Kevin Durant (35) dribbles as Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) defends. (Mark D. Smith/USA Today Sports)
Appearing on WEEI’s OMF program Tuesday, ESPN basketball columnist and hall of famer Jackie MacMullan gave Celtics fans a huge reality check when it comes to Kevin Durant.
The superstar in the midst of playoff run with the Oklahoma City Thunder, helping them to a 2-1 series lead over favored Golden State, could become a free agent this summer. The speculation is that he would sign a one-year deal and then sign his mega-deal starting with the 2017-18 season, when the NBA salary cap is around $108 million.
Celtics fans chanted “Come to Boston” when Oklahoma City came to town in March and spanked the Celtics. That was the same week Philadelphia fans did the same in the hopes of luring him to their town.
MacMullan said a reality check is in order.
“You can forget about Durant,” MacMullan said. I’m not sure Durant is going to go anywhere. Suppose they win the championship, you think he’s going to leave there?
“The truth is: All these people put words in Kevin Durant’s mouth about leaving in the first place. Has he ever said that he wanted to leave? He never has. That, to me, is a bit of a pipe dream.”
Another name that’s been tossed around is Bulls shooting guard Jimmy Butler. He’s got four years left on a five-year, $92.3 million deal. MacMullan thinks the asking price from Chicago could be too steep, even for the Celtics.
“Jimmy Butler, what’s the price? That matters, that matters,” she added. “You can’t give away everything away for Jimmy Butler. I would love to have Jimmy Butler here.”
Then the most realistic scenario came up. MacMullan thinks the Celtics are “most realistic” contenders for Philly big man Jahlil Okafor.
“I did a podcast with Brett Brown, the Sixers coach, and there were two things that emerged from that that made it very clear to me. One was he did acknowledge the glut of big men that they have on their roster, and realize, too, it could be a bigger glut because if Dario Saric finally comes over, who they’ve had their eye on now for a while, if he comes over, that becomes even more the case. So, I do think Okafor is available,” MacMullan said.
MacMullan was also asked about the comments of Danny Ainge on Sunday night to WBZ-TV, comments in which he indicated that he needs to be measured when considering how to handle moves this summer.
“I thought his comments [in the interview] were very interesting, particularly when he started talking about, ‘my job is to be patient, not to overreact.’ By the way, I agree with him on that,” MacMullan said. “I agree 100 percent, and I know people don’t want to hear that because they want things to happen yesterday, or at least tomorrow, right? But there’s a really good chance that they won’t.
“The other thing I learned in talking with Brett Brown in that podcast is that he loves Kris Dunn. I love Kris Dunn, too.”
MacMullan wasn’t overly turned off by Okafor’s incident at a Boston night club after the season-opening loss to the Celtics, a game in which he scored 26 points (on 10-of-14 shooting) and hauled in seven rebounds in his NBA debut.
“I like Okafor. I think if he came out in this draft this year, he’d probably be second behind Simmons in the draft,” MacMullan added. “He fills a lot of needs that the Celtics have. He’s a big guy. He’s not an elite defender. He’s not going to be the all-time shot-blocker leader in NBA history, or anything.
“But he can do what you need to do, and that is get some protection around the rim, rebounds the ball [and] he can score. He can score. Remember opening night? What he did to poor Tyler Zeller. He’s a very good player. We don’t even know what the upside is. I know people say, ‘What about all the off-the-court stuff?’ He’s a young kid that got frustrated, I think, by a lot of the things that happened to that team. Imagine going from Duke to the Sixers. He didn’t handle it very well. I’m not sure I’m ready to write him off for that.”