BOSTON (CBS) — Everybody knows that the Celtics don’t exactly have a rich history when it comes to landing marquee free agents. That is to say, they have almost no history at all.
A well-past-his-prime Dominique Wilkins doesn’t fit the bill, nor would a 38-year-old Shaquille O’Neal in his final NBA season. The Celtics do deserve credit for being enticing enough to get Kevin Garnett agree to a trade to Boston, but that still doesn’t go down in the free-agent signing list.
But this year, with plenty of cap space, an intelligent head coach, and a solid core, Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck is expecting a change in course.
“I think we’ve got to look every year at who’s coming out and how we can appeal to them and if we’re set up right to appeal to them. And the way we chose to rebuild this team was to stay on the up and up and try to keep winning more games every year,” Grousbeck said, noting that acquiring Isaiah Thomas last year would take them out of the lottery but was a player worth adding. “We wanted to stay attractive, and so right now I think we’re actually a very attractive place for the right free agent who’s going to say, ‘I really want a ring. I’ve got all the money I need, but I really want a ring.’
“If one or two of these marquee guys came to us, with Brad Stevens, with our young talent who are under contract, and we’ve got room for two max-contract guys,” Grousbeck added. “So this summer, we’ll see what happens. But we’d like to rewrite history. We’d like to get a couple of guys this summer.”
Grousbeck cited the television revenue as giving most teams plenty of room to sign one high-profile player, but the Celtics have room enough to sign two. The team obviously can’t publicly court a free agent until the period opens, but he said impending free agents have been thinking about their next home for some time. In some cases, that manifests itself in players building “super teams” with their friends, which is something the Celtics can’t really offer at this moment.
“If we had more veteran guys who have been around — we have a very, very young team, and so we don’t have that many guys who have been around the league. But what we do have is coaches who have been elsewhere, and we have a coaching tree Danny Ainge/Doc Rivers tree, with Tom Thibodeau and Frank Vogel in Indiana and Daryl Morey is the GM in Houston,” Grousbeck said. “We’ve got people we can call all over the place for reads on players as well. There’s just all sorts of communication about, ‘Is this guy someone we would want on our team?’ And there’s a lot that goes on, but we can’t go on bothering any free agents now, as I’ve repeatedly mentioned.
“Here’s the difference, hopefully, between this year and other years is that there’s so much money flowing into the league through the TV contracts,” Grousbeck added. “Really, everybody’s got room under the cap for one guy. We are one of the few that has room for two max free agents. So, that’s one important factor. A guy can come with us and bring someone else, and we can really be looking better. And secondly, the money is around anywhere, but what isn’t around anywhere is the chance to compete. And so we try to mention to people that if you win in Boston, it’s like nothing else. We’ve got guys that say, ‘Look, I’ve been all over the place; I haven’t seen anything like Boston.’ You have guys like Kevin Garnett who go out there, and it’s been reported that he goes out there and says, ‘Bury me in Celtic green and I’ll never forget it.’ You know, Paul Pierce — these are great ambassadors for what it feels like to win in Boston.”
Of course, these current Celtics still can win, though they’ll need to stave off elimination Thursday night in Game 6 and then hit the road to win in Atlanta in Game 7. Wyc is hoping for a crowd comparable to the ones that blew him away last weekend in Games 3 and 4.
“Tonight’s do-or-die, so let’s all get out to the Garden and let Atlanta know who’s boss,” Grousbeck said. “Hopefully we can make that happen.”
Listen to the full interview below: