The Boston Celtics’ downfall this season might’ve started long before they dug themselves a 3-0 hole against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals.
Jaylen Brown was excellent for most of the regular season, earning All-NBA Second Team honors, but he struggled in the playoffs, with his most disappointing performance coming Monday night in Boston’s awful Game 7 loss to Miami at TD Garden. And Bill Simmons couldn’t help but wonder whether the Celtics dropped the ball last offseason when Brown’s name was kicked around in trade rumors regarding Kevin Durant.
“I think the biggest mistake this team made was the KD stuff,” Simmons said on “The Bill Simmons Podcast,” as transcribed by Basketball Network. “I just think you’d come out and you’d say, ‘We’re not splitting up this team. We’re gonna build around these two guys. If you read any trade rumor about (Jayson) Tatum or Brown, don’t believe it. These are our guys.’ And they didn’t do it, which makes me think they probably talked to the (Brooklyn) Nets a little bit about Durant and Jaylen Brown, and the Nets leaked it immediately.”
It’s a little reckless to draw a straight line from Brown’s inclusion in the Durant trade rumors to the Celtics’ season-ending loss. Again, Brown was mostly awesome before the playoffs. And so were the Celtics, who secured the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference before taking down the Atlanta Hawks and the Philadelphia 76ers in the postseason to secure a date with the Heat.
But one certainly could argue Boston didn’t do itself any favors by not immediately extinguishing the flames. Or, with Brown now eligible for a $295 million contract extension on the heels of the Celtics’ elimination, it’s even fair to wonder whether Brad Stevens and company should’ve pulled the trigger on flipping the 26-year-old for Durant, whom the Brooklyn Nets ultimately traded to the Phoenix Suns in February.
There was a ton of debate last offseason, after the Celtics lost to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, whether Boston needed to revamp its roster, an effort that hypothetically could’ve included a Brown-Durant trade. Now, with Boston again falling short of its championship goal and Brown in line for a huge payday, those discussions are only going to grow more intense, albeit with a KD acquisition seemingly off the table.