By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Danny Ainge is never satisfied. And he’s never one to pass up an opportunity at a good deal.
That opportunity apparently presented itself prior to the NBA’s trade deadline this year. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Celtics reached out to the San Antonio Spurs with a trade proposal in February, with the aim of bringing Kawhi Leonard to Boston.
“The Spurs turned it down — and never made a counterproposal,” Wojnarowski reported. “San Antonio wasn’t willing to discuss deals for Leonard in February. So far this spring, the Spurs remain resistant to trades.”
It’s a rather interesting bit of information. At the time, the Celtics were obviously without Gordon Hayward but still had Kyrie Irving. Considering the Celtics ended up being good enough to reach Game 7 of the conference finals even after losing Irving to injury, it’s fair to surmise that Ainge made a proposal with ideas of reaching the NBA Finals.
Of course, that would have been entirely dependent on Leonard’s playing status, which is the complicating aspect of any and all talk that’s surrounded Leonard over the past year. The two-time All-Star and two-time Defensive Player of the Year played just nine total games in the 2017-18 season, between mid-December and mid-January. Though rumors rumbled about disagreements between Leonard’s camp and the Spurs about his health status on his injured quad, there seemed to always remain some optimism that Leonard would return to the court at some point. But he never did.
And given that uncertain status, it’s very likely that whatever deal Ainge offered the Spurs was not at all commensurate with the value that a trade for a fully healthy Leonard would demand. Making such deals that end up looking lopsided years later has been a calling card of Ainge during his tenure at the helm of the Celtics.
As for whether the Spurs might consider trading Leonard in the coming weeks, it’s yet to be decided. Wojnarowski did note that if the Spurs do decide to trade Leonard as he enters his contract year, “Boston has the most appealing assets: starry young players and Sacramento’s No. 1-protected 2019 first-round pick.”
But given what the Celtics now know about their young, budding stars — Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown — it feels unlikely that Ainge would feel eager to ship them to San Antonio to acquire a great player who would come with great question marks. The presiding theory calls for Ainge to stay the course and see what a fully healthy Irving, Hayward, Tatum, Brown, and Al Horford can accomplish next season.
With Ainge, though, the “presiding theory” is generally a lot different than what the general public believes it to be. So while a Celtics-Spurs trade for Leonard seems unlikely at this moment, the revelation of February’s trade proposal forces us to at least monitor the situation going forward.