Danny Ainge on Wednesday downplayed the significance of LeBron James leaving the Eastern Conference, suggesting the Boston Celtics still face stiff competition in their quest to reach the NBA Finals.
FS1’s Nick Wright isn’t buying Ainge’s comments, though. James has long been a thorn in Boston’s side and the C’s now are the favorites to rule the East with him joining the Los Angeles Lakers.
“No (I’m not buying Ainge’s comments), and it would be idiotic not to care (about James leaving the East),” Wright said Thursday on FS1’s “First Things First.” “If LeBron wasn’t there last year, you go to the Finals. Period. Point blank.
” … LeBron has been the mountain to climb,” he added. “And the idea that it’s not an enormous relief to know now that if you were to at some point climb that mountain, that you now don’t have another mountain to climb afterwards, it’s ridiculous. He’s not telling the truth here.”
James has eliminated the Celtics from the playoffs five times in the last eight seasons — twice with the Miami Heat and three times with the Cleveland Cavaliers. That includes sending Boston packing in the Eastern Conference finals the last two seasons.
No matter how you slice it, the road to the NBA Finals in the Eastern Conference figures to be easier with James taking his talents out west. And perhaps no team benefits more from that development than the Celtics, who came one win away from knocking off the Cavs last season without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, both of whom are expected to be healthy for the start of the 2018-19 campaign.
Just don’t tell Ainge, because he doesn’t want to hear it. And who could blame him? The Celtics are in a good place, and the last thing they need is to get complacent.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images
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