Celtics President Brad Stevens Issues Emotional Statement on Marcus Smart Trade

Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics

Getty Marcus Smart, formerly of the Boston Celtics.

The Boston Celtics traded longtime guard Marcus Smart to the Memphis Grizzlies in a multi-team blockbuster that, ultimately, landed former All-Star big man Kristaps Porzingis in Boston.

During a June 22 press conference, president of basketball operations Brad Stevens held back his emotions as he addressed the transaction, providing a heartfelt analysis of the impact that Smart had on the organization throughout his nine-year tenure.

“As I told him, when he got here we were 25-57 the year before,” Stevens said. “The greatest legacy that you can leave is to be someplace and it’s better off because you were there, and I think everybody here feels that way. He will always be appreciated and thought of so fondly here for any number of reasons… We’re all really grateful to have had Marcus in our life for as long as we have.”

Stevens said Smart, 29, was going to have “a huge impact on that really good Memphis team.” And he appeared to choke up when he said the decision to trade him was “hard.”

As difficult as the decision might have been for the Celtics — and as tough as it might be for the Boston fan base, at least one pundit suggested the time was right for such a move.

“Ultimately, this version of the Celtics team was at a crossroads after an ugly finish to the East Finals,” MassLive’s Brian Robb wrote. “With Stevens racing against the clock to maximize Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown’s window together before their supermax contracts kick in, there was a finite period to ‘shake things up’ among the supporting cast. Wait one more year and the Celtics had very limited flexibility under the CBA and might have been stuck with Smart’s value declining.”

Marcus Smart ‘Completely Shocked’ by Celtics Trade

Smart himself “was completely shocked” by the news and “is still trying to process it,” according to Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe.

“Marcus loves Boston. He thought he was going to retire there. He wanted to retire there,” Himmelsbach tweeted on June 22.

Selected sixth overall by the Celtics in the 2014 NBA draft, Smart has molded himself into one of the league’s premier defenders, earning All-Defensive Team honors three times and becoming in 2022 the first guard since Gary Payton in 1996 to win the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award. He finished his career in Boston with per-game averages of 10.6 points, 4.6 assists, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.6 steals.

He also became “the heart and soul” of the Celtics, according to The Sporting News, whose Stephen Noe wrote on June 23, “It’s impossible to say what kind of effect it will have on their delicate team chemistry given all of the intangibles, vocal leadership, and energy that Smart brought.”

Stevens said he got a chance to visit with Smart in person on June 22, according to NESN’s Mike Cole.

“It’s just, you’re not going to be around a guy that you like every day, but you’ll always have the relationship that these teammates have, these coaches have and everybody in the building and organization have, and that will be forever,” Stevens said, according to Cole. “Then when you go to a new place, you build a whole new one, and your network doubles. that’s just kind of the way it works.”

Celtics Expected to Make More Moves

The Celtics may not be done making moves this offseason.

According to Heavy Sports NBA insider Steve Bulpett, many across the association are of the belief that the Porzingis blockbuster may just be the beginning of what could turn into a rather active offseason for the Celtics.

“As much as we feel a need to make assessments in the wake of the Marcus Smart/Kristaps Porzingis/and-don’t-forget-the-draft-picks trade, there is the strong belief around the NBA that Brad Stevens isn’t done reshaping the roster,” Bulpett wrote.

With their frontcourt depth now bolstered as a result of the arrival of Porzingis, the Celtics could feasibly consider pursuing more backcourt talents considering the departure of Smart and the concerning health of Malcolm Brogdon.