The more the Kevin Love sweepstakes change, the more they stay the same.
Ever since Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett last summer, he’s acquired chips and freed up cash in hopes of landing the NBA’s next big name on the market. Hence, the C’s pursuit of Love.
As soon as news began trickling out in mid-May that Love wanted a change of scenery, the Celtics emerged as the favorite for his services. While a handful of other teams have inserted themselves into the conversation, all roads lead back to Boston.
Each time we’re reminded the C’s are the favorite to land the three-time All-Star’s services, a media conduit offers another alternative from an anonymous source (see the official Celtics-centric Kevin Love timeline on Green Street).
Once Adrian Wojnarowski dubbed the Celtics as “the sleeper gathering momentum” in the pursuit of Love, we heard rumors he prefers the Warriors and Bulls. Oh, and the Kings wanted him without any assurance he’d re-sign in Sacramento.
Then Love landed in Boston, and all hell broke loose. While Timberwolves president and coach Flip Saunders described those three days of Love, peace and Celtics as “a vacation” -- even declaring his expectation that Love will play for him next season -- no amount of spin could publically portray it as anything other than a business trip.
In the weeks since his visit, we heard everything from the Wolves’ waning interest in the C’s rotation players to the Kings’ willingness to offer everyone except DeMarcus Cousins and the Suns bursting onto the scene. Yet, the Celtics remained.
With San Antonio’s figurative and perhaps even literal dismantling of the Heat, ESPN’s Chad Ford reiterated what most, including Saunders, have known for the past month: The Celtics still have the ability to outbid everyone else at the table. After all, Ainge has dedicated the past 12 months to planning for this moment.
Armed with input from his sources, Bill Simmons concurred, once again dubbing the C’s as “heavy favorites.” As a result, Kevin Love returned to the forefront of the NBA consciousness just as the draft approaches and picks soon become players.
In the end, Ainge still holds the best hand. Want draft picks? He’s got nine of them over the next five years. Perhaps it’s young talent you desire? Here’s Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk. An expiring contract or two? How about Brandon Bass and Keith Bogans?
If Saunders truly believes Klay Thompson and David Lee are better for a rebuilding franchise than four first-round picks, Sullinger, Olynyk and expiring contracts, then Ainge can take solace in Thompson demanding a trade and Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor cutting Lee’s $15.5 million check during the 2015-16 season.
Everybody else’s cards are on the table. This was the point all along of sources leaking information each step of the process. Why else would we be privy to Denver’s bid and Golden State’s proposal and exactly how they compare to the Celtics?
The Timberwolves want to know whether the Celtics will go all in or fold a winning hand. It’s time for Ainge to lay his cards on the table and cash in all those chips.