Boston's meticulous pursuit of Kevin Love was expected for quite some time. He's a star; history and logic tell us stars are necessary elements in almost every championship-winning team. The Celtics are fond of championships.
They're also smart enough to understand the aforementioned simple math: star plus more stars equals Banner 18!
But does Love have the same affinity for Boston? Should he? The Celtics have been more successful than any other organization in league history, but that sort of information can easily be lost on a player who's only been alive long enough to see them hoist one trophy.
Love is abnormal, though. He grew up in a basketball family, raised by paint-roaming Goliaths who delivered the game's essence to him at a young age. He understands tradition, comprehends legacy and knows the path to a championship will be easier playing for a team that knows what it's doing.
Love's childhood as a basketball prodigy is revealed in this early June article in The Boston Globe written by Baxter Holmes:
Love, who averaged 26.1 points and 12.5 rebounds per game last season, learned Celtics history at an early age, as one of his favorite tapes growing up was a VHS copy of "Winning Basketball" with Larry Bird and Red Auerbach.
And of his youth, Love once told Sports Illustrated in an interview, "My dad likes to say when other kids were watching Big Bird, I was watching Larry Bird, and he was totally right."
That said, tradition is no better than folklore without a few logistical components in the present day. If traded to the Celtics this summer, there's approximately a 0 percent chance Love instantly experiences the same level of success Kevin Garnett went through about seven years ago.
There would be no championship in year one; Love would be light years away from culturally shifting a down-on-its-luck organization the way Garnett did. But Garnett was 31 years old when the Celtics cashed in half of their roster for his iconic services. He was already headed to the Hall of Fame with a career that was only in need of a ring.
The Celtics didn't build around Garnett; it was much too late for that. Instead, they restocked the shelves with (mostly) useful veterans who either agreed to take less money or had no other choice.
The parallels between Love and Garnett are easy to see—and probably a bit sickening to fans of the Minnesota Timberwolves—but most of it is just coincidence and timing. For starters, the three-time All-Star is only 25, searching less for rejuvenation than fertile ground to plant his flag as a franchise power forward for the next decade.
Boston's current roster and short-term cap sheet don't offer much reason for Love to smile, but with juicy draft picks, a couple talented pieces already on board, one superstar, a young, bright head coach and—as of today—only one player under contract in 2016, the team is in a flexible enough position to turn all that around sooner than later.
Yes, it will take Boston's best assets to rope Love from Flip Saunders' borderline delusional grasp, but not all (nine through 2018, plus the right to swap with the Brooklyn Nets in 2017) of those unprotected first-round draft picks will end up in Minnesota.
What's left will be used elsewhere, either on actual rookies (imagine it's 2018; Love is in his absolute prime, battling on a competitive Celtics squad. That summer, the Celtics have two first-round picks, including one from a Nets team that for all we know could be in lottery-driven shambles by then. What a luxury) or in trades for proven commodities.
For the time being, it'd be Love and Rajon Rondo, and just like that, Boston would have one of the league's five most feared pairings, up there with LeBron James and Chris Bosh, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and James Harden and Dwight Howard. In the Eastern Conference? Rondo, Love, Brad Stevens and a front office painstakingly committed to finding a third playmate? That’s one exceptional recipe for long-term prosperity.
Of course, Boston isn't the only option. Love has plenty of doors to open, either in a trade or as a free agent next summer. The most realistic top three competitors are the Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors and Chicago Bulls. The Lakers are the Lakers, but their future is as bleak as it's ever been with nothing but cap space, TV money and a hobbling, old, cranky Kobe Bryant.
Golden State would be fantastic, and the Love-Stephen Curry duo would transcend efficient, eye-popping NBA offense. But the gauntlet to a championship in the West is just so tough, especially with the injury-prone Andrew Bogut and a declining Andre Iguodala playing such important roles.
Chicago would also be fantastic, and it's in the Eastern Conference. But Derrick Rose's health is too great of a risk for Love to bank his future on.
Also "in the running": The Cleveland Cavaliers have the best asset in the sport right now (the No. 1 pick in this year's draft) and could ship it to Minnesota right now for Love if they wanted (probably), but the premier rebounder of his generation reportedly has no interest in competing for a loony, Comic Sans scribbler. So Cleveland is out.
The Houston Rockets and Sacramento Kings haven't the assets capable of making a strong enough offer, and it's unclear whether Love wants to spend his prime with the Phoenix Suns, a team that'd strip itself to the bone trying to get him.
The Celtics may not look like Love's best option today, but over the long haul, it's tough to see any other team matching their cap flexibility, long-term assets and, frankly, their willingness to win (aka spend money).
Love's player option for next year essentially allows him to narrow down the pool of suitors; if his main priority is eventually winning a title, Love should seriously consider steering himself to Boston.
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