The Celtics and Clippers have relaunched discussions on a new trade framework that could bring a resolution to the complicated talks regarding coach Doc Rivers and star forward Kevin Garnett potentially going to Los Angeles in a multiplayer deal, according to sources close to the process.
With the Clippers adamant that prized young guard Eric Bledsoe will not be included in a trade for Garnett, sources told ESPN.com that one proposed tweak to end the weekend stalemate in the talks is the prospect of the Clippers taking back the contract of either Courtney Lee or Jason Terry from the Celtics.
Shedding the long-term money owed to either Lee or Terry, sources said, could persuade the Celtics to relent on their demand that Bledsoe be included in the trade. A deal could be completed later Monday or by Tuesday, sources said.
The proposed cross-country move of Rivers from the Celtics’ bench to the Clippers’ bench was in limbo all weekend because of the teams’ ongoing haggling over Bledsoe. Sources told ESPN.com that the Celtics initially were adamant that they will not consent to allow Rivers out of the final three years and $21 million on his contract unless they receive both Bledsoe and Clippers center DeAndre Jordan in a corresponding trade for Garnett, along with at least one future first-round draft pick as compensation for Rivers.
Yet sources say that the Clippers have made it clear to Boston that they will not include Bledsoe in the proposed trade for Garnett, largely because they are determined to keep Chris Paul’s backup to headline a separate down-the-road trade once they’re certain that Paul has committed his long-term future to L.A.
If the Celtics ultimately consent to a trade without Bledsoe, their expected haul for Rivers and Garnett would be headlined by Jordan, at least one first-round draft choice, Caron Butler’s $8 million expiring contract and the ability to shed the long-term salary due either Lee or Terry. Lee has three years left on his contract valued at $14.4 million; Terry is scheduled to earn nearly $11 million over the next two seasons. It’s also possible, sources said, that the Celtics will try to extract another trade asset from the Clippers to replace Bledsoe.
The Clippers, meanwhile, believe that the deal will guarantee that Paul re-signs with the team when he becomes a free agent July 1. And if they can successfully acquire Garnett in tandem with Rivers as their replacement for coach Vinny Del Negro, sources briefed on L.A.’s thinking say that the club would then pursue Paul Pierce in an attempt to reunite all three Celtics mainstays at the Staples Center. The Clippers would also then still have Bledsoe in the latter scenario as a trade chip to pursue additional roster upgrades to ensure Paul’s signature on a new contract.
If neither side budges soon, sources close to the situation expect the Clippers to change course by Tuesday or Wednesday and name either Lionel Hollins or Brian Shaw as their new coach, which would end L.A.’s complicated courtship of Rivers and force him to decide whether to return to the Celtics next season — as Boston president of basketball operations Danny Ainge still hopes — or leave the game to either return to broadcasting or simply recharge away from it.
Sources say Hollins has emerged as the Clippers’ preferred choice if they don’t land Rivers.