Celtics in a talent contest with Lakers - competition heating up!

Here we go again. Danny Ainge and Magic Johnson battled for the NBA Title in the 1980's, and they are in another type of battle as I write this.

The Celtics, with Danny at the helm, have assembled a very strong contender for NBA supremacy in the near future and may not be done bringing in more talent. The Lakers, under Magic Johnson, have made some solid moves of late and are now under pressure to entice a superstar or two to come to Los Angeles.

Magic seems confident he can bring in the necessary players to make LA a true contender. Here is Johnson's statement on the issue (per NBA.com's Joey Ramirez):

“You know how many Finals I’ve been in?” the President of Basketball Operations asked. “You think I’m worried about this? I’ve played against Larry Bird in the Finals. Come on, man. I’ve been in nine Finals. I’ve been in the college NCAA championship.”

“I’m Magic Johnson. I’m still the same dude.”

In effect, Magic is saying that his success as a player translates to great success as Lakers exec. That doesn't work all the time. Nonetheless, Magic and the Lakers are active in the quest for Lebron James, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

It becomes a chicken-and-the-egg, cart-before-the-horse kind of thing. I doubt Lebron would go to LA alone. He would want another star in place prior to going there. At the moment, the Spurs Kawhi Leonard is in the conversation.

There are a number of teams in the Kawhi sweepstakes, and the Celtics are one of them. Word is that Ainge made an offer to the Spurs that was turned down. Solid information relative to what Celtics players were involved has yet to leak out.

To complicate matters, Paul George has just announced that he will be not be opting in to the final year of his contract with the Thunder and will become an unrestricted free agent. George, like Leonard, has verbally expressed his desire to end up with the Lakers but he is still considering returning to Oklahoma City, in addition to other options.

Gregg Popovich will obviously try to avoid sending Kawhi to a Western Conference rival unless the deal is too good to pass up. That gives Ainge a slight edge, but apparently the trade package Danny offered was not sufficient (at the time). There will definitely be a tug-of-war soon, and the major question comes down to what happens first.

Lebron will bide his time and wait for Leonard and/or George to land somewhere and then make his decision. The Golden State Warriors still have a powerhouse to overcome for any other team to take the Title, and that will require a veteran, seasoned, talented group firing on all cylinders. Magic Johnson is no longer in the back-court leading his team to victory, He is in the front office and he is matched up against one of the best I have ever seen. Danny Ainge may not get the first shot off, but he may very well walk away the winner. Did I mention he is one of the best I have ever seen?

Follow Tom at @TomLaneHC

Photo via Dick Raphael/NBAE via Getty Images