The Boston Celtics decided it was time for a change after yet another deep postseason run that ended without Banner 18.
On June 22, the Celtics agreed to send their longest-tenured player, Marcus Smart, to the Memphis Grizzlies in a three-team trade that brought Kristaps Porzingis to Boston. They went through with the blockbuster deal after a productive discussion between team owner Wyc Grousbeck, president of basketball operations Brad Stevens, and head coach Joe Mazzulla.
"The general tone was, how do we take this energy we’re feeling right now that was built up over having two good seasons but then didn’t get all the way? The whole point is, how do we get to Banner 18?" Grousbeck told The Boston Globe's Adam Himmelsbach.
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"If we’d all agreed we should keep things the same, that would have been fine. But the idea of bringing in another talented big popped up early in the conversation, and we ended up executing on that idea."
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For Grousbeck and the C's, the opportunity to add a 7-foot-3 big man coming off a career season was too good to pass up. Porzingis will give Boston a much-needed frontcourt presence as well as another premier scoring threat alongside stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
Grousbeck also is encouraged by Porzingis' attitude heading into his first season with the team.
"He is a committed and now seasoned and effective player. He’s a real force," he said of Porzingis. "I’m really impressed with his commitment to being part of a winning Celtics team. I met with him when he came up for the press conference and spent some real time with him, and he’s so happy to be here. He’s so ready to shine at this stage of his career. But he sees a team concept, not the KP show.
"He’s continually improved over his career, and he thinks this is his prime. But he’s about the team, his teammates, and the banner. He chose us. There were other people, I hear, that wanted him. And he chose us. He wants to be here and he wants to win a ring."
As excited as he was to welcome Porzingis, Grousbeck was sad to see Smart go. He made it clear the two sides will remain close off the court.
"What I remember most about Marcus is his energy and his smile," Grousbeck told Himmelsbach. "He brought so much to this team and will definitely be missed. Our friendship is going to continue. [My wife] Emilia and I are going to attend his upcoming wedding, and that’s the way he and we want it."
The Smart-Porzingis trade doesn't come without risk for Boston. While Porzingis is coming off his best statistical season, the 28-year-old has been plagued by injuries throughout his career. Last season marked his first time topping 60 games played since 2016-17.
Without Smart, the Celtics expect to start Derrick White at point guard with Malcolm Brogdon and Payton Pritchard serving as backcourt depth off the bench.