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Detroit Pistons v Boston Celtics, Game 2 Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The Boston Celtics’ nightmare season continues apace ... even though the season is over! It has become unanimously reported that Kyrie Irving plans to leave the C’s for the Brooklyn Nets when free agency officially begins June 30; this is the worst kept secret in basketball. Then, on Tuesday, word broke that Al Horford will opt out of his $30 million contract for 2019-20 ... and not re-sign with Boston, with whom he has reached an impasse.

Apparently, Horford and the Celtics are at loggerheads over the size of his next contract. Some reporters are suggesting Horford has a lucrative long-term deal from another team just sitting out there, waiting to be announced on June 30. If so, Boston is poised to lose its two best veteran players after a disappointing 2018-19 season in which the Celtics — expected to compete for a spot in the Finals — were laughed out of the second round.

And all this after their eternal rival, the Los Angeles Lakers, successfully traded for Anthony Davis, a player that Celtics have been chasing since essentially his draft night. In the process of that trade happening, Davis’s agent declared that the superstar wouldn’t re-sign in Boston if the Celtics pulled off a trade for him.

This is not how any of this was supposed to go for Boston, not for a franchise with an unimpeachable record of success, a top general manager, a top coach, and a smart rebuild plan. Back to the ol’ drawing board.

The Trojan Horse is out of the Barnes

The other notable player option news from Tuesday is that Harrison Barnes has opted out of his $25 million deal with the Kings to hit free agency. This led to some good laughs, apparently, because the idea that Harrison Barnes is worth more than $25 million per season is funny to many. I’ll admit: it is a little funny. But also, in this market, at the rate free agents will be going for and considering just how much cap space is sitting out there ... well yeah, Harrison Barnes is going to get an enormous contract.

The Barnes discourse is beside the point, though, because — as has been rumored since the Kings traded for Barnes in February — odds are that this was all planned out by Barnes and Sacramento so that the Kings can give him a very large long-term deal this summer using all that cap space they have. The trade — Sacramento sent Justin Jackson and Zach Randolph to the Mavericks, not a whole lot of outgoing value — was seen as pre-agency, a way for the Kings to ensure they added talent using cap space. To make that work, Barnes has to decline the option and sign a long-term deal.

Whether it’s a good idea for the Kings to commit something around a fifth of the salary cap to Barnes for the next four years is another question entirely. But this doesn’t likely mean that Barnes is out there looking for a $100 million deal on the open market. He probably already has one sitting on a desk with a pen from the Kings, waiting for free agency to officially start.


Ricky O’Donnell has a new NBA mock draft on the eve of the derby. There is growing intrigue around the No. 3 pick! It has been assumed the Knicks would take R.J. Barrett there, but it sounds like Darius Garland, the Vanderbilt point guard, is now in play. INTRIGUE! Here’s Ricky on Jarrett Culver, the draft’s most versatile prospect after Zion Williamson.

Paul Flannery peels apart the layers of the Anthony Davis trade onion.

Michael Pina on how amazing a fit LeBron and Anthony Davis are.

The Lakers are trying hard to open up a max slot after determining that they don’t have one.

If you’re a subscriber, this TrueHoop piece by Henry Abbott on the Lakers working without a net is really great.

Barrett is ready to take center stage.

A reminder that the Lakers have been dreadful for years and still print money. There was no run on season tickets after the Davis trade because there aren’t actually a bunch of season tickets available.

Fascinating history piece by Kelly Dwyer on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s trade demands.

Did the Raptors actually take a risk in trading for Kawhi Leonard?

Kristian Winfield writes the Rockets went championship or bust, and this is what bust looks like. Vincent Goodwill published a piece on Tuesday reinforcing that Chris Paul and James Harden basically hate each others’ guts.

The Wizards won’t have their new general manager before free agency begins (wow) and franchisee Ted Leonsis shoots down the Masai Ujiri reports, which means one of two things: either Ujiri’s agent floated that to get his client a raise from the Raptors, or the Wizards are embarrassed Ujiri wouldn’t even pick up the phone and are covering their tracks.

Kevin Arnovitz has an intriguing thought replicating the medical school match system with draft. As you know, my preference is to let rookies pick where they want to play in a a highly regulated rookie free agency system. But a match system is highly intriguing and would allow the NBA to replicate a televised special announcing the matches.

Natasha Howard as one of the most improbable WNBA MVP candidates in history.

Alex Wong, one of my favorite basketball writers, on one of my favorite basketball subjects: Jeremy Lin, NBA champion.

Tom Haberstroh on whether teams are getting worse at the NBA Draft.

Androgynous fashion is in, and WNBA players are embracing it.

If you’re a subscriber to The Athletic, this is a very nice piece by Lyndsey D’Arcangelo on the 20-year friendship of Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi.

Be excellent to each other.