Boston Celtics

Nesmith revenge series? How ex-Celtic could make an impact in ECF

The Pacers wing consistently gets up to play his former team.

NBC Universal, Inc.

The date is Oct. 28, 2023, and Aaron Nesmith has just dropped a career-high 26 points to power the Indiana Pacers to an early-season win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

But Nesmith doesn't have the Pacers or Cavs on his mind. He's thinking back to his July 2022 trade from Boston to Indiana, when the Celtics dealt him along with Daniel Theis, Malik Fitts, Juwan Morgan, Nik Stauskas and a 2023 first-round pick to land veteran guard Malcolm Brogdon.

And he's pulling out the receipts on Bleacher Report, which at the time of the trade posted a meme of SpongeBob Squarepants holding out a paper clip and a loose piece of string with the caption, "What the Celtics gave up for Brogdon."

"S--- aged well ain't it," Nesmith boasted on that October night via his Instagram story.

Fast forward to Jan. 8, 2024, when Nesmith racks up 17 points on 6 of 10 shooting to help the Pacers overcome Tyrese Haliburton's injury and beat the Celtics at home. And again to Jan. 30, when Nesmith ties his career high with a 26-point, 12-rebound, seven-assist effort against his former team in the Pacers' narrow loss to the Celtics.

That's all to say Nesmith is plenty motivated to stick it to the C's for trading him back in 2022. And now he'll have an entire series to do it.

While Haliburton, Pascal Siakam and Myles Turner will generate a majority of the attention in Indiana's Eastern Conference Finals matchup with Boston that begins Tuesday at TD Garden, the Celtics should overestimate Nesmith at their own peril.

After failing to make an impact in Boston as a 2020 first-round pick (14th overall) relegated to the bench on a talented roster, the 24-year-old is thriving in Indiana as an energy-injecting starter who plays with a relentless motor on both ends of the floor.

"I can see that he worked hard and played hard just looking for his opportunity, his chance, and he's gotten it here in Indiana. I'm happy for him," Celtics guard Derrick White said of Nesmith on Monday.

"He just goes out there and competes his tail off for every minute he's out there. It's definitely going to be a challenge just to match that energy."

Nesmith brought plenty of hustle in Boston but struggled on offense, shooting just 41.7 percent from the floor and 31.8 percent from 3-point range while averaging 4.2 points per game. He's leveled up considerably in the Pacers' fast-paced attack, however: He's one of seven Indiana players averaging double digits this postseason (10.5 points per game) and dropped 19 points on a perfect 8-for-8 shooting in the Pacers' Game 7 win over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

"Super proud of Aaron for his growth," Celtics wing Jaylen Brown said Monday. "Seems like he's found himself in the league. I remember we used to work out together, me, him and (Celtics head coach) Joe (Mazzulla), over here on one of the side baskets. So, I'm proud of his growth and what he's been able to do."

Nesmith could see plenty of Brown this series as arguably Indiana's best perimeter defender. History suggests he'll relish in that matchup, as well as the opportunity to deliver a shocking upset to the team that drafted him.

Haliburton is the head of the snake for Indiana and should garner the most of the Celtics' attention of the next four-to-seven games. But don't be surprised of Nesmith finds a way to leave his imprint on this series, either with timely offense or hustle plays that earned him the "Crash" nickname in Boston.

Contact Us