Danny Ainge, the president of basketball operations for the Boston Celtics, wasn’t willing to trade one of his precious assets for Anthony Davis, and he almost certainly won’t be able to retain his own stars, Kyrie Irving and Al Horford. But his plan C, if a report from ESPN on Thursday is accurate, is still pretty good: Sign Kemba Walker and trade for Clint Capela.

Walker, 29, blossomed into one of the most reliable scorers in the NBA over his last four seasons with the Charlotte Hornets, averaging 20, 23, 22 and 25 points per game while missing five games total in that period. He was eligible for a five-year, $221 million supermax extension in Charlotte, while the Celtics can only offer four years, $141 million. But Adrian Wojnarowski, the ESPN NBA reporter, reported Thursday that the Hornets’ owner, Michael Jordan, is “no longer determined to extend far enough financially to re-sign his franchise player,” driving Walker to the Celtics.

A report that the Celtics are willing to take Capela to help the Rockets get cap space makes sense. The Athletic reported Thursday that if Jimmy Butler wants to leave the 76ers, Philadelphia is likely to help Houston complete a sign-and-trade for Butler.

Signing a max-level free agent would be almost unprecedented in Celtics history. There’s a legitimate case to be made that Al Horford – who’s expected to depart Boston as a free agent this summer – is the best player ever to choose to sign with the franchise. The only other contenders would be Gordon Hayward, who mangled his ankle and career in his first game, and Dominique Wilkins, who played one season in Boston late in his career, averaging 17 points per game.

With free agency not opening until 6 p.m. Sunday, nothing is set in stone, not even Irving departing for New York. But Wojnarowski’s report goes way out on a limb, writing that Walker is “increasingly likely to accept” a deal with Boston.

After pushing the Cavaliers to the brink in Game 7 of the 2018 Eastern Conference finals, the Celtics seemed primed to take over the East in 2018, plugging in Irving and Hayward to a near-finals team. But Hayward’s certainly broken body and Irving’s possible attitude problems – along with powerhouses emerging in Milwaukee and Toronto – turned this past season into a disaster. Irving couldn’t stop criticizing his younger teammates publicly and privately, and after an incandescent Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Bucks, was terrible on the court in four straight losses.

Losing Horford will be a major blow for Boston, who relied on the 33-year-old center heavily on both ends of the court. But slotting in Walker for Irving is about as good as Ainge could have hoped. Irving is slightly better however you look at the statistics, and a better distributor than Walker, but the Celtics are betting that Walker’s comparative stability can make up for the gap in production. Not that they have any other choice.

What makes this a full-blown plan and not just a frantic scramble to replace star power is Capela. Horford is irreplaceable on both ends and perhaps the most underrated player in the NBA; if he goes West, Sixers and Raptors fans should be pleased. But Walker and Capela would slot in very nicely next to Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and while the bench would be a little thinner without Terry Rozier, whose contract needs to go to sign Walker, that might not be a problem for the Celtics, who sometimes seemed like they had too many players last season.

The hope will have to be that Walker, who is coming to Boston voluntarily, occasionally will be willing to defer to Tatum offensively, and suffer some regular-season growing pains while Tatum and Brown develop and Hayward works his way back from injury. Irving had little say in his destination when he was traded from Cleveland, and maybe as a result was unwilling to do any of that last year.

Acquiring Capela would be a very good piece of news for the Celtics for another reason: It would mean that the Rockets think Jimmy Butler is leaving Philadelphia. Capela and Walker are a lesser combination than Horford and Irving, but not by much, and in a world where Butler leaves Philadelphia and Kawhi Leonard leaves Toronto, there’s a glimmer of a chance that it’s enough.

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