ORLANDO – Like the rest of the NBA, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is watching and waiting for LeBron James to make a decision on his future, but he’s not consumed by the saga like the media is.
“I see everyone of you guys like following your Twitter nonstop trying to follow everything going on in free agency,” Ainge told reporters in Orlando. “I haven’t really been worried that much about it. That’s going to work out; we just focus on what we need to do and try to get the Boston Celtics better."
James continues to be the top topic in the hallways of Orlando Summer League amongst the media and league executives. James is currently in Las Vegas as he reportedly decides between returning to the Miami Heat and heading back to his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Wherever James ends up, Ainge acknowledged that it would shift the balance of power in the Eastern Conference.
“I don’t know, it depends,” Ainge said when asked about a landing spot for James. “You mean shifting from one city to another in the Eastern Conference? Wherever LeBron goes, the team is a contender. That’s how good a player he is."
The Celtics assisted the Cavaliers in creating enough salary cap space to offer James a max contract via a three-team deal with the Nets and Cavs that became official today. Ainge isn’t taking any extra joy in knowing his old nemesis Pat Riley is probably sweating out James’ decision in Miami right now.
“No, I don’t take any pleasure in anyone’s pain. I know this is a tough business and free agency and is all part of what we all go through. i certainly don’t take any joy in seeing great players leave organizations that have been good to them,” said Ainge.
Meanwhile, the Celtics are left to sit out the majority of the free agency process out for now, as they don’t have the salary cap room to offer anybody more than the mid-level exception ($5.3 million) at the moment. In the meantime, they have to left the free agent market sort itself out.
“I think things start moving once the top guys are out of free agency,” Ainge said.
Head coach Brad Stevens is going through his first complete free agency period in the NBA and is enjoying the experience watching from the sidelines.
“I’m more knowledgeable about our situation than maybe I sound, but I still don’t understand it to the 10th degree,” Stevens said. “But as far as watching free agency, it’s hilarious. Is that the best way to put it? I just sit back and enjoy it."
Stevens later reflected on how the process is similar to college recruitment.
“This is unique because when you draft somebody, you choose them, they play on your team,” Stevens explained. “Free agency is more like college. It’s more like college recruitment and those types of things. But there’s still a lot of things that you can’t do just because we’re all tied by whatever our salary cap restraints are, our roster restraints, if we have positional needs or don’t – all those different things. I’m probably not as caught up in all the talk, but again, it’s fairly entertaining to pay attention to.
As the signing decisions for James and other top free agents drag into the weekend, Stevens and Ainge can just lay back as they watch a new NBA landscape take shape.