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Mike Shalin's Working Press: Celts could make a play for LeBron, Leonard

By MIKE SHALIN
June 17. 2018 2:05AM
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) reacts during the third quarter against the Golden State Warriors in game four of the 2018 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland June 8, 2018. (Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)



While baseball season steams through June, and the NFL is waiting for July, shopping season has begun in the indoor sports.

The NBA and NHL drafts are coming. Deals are being formulated. The Canadiens and Coyotes swapped Alex Galchenyuk and Max Domi Friday in the first big deal of the offseason, and the Celtics seem to be in the middle of the LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard stuff.

OK, Celtics fans, time to think about it.

Do you want LeBron?

Do you want Leonard?

Do you want neither, preferring to continue the growth of what's here?

Every piece we see on the internet these days has the Celtics in the middle of all this speculation, and what is sports without speculation, right?

Here is some of it:

SB Nation had the Celts as one of the six teams that could get Leonard, who wants out of San Antonio.

With Leonard saying he wants to go to LA, the piece says, "If any team can match the Lakers in trade assets, it's Boston. Jayson Tatum played like a future All-Star in his rookie season, Jaylen Brown's made the leap, and they're sitting on a stockpile of assets.

"The question for Boston is if they'd be willing to trade talent away from a team that was a game away from making the Finals despite Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward both being sidelined, especially with a talent-developing wizard like head coach Brad Stevens.

Woj (ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski) reported that the Celtics inquired about a Leonard trade back in February, so there may be some legs to this rumor, though.

OK, let's go to ESPN.com's Amin Elhassan and "The Seven Best Kawhi Leonard Trades We'd Like to See."

On the Celtics, that piece read:

"Celtics get: Kawhi Leonard

Spurs get: Kyrie Irving and Boston's 2018 first-round pick (plus whatever other picks get the deal done)

This is an aggressive play for Leonard, to be sure, but in a league increasingly favoring offenses that are predicated on preventing ball-stopping, while highly valuing the ability to switch everything defensively, it's not hard to see how this is a no-brainer for Boston.

Leonard is the poster child for offensive efficiency, and with a lineup of 6-foot-8-plus athletes across the board, Boston would boast a deep enough, well-coached, flexible roster that could legitimately contend with the Golden State Warriors.

Pending the physical, the Celtics would be best served by aggressively pursuing Leonard, going so far as to entertain adding additional picks (up to and including the Kings pick owed from the Jayson Tatum deal last June). Re-signing Marcus Smart would become a priority, and the return of Gordon Hayward would provide some of the playmaking lost by Irving's departure."

That brings us to James, the best player on the planet. Thescore.com has the Celtics on the list of contenders, saying:

"What they need to do first: Work out an opt-in-and-trade that swaps Gordon Hayward, Marcus Morris (or spare parts), and picks for LeBron.

"The Pitch: Wow, that was a close one in May. If you were anything less than the greatest basketball player of all time, it'd have been us playing the Warriors in The Finals. Not that we necessarily would've fared much better - but then again, we were missing two of our three All-Stars, and three of our four best active players were still on their rookie contracts. We missed The Finals last year, but it might be a while before we do so again.

"Do we really need to sell you on what a bright future this team has? Terry Rozier was one of the deadliest guards in the entire postseason. Jaylen Brown is gonna be a two-way star. Jayson Tatum ... I mean, you saw what that guy can do on the brightest stage - maybe a little more closely than you even care to remember. And that's basically our JV squad! Terry doesn't even start for us! It's an embarrassment of riches, and with four first-rounders in next year's draft, it will only get more embarrassing. And oh yeah, we also have the NBA's next Gregg Popovich putting it all together on the sidelines, and the smartest GM in the league pulling the strings in the front office.

"Beyond all that ... I mean, it's Boston. The Celtics. Bill Russell. Larry Bird. Paul Pierce. The damn leprechaun. Tell the story of the NBA and you start with us. And it's not just fond memories of bygone eras. We won the championship a decade ago and have been at least competitive in nearly every season since. Not like we need to tell you about that. Before the East went through you, it went through us, and you understood what it meant when you were finally able to triumph over the mighty Boston Celtics. You know what our history is. You know what our fans are like. You know what basketball means here."

Stay tuned. This story is worth watching.

But which way are you going, C's fans?

Take a knee

Brady, speaking to Oprah Winfrey in one of her "SuperSoul Conversations," had this to say about the league's anthem problem:

"I think there were a lot of really good, healthy conversations coming out of it in our locker room. The great part about sports are the relationships, and I've been in it for a long time. I've been with guys from all different parts of the country. Every color, race, belief. And you know what? You respect what other people - I do, I respect why people are doing what they're doing. And they're doing it for different reasons. And that's OK. You can do things for your reason, they can do things for their reason, and you have respect for that. But I thought it was great."

Meanwhile, the NFL Players Association is said to be preparing a gripe on the NFL's new anthem policy.

Quoting NFLdraftscout.com: "The anthem issue has been a divisive one, with some feeling players not standing for the song is disrespectful to, among others, the U.S. military. Others feel it is the players' right to protest perceived social injustice peacefully."

In REAL punishment news, Cowboys DE David Irving has been suspended for the first four games for the second straight season - after signing a one-year/$2.91 million deal to stay with the 'Boys as a restricted free agent.

This and that

John Smoltz plays in the U.S. Senior Open in two weeks. . Jose Ramirez (20) and Xander Bogaerts (10) both matched their 2017 home run totals Thursday night, and Bogaerts hit No. 11 Friday in a game the Mariners gift-wrapped for the Red Sox, only to take it back against Heath Hembree and Matt Barnes. . After losing their first two games in the Bronx, the Rays were 24-10 against teams below .500, 8-27 against those above. . Old-Timers' Day in New York is on Father's Day and Yankees manager Aaron Boone will actually don his entire pinstripe uniform for the first time as skipper. . Speaking of the day, Happy Father's Day to all of us out there and we remember when the late/great Ralph Kiner delivered the following Mother's Day message: "It's Mother's Day, so to all you mothers out there...Happy Birthday!"

Mike Shalin covers Boston pro sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. His email address is shalinmike@yahoo.com.


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