ORLANDO, Fla. -- Hired in early July last year, this is -- for all intents and purposes -- Brad Stevens' first real trip through NBA free agency. Given all the drama surrounding LeBron James and some of the league's top available names, Stevens was asked his impressions of the process.
"As far as watching free agency, it’s hilarious," said Stevens. "Is that the best way to put it? I just sit back and enjoy it."
Yes, most of the league appears in a holding pattern until the likes of James decide where they'll be playing next season.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge even needled reporters about the breathless minute-by-minute reports about all things free agency lately.
"I see every one of you [reporters] following your Twitter nonstop trying to follow everything going on in free agency," said Ainge. "I haven’t really been worried that much about it. That’s going to work out. We just focus on what we need to do and try to get the Boston Celtics better."
Ainge and the Celtics completed a three-team swap on Wednesday with the Brooklyn Nets and Cleveland Cavaliers that brought back center Tyler Zeller, guard Marcus Thornton, and Cleveland's 2016 first-round pick (top-10 protected). Ainge is intrigued by whether Cleveland can lure James with the cap space it created as part of the move.
"Who knows what’s going to happen with Cleveland?" said Ainge. "It could end up being a good deal for them. We’re all waiting to see what’s going on with their cap space. I wish I was in their position."
Ainge was asked how James' potentially swapping teams might change the complexion of the Eastern Conference.
"I don’t know, it depends -- you mean shifting from one city to another in the Eastern Conference?" asked Ainge. "Wherever LeBron goes, the team is a contender. That’s how good a player he is."
Ainge, who got Heat president Pat Riley a little riled up last year, was asked if he'd take any pleasure in seeing a rival squad lose the NBA's biggest star.
"No, I don’t take any pleasure in anyone’s pain," said Ainge. "I know this is a tough business [with] free agency and it's all part of what we all go through. I certainly don’t take any joy in seeing great players leave organizations that have been good to them."
Stevens said his focus is on coaching the team and he simply offers advice when Ainge and his staff seek it. The 37-year-old coach finds the free-agency process -- and all the whispers that come with it -- entertaining.
"This is unique because when you draft somebody, you choose them, they play on your team," said Stevens. "Free agency is more like college. It’s more like college recruitment and those types of things. But there’s still a lot of things that you can’t do just because we’re all tied by whatever our salary cap restraints are, our roster restraints, if we have positional needs or don’t -- all those different things. I’m probably not as caught up in all the talk, but again, it’s fairly entertaining to pay attention to."