At face value, the idea that the Celtics, runners-up in the immediate past season of the National Basketball Association, would entertain the thought of breaking up their core group sounds absurd. Why would they risk disrupting chemistry — a critical but often elusive factor for even the most talented assemblies of stars — simply because of the possibility that the grass is greener on the other side? Have they forgotten about the saying “plus valet in minibus avis unica quam dupla silvis”? The annals of pro hoops are littered with examples of flameouts arising from those who ignore how much a bird in the hand is worth versus the two in the bush.
That said, the temptation of welcoming future Hall of Famer Kevin Durant into the fold seems too much to overcome. Not that the Celtics are wrong to entertain the thought; after all, the 12-time All-Star is a generational talent worth the assets — outside of reigning Eastern Conference Most Valuable Player awardee Jayson Tatum, of course — they will probably have to give up in exchange. He’s that good, period, and far be it for the green and white to immediately balk at the prospect of spreading the welcome mat for him. And it’s not as if he hasn’t already shown he can fit in with talents of proven contenders; two titles with the Warriors prove the malleability of his otherworldly skills.
To be sure, talks with the Nets are, at best, at the infancy stages, and not just because Durant’s current employers have seen fit to exact what they deem to be the right pound of flesh as payment. The asking price for him remains astronomical, although it’s one that the Celtics can actually cover should they so desire. What’s under consideration isn’t whether they’re capable of acceding to the demands; it’s whether they should. And they haven’t even assessed yet if his sensitive skin fits New England sensibilities; fans are intensely loyal, but they can likewise be savage in their criticism of the warts of supposed stalwarts.
Bottom line, the Celtics will not pull the trigger on any deal they feel compromises their view of the horizon. Durant’s an old 33, with major surgeries to his name, and they’ll be giving up prominent figures of their youth movement for him. Head of hoops operations Brad Stevens has his work cut out for him. Should he go for it? Or should he keep building on what he already has? The answers figure to shape the Celtics’ future for some time to come.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.