Durant turns back on Celtics


SALT LAKE CITY -- There was no bigger underdog in the Kevin Durant sweepstakes than the Boston Celtics.

They didn't have a roster assembled to compete for a title right now, not like Golden State or San Antonio or even the Los Angeles Clippers. They weren't riding the wave of a deep, emotional playoff journey, not like Oklahoma City, the only team Durant has played for.

And yet there were the Celtics, making their case -- a strong one, according to multiple league sources -- that Boston could be Durant’s new basketball home.

But their best efforts ultimately proved to not be enough, as Durant decided to sign with the Golden State Warriors. He made the announcement via the Player's Tribune website.

Even though the end result certainly wasn’t what the Celtics were hoping for, make no mistake.

The Celtics got fireworks this year. Being able to pry nine-year veteran Al Horford from Atlanta with a four-year, $113 million contract immediately gained Boston the kind of credibility on the free-agent market that it has never had.

And to make Durant’s short list of teams says a lot about the organization and its direction in the eyes of NBA players.

Of course that doesn’t do the Celtics any good right now. They knew the odds were stacked heavily against them in their pursuit of Durant. But at the very least they wanted to come away from this process feeling as though they gave themselves a legitimate shot at landing him, and that they did.

Multiple league sources told that following the Celts' presentation to the Durant over the weekend in the Hamptons, Boston was indeed a team he was seriously considering for the present . . . and the future, as Durant is expected to hit free agency again in the summer of 2017.

With Durant off the table now, look for the Celtics to keep most of their roster intact from last season.

Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko have a July 7 date by which the Celtics have to decide whether to waive them or let their contracts become guaranteed for next season.

Considering Johnson ($12 million) and Jerebko ($5 million) have extremely team-friendly deals under this new salary cap, look for both players to be with the Celtics next season.

Boston must also manage to get more of its younger players on the floor this season, many of whom will be participating in summer league play here in Utah with their first game tonight against Philadelphia at 7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet.

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