Tomase: Wondering when the Celtics might acquire Anthony Davis? So is Anthony Davis

John Tomase
December 19, 2017 - 11:55 am
Anthony Davis

Derick E. Hingle/USA Today Sports

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For years, we heard how badly Danny Ainge wanted Gordon Hayward, and when the All-Star swingman finally hit free agency, the Celtics got their man.

The chatter on Kyrie Irving wasn't as insistent, but it existed, with the Celtics considered a potential landing spot for the championship guard when his contract with the Cavaliers expired in 2020. Ainge short-circuited that process by acquiring Irving in a blockbuster this summer.

Al Horford was considered a free agent target of the Celtics for his final year in Atlanta, and Ainge grabbed him, too.

Those three pale in comparison, however, to Ainge's white whale. And it turns out that New Orleans center Anthony Davis is as curious as the rest of us if he's eventually going to land in Boston.

Speaking to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski about his plight as a top-flight player on a second division team, Davis not only said he's aware of Boston's interest, but relayed a story about marching into the office of GM Dell Demps to ask about it last year.

"He told me that [Boston] was calling, but nothing was going to happen," Davis said. "At the same time, though, you see how organizations treat players. Isaiah Thomas. DeMarcus [Cousins] told me that the [Kings] told him that he wasn't going to get traded, but they traded him. Isaiah took his team to the Eastern Conference finals, and they traded him.

"It makes you wonder: Does this organization really have my back? I've been loyal to this organization. I love it here. I love this team. I think we're moving in the right direction. DeMarcus, [Rajon] Rondo, some other players that are helping us, but people get judged on winning. And I want to win."

Let the Anthony Davis rumor mill roar back to life! The Celtics are one of the few teams in the league with the young talent (Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum) and draft picks (Lakers/Kings) to make a serious run at Davis, a monster big man averaging over 25 points, 10 rebounds, and two blocks a game. Still only 24, Davis is signed through 2021 on a five-year, $127 million contract.

We shouldn't doubt for a second that Ainge would blow up the contender he just built (by blowing up last year's Eastern Conference finalists) in order to acquire Davis. He wants transcendent talent and a roster built around Irving, Davis and a healthy Hayward would immediately become the favorites in the East and challenge anyone -- even Golden State -- in the West.

It's probably not going to happen anytime soon, because after two years of badly missing the playoffs, Davis's Pelicans are 15-15 and right in the thick of the Western Conference playoff chase, currently holding the No. 7 seed.

"Winning. That's it. That's how you're judged," he told Wojnarowski. "You can score, you can dominate. You can do whatever. But they calculate everything off winning. You know that. I know that. Everybody in the league knows that. I hear it all the time: 'Anthony is a good player, but he hasn't won anything. He's not a winner. He hasn't been to the playoffs in two years.'"

Davis puts the Celtics in the same class as two of the NBA's best teams.

"You look at the Warriors, Cleveland, Boston," he told Wojnarowski. "They lose Gordon [Hayward], they're still playing well. KD-Steph-Draymond-Klay. They play so well with each other. They move the basketball. They don't care who scores. Steph and Draymond are out, and they still won. KD is out. They still win.

"That's the way the league is now. I don't see anyone winning without three or four All-Stars. ... I was in the [MVP] conversation in my third year, and we didn't win. We went to the playoffs, got swept, and I dropped out of all that so fast. It's about winning. You can have all the numbers in the world, but you better win. That's what it is. This whole league, everything is about winning. Every award. Everything. It's all about winning."

We know that Ainge will never stop trying to upgrade his roster and that elite talent trumps any desire for depth and balance. If the last few months have taught us anything, it's that when you have current stars like Irving and Horford, or future ones like Tatum, you can fill in everywhere else, whether it's Aron Baynes providing stout defense or ball-hawking Terry Rozier bringing energy even when his shot isn't falling.

Those bonafide superstars, though, almost never shake free. When one does, Ainge circles him like a wolf, stalking ever closer, until he snares his prey.

We're going on Year Three of the Davis-to-Boston rumors. Will they eventually come to fruition? Let's answer that with a different question:

Would you bet against Ainge?

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