Celtics Offseason

Report: Celtics not pursuing Lillard trade, intend to keep Jaylen

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are set to be the clear team leaders in Boston following Marcus Smart's departure.

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In theory, the Boston Celtics could make a strong trade offer for Damian Lillard -- especially if they include Jaylen Brown in the deal. But whether they want to acquire Lillard or move forward with their new "Big Three" of Jayson Tatum, Brown and Kristaps Porzingis is a different story.

Apparently the Celtics prefer Option B: Boston has "no intention of entering the Damian Lillard sweepstakes," The Boston Globe's Adam Himmelsbach reported Thursday.

And while Brown has yet to agree to a five-year, $295 million supermax contract extension with the Celtics despite being extension-eligible since July 1, Himmelsbach reports it's a matter of when, not if, Brown puts pen to paper.

"The Celtics are not shopping their All-NBA forward," Himmelsbach wrote. "They do not intend to make a low-ball offer to him. There have just been other matters for Brown’s camp and the Celtics to handle first.

"Sure, there will be some negotiations regarding incentives, but league sources continue to insist that Brown and the Celtics will eventually agree on a super-max deal. Sources said the sides are expected to talk during the Las Vegas summer league, which begins Friday."

Lillard's talent is undeniable, and the Celtics could use a backcourt boost after trading away Marcus Smart as part of the three-team deal that fetched them Porzingis. But Lillard also turns 33 this month and is owed more than $215 million over the next four seasons, so the Celtics may feel they're better off sticking with the Tatum-Brown duo along with Porzingis, who's coming off a career season with the Washington Wizards.

Himmelsbach also made the interesting observation that Smart's departure could clear the way for Tatum and Brown -- who will enter the season as Boston's two longest-tenured players -- to assert themselves as clear team leaders.

"There was a sense within the organization that stars Jayson Tatum and Brown sometimes deferred to Smart in big moments, and that his departure now leaves no question about who should be guiding this team," Himmelsbach wrote.

NBC Sports Boston analyst Eddie House made a similar point about Tatum and Brown immediately after the Smart trade.

"Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, obviously it should be their team. But when you talk about who was the leaders on the team, it wasn't the guys making the big bucks. It wasn't the guys putting the ball in the basket the most. It was Marcus Smart," House said.

"So to me, I think that's where it possibly can take a hit. But also, I think this is a great opportunity for Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to step up and say, 'Hey, this is our team. We are the leaders of this team.' And then lead from there."

Unless the Celtics trade Brown for another star-caliber player, their title hopes ultimately rest on the development of Brown and Tatum, who have helped Boston reach the NBA Finals and the Eastern Conference Finals in back-to-back seasons. President of basketball operations Brad Stevens may be hoping that Porzingis can be the "third star" to help Tatum and Brown deliver Banner 18 -- which seemingly means the Celtics are out of the Lillard business for now.

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