Celtics president Danny Ainge: Other team ‘backed out’ of trade involving Nets pick

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The Celtics – deep with talent and draft picks – somewhat surprisingly didn’t make a trade before yesterday’s deadline. Boston is good enough now to remain patient, but it’s a little surprising, with so many assets to discuss, nothing came to fruition.

But that doesn’t mean nothing came close.

Celtics president Danny Ainge on 98.5 The Sports Hub, via CSN New England:

We were very close. One story I can probably share with you is – I can’t tell you the team or the name – but it was very close. It was something we had been deliberating on for two days straight. The other team was doing that. And we were wrapping ourselves around a big package to do a deal. And at the very last minute, they just said they did not want to do it. They just backed out. So, it was a deal that was talked about, thought about. And that was probably the closest that we came.

We were willing to do one deal, and it just didn’t happen. Both teams weren’t ready to go. And it was a really, tough close deal. And it was certainly not a no-brainer. There was risk on both sides’ part. But at the end of the day, both teams were not ready to do it.

Adam Kaufman of WBZ NewsRadio:

“Backed out” are strong words that imply the other team agreed at one point, though perhaps Ainge just means backed out of negotiations.

If it’s the latter, this isn’t worth getting worked up over. Ainge isn’t well-positioned to know how close a team truly is to accepting a trade – no matter what is says while negotiating. The fact that Boston was willing to make this trade indicates the other team shouldn’t (though it’s far from conclusive, because, of course, trades happen). The other team just might have never found this deal as viable as Ainge did, which happens all the time in discussions.

But if the other team agreed then backed out, we’re onto a major “what if?”

And we all know what you’re thinking: Kevin Love. If we’re taking Ainge at his word, that’s not the case. Kaufman:

Guess away. If the Celtics’ were willing to trade an extremely valuable Nets pick, it’d have to be quite a player.

Report: No meeting scheduled or agreed to between Knicks and Kevin Durant…yet

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 17:  NBA players Carmelo Anthony (L) and NBA player Kevin Durant (R) attends Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Sports Awards 2014 at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion on July 17, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images For Nickelodeon)
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With less than a week to go until his free agency kicks off, Kevin Durant is starting to nail down his plans for meetings. Thus far, six teams have been granted a sit-down with the most anticipated free agent in the NBA since LeBron James in 2010: the incumbent Thunder, plus the Clippers, Spurs, Heat, Warriors and Celtics. The Lakers and Durant’s hometown Wizards have all but been ruled out.

The Knicks? They’re in the middle somewhere. Whispers persist that they’re still in the running, but according to ESPN.com’s Ian Begley, thus far, there are no plans for a meeting between the two sides:

No meeting has been scheduled – or agreed to – between the Knicks and Kevin Durant at this point, sources say. The Knicks are optimistic that they’ll ultimately get consideration from Durant but they were not among the initial group of teams with whom Durant agreed to meet. The Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder are the first known teams to secure a meeting with Durant, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein. Durant’s ties to the Knicks include his strong relationship with Carmelo Anthony and the relationship between his agent, Rich Kleiman of Roc Nation Sports, and Knicks GM Steve Mills. Still, given that New York is not among the first group of teams with whom Durant has agreed to meet, it seems as if the club faces long odds to sign him.

Even if the Knicks get a meeting with Durant, it’s tough to imagine them having a real shot in the sweepstakes. All six of the teams he’s set to meet with were playoff teams this season, and three (the Thunder, Spurs and Warriors) were serious title contenders. The Knicks have missed the playoffs the past three seasons and are currently built around a 32-year-old Carmelo Anthony and, now, Derrick Rose coming off several years of inconsistent, injury-riddled play. They also have a new coach, Jeff Hornacek. Kristaps Porzingis is one of the best young prospects in the league, but he’s going to need a few more seasons to really blossom into a star, which doesn’t really do much to help Durant’s cause if he wants to win a title now.

Durant has said that he’s going to make his free-agency decision based on basketball, and the Knicks just don’t have as much to offer on that end. All a meeting would really accomplish would be for his agent to do Steve Mills a favor and make them appear more legitimate to other free agents, much like Dwight Howard‘s meeting with the Warriors in 2013. In terms of the chances that he would actually go there given his other options, a meeting would be a waste of time for both sides.

Cavs GM David Griffin: “We intend to keep this group together”

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 19:  Kevin Love #0 of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts during the first half against the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 19, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Even though the Cavaliers won the championship, and Kevin Love came up big in the decisive Game 7, speculation has not quieted about his future with the team. He’s still an awkward fit with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, and needs to be heavily involved in the offense in order to be productive. But from the sounds of it, the Cavs aren’t planning on moving him anytime soon. In an appearance on ESPN Radio, general manager David Griffin said he’s planning on bringing the same group back next season.

Love still isn’t a perfect fit with the Cavs, but they just won the title. If Griffin makes a big shakeup and it backfires, that’s on him, so the safest route is to run this group back and hope they can repeat. If they get off to a bad start and want to move Love (or anybody else) during the season, they should still be able to.

Hassan Whiteside hopes to make his free-agency decision on July 1

CHARLOTTE, NC - APRIL 23:  Hassan Whiteside #21 of the Miami Heat reacts after a play against the Charlotte Hornets during game three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Time Warner Cable Arena on April 23, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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Outside of Kevin Durant, arguably the most intriguing free agent on the market is Heat center Hassan Whiteside. The Mavericks and Lakers are already known to have made him a priority in free agency, and he should have several other suitors willing to give him a max deal. Speaking at a 3-on-3 tournament in Miami on Sunday, Whiteside said he doesn’t want to drag out the process, and hopes to decide on a new team on July 1, the first day teams are allowed to talk to free agents.

Via the Associated Press:

The Miami Heat center says he wants to know who his next team is on Friday, the first day of this summer’s NBA free-agent period. Whiteside will have a series of meetings with teams that day, and the NBA’s blocked-shot leader last season wants to decide quickly.

Whiteside says the Heat are one of his options, but that loyalty to Miami won’t factor into his decision.

The fact that Whiteside wants to decide early would seem to make a return to Miami unlikely. The Heat are one of six teams that have reportedly been granted meetings with Durant, and it’s a good bet that he’s going to take several days to decide where he goes. The Heat don’t have full Bird rights on Whiteside, meaning they would have to dip into their cap space to re-sign him. They can’t both sign Durant and keep Whiteside at the kind of salary he’s going to command on the open market, and Durant is obviously the priority.

Shaq brings US basketball diplomacy to Cuban capital

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 06:  American Express teams up with Shaquille O'Neal (pictured) and Phil Jackson at the Altman Building on June 6, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for American Express)
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HAVANA (AP) NBA great Shaquille O’Neal has become the latest emissary for American outreach to the people of Cuba.

O’Neal is putting on a basketball clinic on public courts in Havana, part of a U.S. State Department-sponsored mission to foster people-to-people exchanges with Cuban citizens.

The four-time NBA champion led kids in layup drills and coached scrimmages on Sunday while onlookers cheered from the sidelines.

O’Neal said the mission aims to extend a “friendly hand” and smooth U.S.-Cuban relations, which were openly hostile for over five decades before diplomatic ties were restored last year under presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro.

Cuban teen Juan Navarrete said it’s a thrill to see an NBA star up close and he aspires to maybe make the big leagues someday.