Mercifully, the Kevin Love drama has come to an end, and as expected in recent weeks he will not be wearing a Celtics uniform next season. Love will be donning wine and gold alongside fellow NBA All-Stars LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in Cleveland, and the Cavaliers will be really good for a really long time.
In exchange for the last two No. 1 overall picks — Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett – and a 2015 first-round pick, the Cavs acquired Love from Minnesota and received a commitment from the 25-year-old that he will sign a max contract next summer, according to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
There will be those who claim Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge facilitated the LeBron and Love pairing by dealing a trade exception for Tyler Zeller, Marcus Thornton and a first-round pick last month. And there will be those who say Love used his Boston visit to help the Timberwolves drive up the bidding war for his services. And they will not be wrong.
But once LeBron returned to Cleveland, nobody was stopping this trade. So, let’s not go around criticizing Ainge for acquiring three more assets and not offering enough to get a Love deal done. Once LeBron made the Cavaliers a destination attractive enough for Love to sign longterm and Wiggins became available in return, no combination of Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and No. 1 picks was going to convince Flip Saunders otherwise.
Don’t get me wrong. Love was Plan A for the Celtics. He was the fireworks they had hoped for this summer. That’s not happening, and that’s a bummer for Boston. The C’s have publicly declared their No. 1 priority is to pair a second star with Rondo and keep him in green when he becomes a free agent next summer, but as we detailed last week the list of game-changing 2015 free agents not named Love is a short one.
Privately, Ainge & Co. have to be weighing the fact a trio of All-Stars under the age of 30 — all of whom seem set on staying in Cleveland for the foreseeable future — makes the Cavaliers a favorite to win the East for the next five years. Even if you prefer a healthy Rondo to Irving (and I may be in the minority who do), there are no two players coming to Boston in the near future who can compare resumes with a four-time MVP and the NBA’s double-double leader two of the past three years. With that knowledge, the Celtics have to trade Rondo this season.
As we’ve seen this summer, things change pretty quickly in the NBA. Injuries, unforeseen trades and rising talent could alter the Eastern Conference landscape sooner rather than later, but how long can the Celtics sit around waiting for dumb luck during Rondo’s prime? Love isn’t walking through that door. It’s time for Plan B.