For marquee names always elbowing each other for room at the top, it’s hard to get worked up over the prospect of relinquishing the role of top dog for one of the most storied franchises in National Basketball Association history. In this regard, Jayson Tatum’s responses to queries on the possibility of all-world Kevin Durant joining the Celtics was to be expected. That he publicly showed he was lukewarm at best on the chance while attending the premiere of the documentary series NYC Point Gods — which, not coincidentally, his would-be teammate produced — shows where he stands.
To be sure, Tatum had reason to balk at the notion, and not simply because of ego. After all, the Celtics managed to finish runners-up in the immediate past season, as good an indication as any that they’re already built to contend even without Durant. Chemistry is an extremely elusive component of winning, and, if nothing else, they proved they have it. And, make no mistake; the Nets will be asking for the moon before letting the former Most Valuable Player awardee go, no matter how disgruntled he may be.
Which, in a nutshell, is why the decision isn’t as clear cut as it seems. The rule of thumb on deals is that the winner just so happens to be the one that landed the best player. And, yes, Durant will be the best player in any trade that involves him. Reportedly, the Celtics need to offer vital cogs Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart, not to mention a plethora of first-round picks, just to be in the same zip code of “reasonable.” Even taking into consideration the sacrifice of depth for top-heavy arsenal, esprit de corps heads the list of question marks.
For the record, Tatum disclosed that “I love my team. I love the guys that we got.” Not that the Celtics have yet to see the obvious signals. They know what they’re risking, least of all the good relationships they have with their stars. Brown’s already seething; despite having proven his chops as the leading scorer for the green and white in the 2022 Finals, he’s still being dangled as bait. They can’t go wrong with Durant, of course. Whether they’re also doing right by their homegrown talents is another matter altogether.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.