In the 2018 NBA postseason, the Boston Celtics captured the attention of the NBA and fans by coming within one win of an Eastern Conference championship. The Celtics lost game seven of the conference finals to LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers, which was Boston’s only 2018 postseason loss at home. Due to the absences of star guards Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, as well as center Daniel Theis, the Celtics were expected to give way to the Cavs without such a fight, but 21-year-old Jaylen Brown and 20-year-old Jayson Tatum emerged in their places as young stars. However, James beat the Celtics in the postseason for the second year in a row, and fifth time in his career. LeBron’s success versus the Celtics over time strikes Boston sports fans with a long-standing hatred for the great player.
After fourteen years in the NBA and two stints with the Cavaliers, the basketball world is dying to know what is next for free-agent LeBron James. After needing to win four of the last five games of the series to defeat the injured and inexperienced Boston Celtics, James’ Cavs were easily swept in the finals by the Golden State Warrior dynasty. James’ performance this postseason took his legacy to another level, practically carrying the team single-handedly to the Eastern Conference championship.
In the 2018 playoffs, James led the NBA in minutes per game (41.9) and points per game (34.0), while shooting at a .539 field goal percentage on 23.2 field goal attempts per game. James did everything he could to get his teammates to support him, posting a playoff career high of 9.0 assists per game, while also averaging 9.1 rebounds per game. This might have been the most complete postseason of James’ career, whose teammates shot a combined .415 field goal percentage throughout the playoffs.
After last time LeBron left Cleveland as a free agent, he left many fans distraught from the cold, callous way he skipped town. This offseason, nobody will blame the 33-year-old legend for finding a more competitive supporting cast in a new city.
So far, the most likely destination has been forecast by oddsmakers to be either the Los Angeles Lakers or Houston Rockets. If LeBron stays in the East, bets have been hedged towards the Philadelphia 76ers, or perhaps, one more year in Cleveland, if the team can provide a stronger team around James. But then, next in the East, as predicted by oddsmakers, is… Boston?
How did this laughable idea actually become a discussion worth having?
This postseason, the Celtics demonstrated that they have the most complete roster in the Eastern Conference. After many gave that edge to Philadelphia, the two teams met in the conference semifinals, where the Celtics made quick work of the Sixers, advancing after five games. Finally, the Celtics’ took a two game lead against the Cavaliers and pressed them to seven games, showcasing tremendous defense and a deep, young rotation led by coach Brad Stevens. This performance vaulted Boston to its position as the most attractive free-agent destination in the Eastern Conference.
However, the logistics of bringing James to Boston would be very difficult. First, the notion of cheering for James in a Boston uniform has many fans afraid of selling their soul to the devil. Such a U-turn in allegiance might be unprecedented in Boston sports fandom. If New York could once make Babe Ruth theirs, then Boston could similarly move forward, too… couldn’t they?
Second, the Celtics would probably have to move Irving to accommodate James. Irving came to Boston after requesting the Cavaliers trade him to escape the culture built around James in Cleveland. The days of LeBron and Kyrie playing together are about as finished as the days of Shaq and Kobe came to be.
The best move the Celtics could probably make is to invest in young role players or draft picks by trading Hayward. But, the unlikely scenario of Irving and James together leaves Irving as the potential trade asset. If the Celtics are able to sign LeBron, trading Irving might yield the higher possible return of draft capital.
Overall, the sight of James in a Celtics uniform always seemed only possible on PlayStation. The presence of “MVP” chants for LeBron at the TD Garden were never anything a Celtics fan ever wanted to hear. But now, after the way the 2018 postseason played out, Kevin Garnett really was right when he taught Boston that, “Anything is possible”.