According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, "Sources say Boston's level of interest and involvement far surpassed what Ainge was willing to admit to when he addressed it publicly."
"We had numerous talks, but the price really wasn't changing. The price was really high for us. It was just something we didn't want to do," Ainge said (h/t Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports). "Even the people within our organization that respected him and wanted him more—I think unanimously we decided it wasn't the time for us and it wasn't the price."
Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated also reported the Celtics didn't want any deal that included Jaylen Brown.
Boston likely doesn't regret holding on to Brown as the guard continues to improve, earning his first All-Star selection this season with averages of 24.7 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game.
The Celtics still haven't reached expectations this year, sitting under .500 until a four-game winning streak got them to 19-17 at the All-Star break. If Boston could have figured out a deal, Harden would have certainly made a positive impact after winning the last three scoring titles entering this year.
Despite question marks about sharing the ball with other scorers, the nine-time All-Star has settled into his role with the Nets while averaging an efficient 25.5 points per game in 23 appearances. His 49.7 field-goal percentage and 42.2 three-point percentage would both be career highs over a full season.
Brooklyn is also now 4.5 games ahead of the Celtics in the standings.
Amick's report indicates Boston knew what Harden could bring and tried to swing a deal but simply fell short.