Danny Ainge felt the Celtics had a chance at Kevin Durant. (Russ Isabella/USA Today Sports)
Since Kevin Durant’s Fourth of July fireworks on Monday announcing that he would be joining the Warriors, Danny Ainge has had time to mull over what exactly happened to see Durant slip from the Celtics’ grasp.
“You know, in a situation like that, you never really know,” Ainge said to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald. “I didn’t really feel like we had a great chance, but I thought we had SOME chance. And then after we met with them, I felt like we had a real chance.
“I felt there for about 48 hours that we had a legitimate chance. It seemed like a really good fit. It seemed like a really good option for him, and it just wasn’t meant to be. He had other good options, too, but I did allow myself to get really excited for that 48-hour period, and it just didn’t happen.”
Ainge admitted he was incredibly disappointed when he got the courtesy call from Durant saying he was going to Golden State shortly before his Player’s Tribune piece came out.
The Celtics certainly pulled out all the stops trying to sway Durant into wearing green next season, bringing a cavalry of team personnel, head coach Brad Stevens, players Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder and even Tom Brady — Durant’s favorite athlete — to meet with the star in the Hamptons on Saturday.
Even David Ortiz tweeted at Durant to apologize for not being able to make the meeting. And upon signing Al Horford — who multiple times indicated him and Durant had discussed playing together — the Celtics seemed like legitimate contenders for the prized free agent.
“I felt like the meeting and presentation couldn’t have gone any better. I think we all felt that,” said Ainge. “I think it went as well as it could have, and we got a really good sense that it was going to be a really hard decision for him, but that we were a strong consideration.
“We felt like that was the most important part of the whole presentation — who he’d play with and how he’d be utilized. He had some good questions about that and about his role – how he would play, how we would use him. I think we did a great job of explaining and making a great presentation, and I think it was tempting for him. I think he is very, very excited about Boston and the history, the Celtics, all of that. I think he loved what Brad had to say. I think he was impressed with Brad’s preparation, and we had a really good feeling about it.”
It’s no secret the Celtics were unable to advertise the established squad that Golden State could with Steph Curry, Clay Thomson and Draymond Green. They had to instead attempt to lure him with the promise of being part of an exciting up-and-coming team. Ainge acknowledged that he still wonders what could have been done differently to seal the deal with Durant. The only conclusion he could seem to come up with was making trades that would ultimately mortgage the Celtics future.
“You know, I thought about that before and I’ve thought about that after, and I really don’t think so — shy of a couple of moves that I couldn’t do,” Ainge said when asked if he wondered if there was something more he could have done. “But in deals that we could have done that we refused to do, I don’t think that would have mattered for this. I think that KD really likes our players.
Added Ainge: “You know, I’m not surprised. … I think everybody in our basketball world knows that Golden State is a very tempting place to play right now. So surprised? No. We just hoped that he would want to be with us, but Golden State is a very good basketball team and it will be very interesting.”
Ainge is certainly optimistic about his team’s future with where they are at with the roster they have assembled as of now.
“I feel like we’re in good position,” he said. “I feel like we still have all of our pieces. We’re excited about Jaylen [Brown]. We’re excited about what’s going on for us in free agency. And we’re continuing to develop guys that I think aren’t even in their prime of their career yet that are continuing to get better.
“And we still have a lot of opportunities. You know, we didn’t probably have as many transactions as we wanted. We had offers for the third pick in the draft and some of our young players in this process, and we just didn’t want to do it. We just thought it was too much. We like those things too much, so we’re going to move forward, and we’re excited about the direction that we’re headed.”