Celtics' Danny Ainge downplays idea that LeBron James leaving East makes life easier for Boston

The Western Conference has been superior to the Eastern Conference for some time now, and this offseason only saw the power balance shift even more toward the West. That's because LeBron James, the best player in the world, has moved from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency. 

While some people might be upset about the imbalance between the conferences, the teams in the East won't be complaining. For the first time since 2010, someone other than a LeBron-led team will have a chance to go to the Finals. The Boston Celtics, who lost to LeBron in the Eastern Conference finals each of the last two seasons, could be that team. However, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is downplaying the significance of LeBron leaving the conference. Via ESPN:

"What do I care about the Eastern Conference? I don't really care about that. We're trying to win championships, and you still have to play LeBron," Ainge told reporters after Boston's summer squad practiced at Palo Verde High School in Las Vegas.

"I think that there's a lot of good teams in the East that get undersold a little bit. I think Washington, and Milwaukee [is] an up-and-coming team, and Toronto was the best team in the conference last year during the regular season. I think they're a fantastic team. So the East is going to be tough."

Now, there is definitely some truth to this statement. There are indeed a number of good teams in the East, and winning a championship should be the Celtics' primary goal. 

However, this is likely a case of a team exec saying one thing publicly, but saying another privately. Obviously Ainge isn't going to come out and celebrate and call the rest of the teams in the conference bums. But inside the Celtics front office -- and similarly the front office of other top Eastern Conference teams -- they have to be excited that LeBron no longer stands in their way of getting to the Finals. 

Yes, winning a title is always a team's first goal, but it's pretty cool to get to the Finals, too. And now the Celtics, and everyone else in the conference, have a much better chance of doing that. 

NBA Writer

Jack Maloney lives and writes in Milwaukee, where, like the Bucks, he is trying to own the future. Full Bio

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