Celtics fans should thank Danny Ainge

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In a social media-driven world built around instant gratification, Danny Ainge didn’t appease his superstar-seeking NBA instincts this week.

He saw the shiny object. Thought about grabbing the shiny object. And then thought better. He avoided Shiny Object Syndrome.

For that, we should all be thankful.

While Ainge has admitted that the Celtics indeed had talks about acquiring James Harden, Boston wasn’t willing to go all-in on the Beard.

For that, we should all be thankful.

According to reports, Ainge balked at Rockets trade requests that included Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and multiple first-round picks for the proven portly scorer.

For that, we should all be thankful.

There is no question that the addition of Harden, the eight-time All-Star who’s led the NBA in scoring each of the last three years with more than 30 points per game, would have made the Celtics the top story in basketball this week.

It would have paired the superstar scorer with the young, budding star of a similar skill set in Jayson Tatum.

It would have given the Celtics a more proven combo.
Harden and Tatum an All-Star, All-NBA duo to compare to the likes of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn, LeBron James and Anthony Davis in L.A. or any of the other pairings that are suddenly the trend in basketball.

It may have – this part is debatable – made the Celtics a more legitimate contender to go to the NBA Finals later this summer.

But in the long run it would not have been worth it. In the long run, it almost certainly wouldn’t have been the right thing to do.

Watching Harden score with his style of play at the Garden – love him or hate him, he indeed pounds the basketball into the floor forever before either taking a step-back three or driving to get to the free-throw line – would come with debatable entertainment value and dubious results. He certainly isn’t known for his playoff success, ability to mesh with other players or track record with postseason games on the line. It is what it is.

Meanwhile, the current Celtics duo – call them the Jay-Team if you’d like – is young, talented, fun to watch and, this is key, getting better by the week whenever COVID actually allows them back on the court.

Boston’s Batman Tatum is an All-Star and third-team All-NBA player at the age of 22 (not 19!), who just inked a max contract to stay in Boston.

His Robin-with-upside Brown is just 24, already under contract through 2023-24 with one of best contracts in the NBA for a budding All-Star.

Two young, ascending talents who work well together, want to play together and should be together for a long time with endless playoff series and championship runs on the horizon.

That’s what the Celtics are. That’s what Ainge – with detours down the bumpy Kyrie road and the Gordon Hayward path – has built in Boston.

It’s yet to pay off in the form of a title the way his reincarnation of the Big Three did when Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen brought a new banner to town. But it’s also still in its relative infancy.

It’s won a bunch of playoff games. Been to the Eastern Conference Finals with what’s now an almost annual regularity.

That’s not to insinuate by any means that it’s good enough. That the work is done.

Because it isn’t.

But the foundation for a title has certainly been laid – Tatum and Brown. While most teams are trying to collect All-Star, superstar duos, Boston has accomplished the feat through the draft.

Ainge could have broken that up for the instant gratification that would be Harden. For pats on the back this week and proclamations that Boston would be in the title hunt this season.

That’s certainly what the Nets did, bringing together Durant, Harden and Irving (assuming he wants to actually play basketball) for what is essentially a two-year window to a title before the team has the very real potential to collapse and bottom out in the East once again with all its draft picks headed to Houston through basically 2027.

Meanwhile, as Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck told WEEI back in November, Boston remains built for the long haul.

“We’ve got a run in front of us,” Grousbeck said on the Greg Hill Show. “And we are gearing up for trying to be competitive, and highly competitive over the next ‘X’ number of years.”

Ainge proved that this week. He didn’t go for the shiny object that you may regret later that is Harden. He stuck by his budding superstars rather than selling out for an aging one.

For that, we should all be thankful.

Now, let’s all go root for the implosion of a Nets team built around three of the most talented and unlikeable players in basketball.