By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- What's clear as we're being inundated with Kawhi Leonard trade rumors is that the Boston Celtics are involved. When a star player wants to be traded, the Celtics are always going to be involved.
It's also pretty clear that they're not too eager to give up that vast collection of assets for the great unknown that surrounds Leonard. There's no doubt that the 26-year-old is a Top 5 player in the NBA, even with all the red flags that surrounded him last season. Whether it's the phantom quad injury that kept him out of all but nine games, or the newfound hatred he has for the San Antonio Spurs organization. Even with those warts, he's one of those rare talents that teams should be lining up to trade for.
The Celtics are in line because they are one of the few teams in the league who have the goods to pry such a great player out of Texas. But Danny Ainge and company haven't shoved their way to the front of that line, passed the likes of the Los Angeles Lakers, and seem to be setting up shop in the back.
Given Boston's current situation, that's A-OK.
It would usually be a pretty absurd notion to want a team oh-so-close to competing for a title to not want to add a stud like Leonard. He's going to make whatever team he joins this summer better. In the Lakers' case, he'll probably help them get LeBron James and any other veteran player who wants to chase a ring.
But for the Celtics, well they're in a position of power right now. They would probably love to add a player like Leonard, but they also wouldn't be too sad to hang on to their core of Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, not to mention that surplus of future first-round picks.
According to The Boston Globe's Gary Washburn, the Celtics have not included Jaylen Brown in their trade talks with the Spurs and are taking a conservative approach to all the hoopla. That means Tatum likely isn't in the discussions either. In all likelihood, it's either Irving or Terry Rozier with other young players and potentially multiple draft picks that they're offering up.
But again, given Leonard's "quad" injury and trip to the open market next summer (and by trip to the open market, we mean trip to Los Angeles), the Celtics aren't all that interesting in Leonard. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported earlier Thursday that the Spurs love Boston's assets, but the Celtics aren't willing to part with them given those red flags:
"The Spurs have long been most intrigued with Boston's trade assets, but it remains unclear how rich of a package the Celtics are willing to offer without a full understanding of the long-term implications of Leonard's quad injury, nor an assurance that they can be certain of Leonard's willingness to consider a long-term commitment next summer, league sources said."
While the Celtics will continue to be mentioned in the Leonard rumors, don't expect them to land the two-way star. Ainge will keep checking in to see if the price has gone down, or perhaps to make the price go up for his rivals, but he's one of the best executives in the NBA for a reason. He knows the Celtics have a great thing at the moment. They can sit back and do nothing this offseason and still feel great about the present, with both Irving and Hayward returning from injury. They can feel even better about the future with Brown and Tatum. The sum of all those parts will make Boston among the favorites in the East for years to come.
Ainge will not deal away all of that promise just for one season of a great player, no matter how great that player may be.
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