The Brooklyn Nets acquired James Harden from the Houston Rockets on Wednesday afternoon in a multi-team swap featuring a treasure trove of picks and talent.
On Thursday, one day after the deal went down, Boston Celtics team president Danny Ainge emerged from the shadows and offered some insight into why his team passed on the opportunity to add Harden.
“It was just something we didn’t want to do,” he said on the Toucher and Rich Show. “It wasn’t the time and it wasn’t the (right) price.”
According to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated, the biggest hurdle in the way of a potential Harden-to-Boston deal was the insistence that Jaylen Brown be a part of it.
“Under no circumstances if you’re Boston do you make any kind of offer that includes Jaylen Brown,” Mannix noted. “That was really the Celtics’ mindset for the last couple of months. There was no significant interest in a deal that involved Jaylen Brown. The Celtics are simply operating on a completely different timetable than the Brooklyn Nets.”
The Celtics are currently the No. 1-ranked team in the Eastern Conference, and Brown’s emergence as a star is a big reason why. Through the first 10 outings of the season he is averaging 26.3 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Couple that with his tremendous defensive prowess and smart instincts for the game, and it is easy to see why Ainge didn’t want to rock the boat with a Harden acquisition — especially considering what had just happened to the Rockets locker room.
Besides trading away young, talented prospects like Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen, the Nets also gave up a massive haul of future picks. The Rockets got Brooklyn’s three unprotected first-round draft picks in 2022, 2024 and 2026, as well as pick swaps in 2021, 2023, 2025 and 2027.
If Ainge didn’t feel like Harden was a necessary piece, then it stands to reason that he wouldn’t want to pay a king’s ransom. Plus, Celtics players openly being against the move probably didn’t help the matter any.
Will that decision ultimately come back to haunt the Celtics?
Time will tell.