For better or worse, Boston has a reputation of being a less-than-appealing NBA free agent destination. But it appears that perception could change — thanks in no small part to Celtics fans.
During his latest podcast on Yahoo! Sports’ “The Vertical,” NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski raised eyebrows with a comment about Blake Griffin, noting that the impending free agent was impressed by Boston fans when his Los Angeles Clippers visited TD Garden this season.
“Blake Griffin was there when Paul Piece came in for his last game with the Clippers,” Wojnarowski said on the podcast, as transcribed by SB Nation. “He saw how Boston reacted to Paul Pierce (in his final game in Boston) and what it means to have been a great player in Boston. It did not go unnoticed with him about how that building loved Paul. (The Celtics) are certainly a threat in (signing Griffin).”
Apparently Griffin is not alone in those sentiments. A “prominent free agent” from the Western Conference raved about the atmosphere in Boston to Keith Smith of SB Nation’s CelticsBlog.
“I only get to play there once a year, but you can feel it,” the free agent told Smith. “The fans are crazy. Even when they were bad, those fans were there. When we were bad, our building was silent. And we all saw the way they sent off Paul. It was amazing. Cheering an opposing player like that doesn’t happen anywhere else.”
Another veteran free agent told Smith he had “tears in (his) eyes” while watching the Pierce tribute. But can a team’s fan base really impact where a free agent decides to sign? A “prominent Eastern Conference free agent” believes so.
“Absolutely,” the free agent told Smith. “No one wants to play in a place where the fans don’t care. We all know Boston fans can be critical, but that is cool. They expect to win. As a player, you want that pressure. And (Kevin Garnett), Paul, all those guys, they tell you that if you win in Boston, you become a legend. Everyone wants to be a legend.”
Outside of signing Al Horford last summer, the C’s don’t have a great track record of landing top-tier free agents. But Griffin and Utah Jazz star Gordon Hayward both reportedly are on the team’s radar this offseason, and after Boston’s recent run to the Eastern Conference finals, the Celtics could be quite the attractive landing spot indeed for a player looking to “become a legend.”
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