by Jason Howard Kelly
After falling to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals the Oklahoma City Thunder have cleaned out their lockers and headed home for the offseason. This also means that the Kevin Durant free agency extravaganza has now officially kicked into high gear. Durant will officially become a free agent on July 1st, but the rumors and speculation have already started. There is no question that Durant is a top 10 player in the NBA and a bonafide superstar who is coveted by just about every single team in the NBA.
So here’s the million dollar question: where will Durant take his talents for the foreseeable future? Will it be Los Angeles with the Lakers? Maybe Golden State to play with Steph Curry? Or, perhaps he’ll even re-sign with Oklahoma City to help bring the Thunder to their first ever NBA Finals next season. The possibilities are endless for a player of Durant’s skill level. He will undoubtedly have his pick of the litter this offseason. With that being said I think there is already one destination that can be crossed of the list…
Sorry, Boston, but Kevin Durant is not coming here.
Let me first start by saying that I would love nothing more than to see Kevin Durant wearing Celtic green on the parquet floor in the Garden next season. The Celtics are in dire need of a true superstar to push them over the edge and turn them into an NBA Finals contender. Right now the Celtics are good enough to make the playoffs but not quite good enough to actually make a run and take on the powers of the Eastern Conference such as Cleveland and Toronto.
Unfortunately, that superstar the Celtics desperately need will not come in the person of Kevin Durant. Boston is too far down the list of potential landing spots for Durant, and there are a few glaring reasons as to why.
First of all, The Celtics don’t exactly have the most attractive roster for Durant. Apart from Isaiah Thomas they do not have a any real stars. The Celtics have a lot of decent role players like Jae Crowder, Evan Turner, and Avery Bradley, but Isaiah is the only one out of the group who has true star quality. Durant’s other potential destinations have much better supporting casts to lure him with, such as San Antonio with LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard, Chicago with Jimmy Butler and Pau Gasol, and Golden State with Steph Curry and Draymond Green. The only other rumored destination that has a similar roster problem as the Celtics do is the Los Angeles Lakers. With Kobe Bryant retiring, the Lakers are now left with a very young roster with players like DeAngelo Russel and Julius Randle. However, Los Angeles still has an advantage over the Celtics in one area, which leads to my second point…
Boston is not a good basketball market. Not even close. Boston hasn’t been a good basketball market since the 80’s and early 90’s when it was all about Parrish, McHale, and Bird. Boston’s basketball market was briefly reborn in 2008 and 2009 when the Celtics made it to back-to-back NBA Finals match-ups against the Lakers, and winning the NBA Championship in 2008. Ultimately, however, Boston is now a football town with the overwhelming success of the New England Patriots. During the summer Boston becomes a baseball town because, win or lose, the Red Sox are truly the heart and soul of this city. That leaves the Bruins and the Celtics taking up the rear, and it is the temperament of those two fan bases that only reinforce my stance. The Bruins have been going backwards ever since their last Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 2013, and the fans are downright pissed off. Bruins fans have always shown a strong passion for the team. If the Bruins are winning the fans are running through the streets of Boston drunk with their shirts off waving giant Bruins flags and flipping over cars. If the Bruins are losing then fans are calling in to the local sports radio stations and demanding that everyone involved with the team be fired and shipped out of town. Celtics fans have never showed anything close to that kind of passion. In fact, what Celtics fans do is even worse, because they will watch the Celtics lose to the mediocre-at-best Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the playoffs and say, “Oh well! That’s a bummer, but it was a fun season!”. Why would one of the greatest superstars in the NBA today want to play in a soft, fair-weather market? Los Angeles, in general, has the most fair-weather sports fans, but not when it comes to the Lakers. The Lakers are just about the only team in that city that the fans actually care about. The same goes for San Antonio and Oklahoma City which, despite being smaller cities, have extremely passionate fans who are hungry for championships.
The final disadvantage that I believe the Celtics have might surprise some: it’s the coach. Personally, I like Brad Stevens. I think he is the right fit for this Celtics team and I am optimistic that he can take this team to a new level. But that’s just my opinion. The fact of the matter is that in 3 NBA seasons Brad Stevens has never made it out of the first round in the playoffs. Now, much of that has to do with the fact that he was handed a team and a roster that was in the middle of a rebuild. Regardless, Stevens is still very much unproven in the NBA. Billy Donovan, the head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder, is also a rookie coach but he was able to take his team to a game 7 in the Western Conference Finals against the defending champions. I will, however, give the Celtics an edge over the Lakers in the coaching department. I find it incredibly hard to believe that Luke Walton, who coached the best team in the NBA for half of a season, is suddenly going to become the next Phil Jackson out there in Los Angeles. The bottom line is this: if Durant wants to play for an established, proven coach with a good roster and a passionate fan base then he won’t find such a thing in Boston… Not yet, anyway.