BOSTON — When the Boston Celtics pulled off one of the great trade heists in NBA history in 2013, it would have been silly to envision the C’s getting three lottery picks out of the four selections/pick swaps acquired from the Brooklyn Nets.
The Nets looked poised to be a championship contender for several seasons after adding Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to a roster that already included All-Star point guard Deron Williams.
But the Nets never made it past the second round of the playoffs and shifted course after the 2014-15 season, trading off assets and plummeting to the bottom of the league standings.
“I don’t think anyone really knew what the value of those picks were going to be,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Tuesday night before Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals. “Nobody could have guessed that at that time. Certainly would’ve never guessed that they were what they were. When that trade was made, for every reason, Brooklyn was stacked and it looked like they were going to go on a run that year and multiple years.
“Again, we talked about the fortune (we’ve enjoyed), but my decision (to join the Celtics) was totally based on the tradition and history, combined with the ownership and front office leadership and commitment to the process of growth that we want to bring every day.”
The Nets picks turned into the No. 17 selection in 2014 (James Young), the No. 3 pick in 2016 (Jaylen Brown) and the No. 3 pick in 2017 (Jayson Tatum). Boston used Brooklyn’s 2018 first-rounder to acquire superstar point guard Kyrie Irving via trade.
The Celtics, thanks to the Nets’ incompetence and a bit of luck, built a championship core without having to tank. It certainly was a unique situation created by Ainge, who Stevens praised Tuesday.
“It’s amazing,” Stevens said. “I’ve told this story before. Doc (Rivers) left on a Tuesday and Danny and I started talking about coming here. (Ainge) goes ‘let’s talk on Friday, I’m going to be pretty busy tomorrow.’ Then I see across the screen the trade for Garnett, Pierce and Terry to the Nets. And then, four days later I’m kinda looking at it like (jokingly) ‘I’m not sure that I wanted to do this.’ He was great then, and all of his vision and our ownership’s vision just kinda came to fruition. I think we all recognize there was a great deal of luck involved in it. But I also know he has been incredibly measured every step of the way. It’s been unbelievable to be in the room and watch.”
The Celtics are hoping two of the players acquired in the Nets trade, Brown and Tatum, help continue their march toward the NBA Finals.
Boston enters Tuesday night’s Game 2 at TD Garden up 1-0 in their conference finals series against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
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