Why Danny Ainge Doesn’t Care About LeBron James Joining Lakers, Leaving East

There’s a general consensus in NBA circles: With LeBron James out of the Eastern Conference, the road to the NBA Finals now runs through Boston.

But don’t try to sell Danny Ainge on this theory.

The Celtics’ president of basketball operations was asked Wednesday about his reaction to James leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have defeated Boston in each of the last two Eastern Conference finals, to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency.

Here was his reply, via CLNS Media:

“I’m not sure what you’re asking. What, do I care about the Eastern Conference? I don’t really care about that. We’re trying to win championships, and you still have to play LeBron (in the NBA Finals).”

Ainge is right: Just because James is in the Western Conference doesn’t mean Boston would avoid his Lakers if the teams clash in the NBA Finals. Lest he come off as too confident about the Celtics’ title hopes, though, Ainge spent some time pumping the tires of his East competitors.

“I think there’s a lot of good teams in the East that get undersold a little bit,” he added. “I think Washington, Milwaukee’s an up-and-coming team and Toronto was the best team in the conference last year during the regular season. I think they’re fantastic teams. The East is going to be tough.”

We can debate Ainge on that one; the Raptors likely will be the only legitimate challenger to a loaded C’s club welcoming Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving back into the fold.

And in reality, Ainge should be glad LeBron is no longer in Boston’s way: The superstar has eliminated the Celtics in four of the last eight postseasons.

Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images

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