The Celtics, who are among many teams dreaming of signing Kevin Durant this summer, would have taken the Texas product first overall in the 2007 draft if the pingpong balls had bounced their way, writes Chris Forsberg of ESPN.com. Instead, Portland landed the top pick and selected Ohio State center Greg Oden, with Durant falling to the Thunder at No. 2. “I was in the draft room, and they would have taken Durant,” said Austin Ainge, son of Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge. “I did have some inside information there.” Team co-owner Wyc Grousbeck has verified that claim, according to Forsberg.
Boston may be able to make its pitch to Durant more appealing by acquiring another high-level talent first. Forsberg suggested the Celtics may pursue Hawks free agent center/power forward Al Horford, who is also headed toward free agency and whom they reportedly targeted prior to last month’s trade deadline. Boston will have about $34MM in guaranteed salary for next season if it elects not to hang on to Amir Johnson and Jonas Jerebko. If the salary cap tops $90MM, as some estimates have suggested, the Celtics could have enough room for two elite free agents.
There’s more on the Atlantic Division:
- Durant, who will face the Celtics in Boston tonight for the first time since 2012, had plenty of good things to say about the city, according to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. “I like the city a lot,” Durant told reporters this morning. “It’s cold, but they love sports here. It’s a family atmosphere I feel when I walk around the city, so yeah, I like it a lot.”
- The Nets are hoping they might have “the next Manu Ginobili” in second-round pick Juan Pablo Vaulet, according to NetsDaily. Playing in Argentina, Vaulet missed 19 games with an early-season stress fracture in his ankle, but he is starting to show why Brooklyn and other observers were so high on him during the draft. That includes new Nets GM Sean Marks, who was watching Vaulet closely when he was still with the Spurs’ front office.
- The Raptors‘ D-League affiliate has announced that Ronald Roberts Jr. will miss the rest of the season with a right knee injury, tweets Chris Reichert of Upside & Motor. Three NBA teams had considered signing Roberts to a 10-day contract before the injury, according to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo (Twitter link).