets in the form of draft picks and friendly contracts, but the time is now to make a move to position the most storied franchise at minimum to the top of the Eastern Conference.
The feelers were put out for Paul George, even the Knicks teased Kristaps Porzingis in the ending days of Phil Jackson’s reign (or lack thereof) and Jimmy Butler was another option before being dealt to Minnesota; but it appears that Boston could be on the short end of the free agent stick again in 2017.
Hayward would be a nice addition for sure, but more of supporting player to build around Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford. A creative deal or sneaky move by the shrewd Ainge could be right around the corner; or possibly even standing pat to see if the newly dysfunctional Cleveland Cavaliers brass can figure out a different direction after losing the Finals and letting go of General Manager, David Griffin.
LeBron as a Celtic? Wishful thinking even by New England standards.
However, when Ainge and the Celtics finally deal their cards, fans and the rest of the league will know if they are all in now or still biding their time.
The fabled parquet floor saw their first title in a 20 plus year period in 2008. But, does Boston have the fortitude to take the necessary steps to cushion their championship lead (17 to 16) over their bitter rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers?
As the clock continues to tick in the upcoming days and weeks, the luck of the leprechaun will either return to prominence or remain in cue.