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Robb: Danny Ainge, Celtics Still Have Options Despite Offseason Rhetoric

BOSTON (CBS) – The Celtics' offseason is just starting, but based upon the commentary you have heard from front offices around the league, many of the paths Danny Ainge could pursue to improve his roster this offseason are disappearing quickly.

We'll start with the most appealing option in Oklahoma City. Soon-to-be free agent Kevin Durant led the Thunder to an impressive upset win in the second-round of the Western Conference playoffs against the 67-win Spurs and now has his team two wins away from an NBA Finals berth.

Not only did Durant thrive in the Spurs matchup, but his supporting cast (Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, Dion Waiters) played their parts well, making the future in Oklahoma City for Durant look promising, even if they can't take down the Golden State Warriors in the Conference Finals.

So while any hopes of Durant choosing Boston in the offseason may be merely a pipe dream, the positioning of other front offices around the league have Celtics fans on edge.

Whether it's DeMarcus Cousins in Sacramento, Jimmy Butler in Chicago, or Blake Griffin in Los Angeles, the brass of these organizations are making it clear publicly: these players are not on the trade block.

The Bulls even went so far as to sending Butler as the team's representative to the NBA Draft Lottery, apparently as a sign of support for the star wing after some tough remarks from the Chicago front office at the end of the season.

The seemingly limited upgrade possibilities for Boston does not end with just those premier trade targets either. Other top free agents such as Al Horford, Hassan Whiteside, and Nicholas Batum have made it clear after their elimination from the postseason that they would prefer to stay with their respective franchises.

So is it time for Celtic fans to panic about a lack of potential options? That would be a bit premature.

When it comes to the status of any player on the trade or free agent market, it's always important to consider the implications of any public sentiments from each party's perspective.

For example, if you are GM Vlade Divac in Sacramento or GM Gar Forman in Chicago, what good does it do you to publicly acknowledge you are willing to trade one of your core players? Not only does it potentially hamper a player's trade value, (since other teams know you are shopping him) but it also may damage a player's relationship with that organization, if the team elects to keep them down the line.

Most stars are prideful individuals, so unless they are asking out of a city, a general manager is risking plenty if he does anything but say, "We're not looking to trade player X." Today's social media and 24/7 news cycle has created a culture where honesty and candidness is no longer rewarded when it comes to trade discussion and rumors. Anything but a bland response can get you into trouble, as seen with Forman's comments about the Bulls roster last month.

That doesn't necessarily mean these front offices are shopping a player no matter what, it's just foolish to rule it out based on end-of-season comments in May. Situations fluctuate and the Celtics are still positioned well to get on any trade discussions behind the scenes.

Fans should view the favorable comments from free agents like Horford and Batum with the same kind of skepticism in regards to each of them returning to their current team.

It makes sense for both players (and others with Bird Rights) to want to remain with those squads since their own franchises have the ability to pay them more than another other team in free agency, with the added benefit of a fifth year in any deal.

For a guy that is not a home run max-value player like Horford at age 29 or Batum (who has a career average of 11.9 ppg), there's a lot of potential value in a fifth year at max money, especially with a skyrocketing salary cap on the horizon.

You want as many bidders as possible in that kind of situation, so publicly expressing good vibes with your current team is a good way to get that to happen. You can bet those same players will be happy to take other meetings as well though when free agency hits on July 1.

So will there be dramatic changes on the NBA landscape this summer? The odds are against it. However, with more salary cap money in play than ever before, both front offices and free agents are ready to explore a new kind of offseason landscape, despite what they may be saying publicly.

There's no guarantee the Celtics will be the team to pull off a big move, but don't fall for the canned responses when it comes to offseason talk from teams and players about their availability, or lack thereof.

Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.

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