Jaylen Brown’s trading issue for Kevin Durant

“But this is Kevin Durant. “

That line from Shams Charania’s report on The Athletic, which suggested that the Boston Celtics offered Jaylen Brown as the cornerstone of a deal for the Brooklyn Nets star, is a common refrain in analyzing the value of a one-time league’s best player. In the vacuum, Durant is better than Brown and might have meant the difference between losing the NBA Finals six games to the Golden State Warriors and the Celtics’ 18th championship.

Of course Boston should gauge Brooklyn’s interest in Brown, because This is DurantGo think.

The goal of the game is to win trophies, after all. Only, basketball is not played in a vacuum, and not all titles carry the same weight. Putting Brown aside for Durant is a far cry from the no-brainer this streak suggests, and the show itself may have cost the Celtics the best kind of title — growing up locally through adversity.

Brown didn’t seem too happy on Monday, when he woke up to find his name linked to Durant in reports from Charania and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The former reported a Celtics presentation of Brown and Derek White and a draft selection for Durant. The Nets reportedly rejected this proposal, faced with a bold request from Brown, Marcus Smart, multiple choices and “and possibly another rotation player”. Brown shook his head.

The show may be weeks old, like Assume Brian Windhurst of ESPNAll indications are that the Celtics aren’t even close to the Miami Heat, the Toronto Raptors and others in discussions of a sleepy Durant, but the chemical mess they leave behind could take some time to reconcile, if it can be cleaned up at all.

The Celtics took out the Browns from shows by Jimmy Butler and Paul George in 2017, and Cowhie Leonard in 2019. He was the subject of rumors last February, telling Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, “The trade talk was loud, and most of it came from Boston fans.” Brown understands business. He is the vice president of the National Basketball Players Association. He might not hold this show against the Celtics, if they don’t meet the exorbitant price Brooklyn is asking, but he might take it personally.

This is the same player who said in 2017, when the Eastern Conference Finals wrapped up in Boston, “It changes the whole dynamic, the whole culture. We’ll see if it’s good or bad, time will tell. It’s still a bit weird to me, to be honest, Because when I went into everything they confirmed it was the culture, the environment, Celtic basketball. Now what is the environment, the culture, what is Celtic basketball?”

He beat that realization to reach three more conference finals alongside Jason Tatum, but in between each is a reminder of how meticulous the team dynamics can be. The return of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward from injury disrupted a young Boston chemistry core that had been built without them en route to the 2018 Conference Finals. Irving and Al Horford fled after being knocked out in the second round a year later. The Celtics returned to the 2020 conference finals, before a “heated confrontation” between Brown and Smart split the locker room.

Chemistry concerns followed throughout the 2020-21 season, when veteran goalkeeper Kemba Walker was still at the helm of attack. It wasn’t until last season, when the Celtics entrusted their young core with competition, that Brown, Smart and Tatum found common ground, and even then it took months of peaks between them to forge an identity. Some teams never discover their teams, some have a low ceiling, but this team came within five minutes of leading 3-1 into the finals and potentially winning the title.

Tranquility stood between them and glory. They are here now, as contenders for the 2023 Championship without Durant, the hard way. Brown and Tatum arrived in Boston where the draft footage was received in the trade of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. Smart was the franchise’s only lottery season result since dealing with its most recent title team stars. Fans have invested a decade in their growth. Every stunning defeat, every last-second victory, every heartbreaking loss, every comeback victory, the Celtics made them pure and simple.

Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant asked for a deal, and his Boston Celtics counterpart, Jaylen Brown, was the focus of the NBA’s best showing. (Wendell Cruz/USA Today Sports)

These aren’t the Celtics 24 wins in 2006-07, who were Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen apart from the competition. Boston could win with the current form, and that would be more satisfying than winning with Durant.

“I feel really good about what this group can accomplish,” said Celtics Chief of Basketball Operations. Brad Stevens told Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston Last week, before reports emerged about Durant.

You can’t tell me that the 2020 Los Angeles Lakers Championship in the bubble meant a lot to their fans, who spent years slandering LeBron James before Anthony Davis introduced Episode 17 in a two-year span, as well as the 2021 and 2022 titles for fans of the Milwaukee Bucks and Golden State Warriors.

Days before the Bucks won for the first time in 50 years, Giannis Anticonmo told Chris Middleton, “The day you retire will be the hardest day of my career, because I’ve been with you the whole time, and it’s been an incredible journey.” These are the things there. That’s all you want from being a fan.

It is everything a player should also ideally want.

“You get goosebumps just thinking about all those snaps and loops we’ve been through to get back here, individually and collectively,” said Warriors star Stephen Curry after winning again alongside Klay Thompson and Draymond Green – and without Durant. “That’s why I said I think this tournament is different. That’s why I have so many feelings, and I still am, just because of what it takes to come back here.”

And it looks like the Celtics are willing to trade that in for slightly better odds of winning a championship in the next couple of years. There is still no guarantee that Durant will win a title. He will turn 34 at the start of next season. He has missed 64 games with left leg injuries in the two years since he ruptured his right Achilles tendon. The Celtics just had their worst playoff game since 2010.

Durant is a mercenary. At best, championship with the Celtics results in less achievement for him and Tatum. At worst, Durant’s arrival as Alpha disrupts Tatum’s development, fractures relationships, and Durant seeks his next step before completing a four-year deal, all leading to Tatum’s free agency for 2025.

The other side can also be true. The Celtics may be convinced Brown won’t re-sign when he becomes a free agent in 2024, and Durant’s deal could be a precaution to ensure he grabs that window before an inevitable breakup. This is not what any fan wants to believe. They like to think that players care as much about their collective promotion to the Championship as they do, but that’s not always a player’s priority.

It may also be difficult for Brown to reject a Supermax contract extension from the Celtics if he becomes eligible for a contract next year, which is possible if they win 60. They have to get there first, and that may require some fencing in the wake of recent business discussions.

Both Brown and Durant must understand: All it takes is one unhappy star (*cough* Keri Irving *cough*) to derail the favorite title, and everything could break from there. Where’s the fan when everything collapses? Their team isn’t winning, and perhaps even less selective, desperate to craft two more stars for the long road back into the competition.

The future is uncertain. The improved odds that come with Durant are a safeguard against that uncertainty, if winning is all that really matters, but at what cost does everyone’s appreciation of their accomplishments cost?

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Ben Rohrbach is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Do you have a tip? Email him to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter! Follow @brohrbach

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