Celtics Were ‘Not Very Close’ to Dealing for Magic Stars at Trade Deadline: Report

Nikola Vucevic Magic Celtics

Getty Orlando Magic star Nikola Vucevic is defended by Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics.

Given their failure to even approach living up to their lofty expectations this season, the Boston Celtics entered the NBA trade deadline with an air of desperation. Pandemic-related issues aside, the Celtics have scuffled this season and roster upgrades had become an absolute necessity.

In the end, Celtics GM Danny Ainge’s big move was to acquire sharpshooter Evan Fournier from the Orlando Magic. And while Fournier was in the midst of a career year, his move to Beantown lacked a certain sizzle that the Celtics faithful had been yearning for.

Especially with Boston having been linked to Orlando’s star big men — Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon — who were dealt to the Chicago Bulls and Denver Nuggets, respectively.

In the wake of what some might call an uninspiring deadline, Ainge’s inability to pry either player from the Magic begs the question — were he and the Celtics ever close to acquiring Vucevic or Gordon?

Apparently, the answer there is a big, fat no.

Celtics Reportedly Weren’t Close to Getting Gordon, Vucevic

The Athletic’s Magic insider Josh Robbins joined A. Sherrod Blakely and Kwani A. Lunis on an episode of CLNS’ “A-List” podcast this week and was asked if the Celtics were ever close to getting a deal done for either player. He didn’t pull any punches with his answer.

“I suspect they were not very close on either Nik Vucevic or Aaron Gordon, he said.

On the day of the trade deadline, Gordon-to-Boston chatter had reached critical mass. The young, playmaking big man was even reported to have preferred a move to the Celtics. However, Ainge apparently never came close to matching the Nuggets’ offer.

“Denver had a better package of existing players than Boston offered, that’s my understanding,” said Robbins. “Probably because of the inclusion of RJ Hampton, who is potentially a high-ceiling guard in the first year of a rookie-scale contract.”

In Vucevic’s case, it was simply a matter of draft considerations.

“As for Vuc, I think the key there are the two incoming first-round picks and also Chicago’s willingness to take on Al-Farouq Aminu’s final year of his contract,” Robbins said. “The reality is that Boston most likely fare much better both in this year and then two years from now and would have conveyed a much worse first-round pick than Chicago is likely to convey”

“So, I don’t think Boston came very close in either Vucevic or Gordon’s case,” he concluded.

As a result, Fournier became the big trade-deadline haul for Ainge.

Boston Winless Since the Fournier Trade

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Before making his debut in Celtics green earlier this week, Fournier had indicated that he was open to playing in whatever way is needed to help his new team win. He even alluded to filling the role once held down by Gordon Hayward.

At this point, though, the Celtics probably just want him to play better.

In his first game with the club, Fournier went scoreless on 0-for-10 shooting in a six-point home loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. He played better on Wednesday against the Dallas Mavericks, hitting three of his six shot attempts, but he still scored just six points and the Cs lost once again.

Clearly, that’s a far cry from the 20-point scoring average and nearly 39-percent shooting from distance Fournier logged as a member of the Magic this season.

He will have another shot to shake his slump on Friday against the Houston Rockets.

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