When talks between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Boston Celtics broke down on Saturday, I figured it was just a matter of time before they started up again. Basically, this deal makes too much sense for both parties, and the only question was whether the sides would hold the line on their "final" offers, or would one party blink. Both teams want to make a deal here, and both teams no doubt have more they would offer to get the deal done if they know with certainty it was the only way. But discerning how much leverage you have in the process is a tricky thing -- and neither side wants to overplay their hand.
To recap, the deal reached an impasse on Saturday over the status of Eric Bledsoe. The Celtics were offering Kevin Garnett and Doc Rivers and wanted DeAndre Jordan, two first round picks, and Bledsoe in return. The Clippers counted with Jordan and one first rounder. Neither team is going to go to the wall for the second pick -- the sticking point is Bledsoe.
Word today is that the talks have resumed with the sides looking for a trade that would not include Bledsoe -- in other words, the Celtics blinked. Which makes sense really.
If the Clippers walk away from a Celtics deal, they still have their choice of several other coaches that they like very much and they miss out on Kevin Garnett -- who is 37 years old let's not forget. They retain all of their trade assets to try to make another deal.
If the Celtics walk away they could lose everything. There's no guarantee that Rivers would stay, not to mention that they may not even want to pay him $7M per year to preside over an inevitable rebuilding project. Garnett could retire if this deal doesn't happen. So even with a lesser package, the Celtics would be getting a 25 year old center who still have a ton of potential and at least one first round pick, while saving money at the coaching position -- and clearly that is better than nothing, which is a distinct possibility if they can't reach a deal with the Clippers since it does not appear that Rivers and Garnett are interested in going to another team.
Adrian Wojnarowski quotes one NBA source as saying "There's no putting the genie back in the bottle. You can't pretend this didn't happen and just go back to work." I take that to mean that both Rivers and the Celtics have already come to grips with the full on rebuild -- and if that's going to happen, then they need to get something for Garnett.
So how does the deal get a little sweeter for Boston without including Bledsoe? The Celtics added a couple of long term contracts last summer when they were still in win now mode, contracts that don't work so well in rebuild mode. According to Woj's latest tweet:
Boston wants to unload at least one multi-year contract onto the Clippers to get this deal done, source says.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) June 17, 2013
That means either Courtney Lee or Jason Terry. Lee's deal is a little worse than Terry's (it runs one more year) but Lee is a better fit for the Clippers (since Terry's instant offense off the bench role is filled by Jamal Crawford). The Clippers would actually love to have a 3-D wing like Lee -- at least like the guy he used to be before his dreadful season in Boston -- so it seems like a no-brainer to include Lee in the package and get this deal done.
There's only one problem -- the Clippers are running out of trade assets to send back to Boston to make the math work. As it happens, the contract of the retired Grant Hill would come in REALLY handy right now. Alternatively, the Clippers could include Caron Butler in the deal -- but it seems like a shame, since the Celtics have no need for or interest in Butler, while the Clippers would still like to keep him around, both as a serviceable small forward and as a contract that could be packaged with Bledsoe in a future deal.
Which raises the possibility of a third team entering the picture. The Clippers would likely be fine taking on Lee, and they are fine parting with Bledsoe and Butler if they can bring in something else in the process. So perhaps a third team could make all of this work.
One way or the other, it seems to me a deal is going to get done here. Maybe the Clippers can get the league to rescind Hill's retirement papers, or just put them on hold for a few days. Regardless, it seems like Boston has strayed a little too close to the edge of rebuilding -- they're going to take the leap, and they need the Clippers to give them a little push. The details will get worked out. I have a feeling this deal is happening.