How much does Kevin Durant want to join the Celtics?

Durant reportedly sees the Celtics as a preferred destination. How much does that matter?

Kevin Durant
There were hugs all around following the Celtics' playoff victory over the Nets, including Kevin Durant and Jaylen Brown. Jim Davis/Globe Staff

On Wednesday, two very noteworthy reports came out regarding Kevin Durant and the Celtics — one funny and one eyebrow-raising.

The former came from Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe, who reported that the Nets initially asked for Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum in exchange for Durant — a laughable request, and probably indicative of how unmotivated the Nets were to move their superstar at that point in the proceedings. The Celtics probably would not trade Tatum and Brown for Giannis Antetokounmpo. They will not trade them for 34-year-old Kevin Durant. The Nets are not going to recoup the losses they incurred in their disastrous trade for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, especially after Durant doubled down on his request by demanding the team change its leadership entirely or trade him.


Nice try, Sean Marks.

The latter report came from SNY’s Ian Begley: Durant reportedly now sees the Celtics as a desirable landing spot. If the Celtics were to acquire him, he would like to play with Marcus Smart. He is also interested in playing for the 76ers.

There’s a lot to unpack here. Let’s give it a shot.

  • First, we should highlight another crucial part of Himmelsbach’s report: The Celtics and Nets are not close to a deal to send Durant to Boston. Keep that top of mind.
  • You can see why playing with Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart — a pass-first point guard who defends like a furious badger — would be appealing for a star like Durant, who spent a not-insignificant amount of time defending Tatum last year.
  • One benefit of building a contender organically is that stars want to be part of something organic. The current Celtics were built largely through the draft and a few savvy moves that brought in players who fit the mold perfectly. Now Durant — who Danny Ainge was unable to wine and dine into a Celtics uniform in 2016 — sees them as a viable destination, even though fans in Boston routinely chant profanities at his good friend.
  • One challenge of massive roster upheaval is deciding whether you want to break up a contender that was built organically. After all, people want to be part of organic success. There’s a good chance that includes players like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Does 34-year-old Durant move you closer to a championship? Is the movement sufficient to break up a duo that talented?
  • It’s fascinating that Durant — who told the Nets to sign and play his close friends Kyrie Irving and Deandre Jordan, then demanded the team either fire the GM and coach or trade him when things didn’t go well — is still trying to control the situation as he works to be traded out of Brooklyn. In other words: Hey Celtics, trade for me, but don’t trade the players I want to play with.
  • One alternative possibility: Durant actually does really want to go to the Celtics, and he too realizes how important Smart is to the identity of the team. If that’s the case, Durant might need to advocate a trade to the Celtics specifically. After all, as long as there are other teams on his list, the Nets have leverage over the Celtics. That’s fine for Durant, until the Nets demand the Celtics include players they don’t want to include. Because the Celtics have an organic contender, they don’t really need Durant, and they aren’t likely to make an uncomfortable trade just to acquire him.

So that’s the fascinating place we find ourselves now — how much does Durant want to be in Boston? Is it enough to demand a trade to them exclusively, or does he just view them as a viable destination?

At the moment, it seems much more likely that Durant simply sees a fit with the Celtics and has told the Nets that a trade to the Celtics would make him happy. That doesn’t sound like enough to grease the wheels, especially given how the Celtics seem to feel about each other.

“I’ve played with [Durant] during the Olympics,” Tatum said last month. “He’s a great player. That’s not my decision. I love our team. I love the guys that we got.”

Quotes like that make a Durant/Celtics fire feel unlikely, no matter how much speculation seeps onto Twitter. Will the Nets get more desperate as training camp approaches? Will Durant show up if they don’t? How much does Durant want to be in Boston?


Those could be a few of the most interesting questions over the next few weeks across the NBA.


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