Ex-Celtic Danny Ainge Tried to Insert Jazz in Marcus Smart Trade: Report

Marcus Smart

Getty Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics

Before the Boston Celtics completed the three-way trade with Memphis and Washington that sent them Kristaps Porzingis in exchange for Marcus Smart, NBA insider Marc Stein reported that not only was former Celtics executive Danny Ainge and his current team, the Utah Jazz, interested in Porzingis had he hit free agency, but that they were also interested in being a third-team facilitator of the trade.

“I’ve … heard that Utah’s interest in pursuing Porziņģis in free agency was even stronger than initially believed, with the Jazz A) said to be preparing an offer in free agency for the 7-foot-3 Latvian expected to exceed the total compensation the Celtics can provide him and B) also expressing interest in serving as the third team in the trade that ultimately sent Marcus Smart to Memphis but returned two future first-round picks as well as Porziņģis for Boston,” Stein wrote on his Substack on June 26.

Ainge, of course, spent eight years with the Celtics as a player and another 18 years running the team’s front office before he departed in 2021, shortly before taking over the Jazz’s operations.  He was replaced by Brad Stevens, whom he had hired as the team’s head coach in 2013.

Kristaps Porzingis Preferred Celtics & Wants to Re-Sign

Stein reported that Porzingis preferred opting into his deal to grant the trade to the Celtics.

“League sources reiterated over the weekend that Boston was Porziņģis’ preferred destination, prompting him to pick up next season’s $36 million player option before Wednesday’s midnight ET deadline to ensure that the trade would go through.”

He added that Porzingis is eligible for an extension that he and the Celtics are likely to agree to.

“The Celtics will be eligible in July to offer Porziņģis a two-year extension worth up to $77 million and, as I’ve been reporting since Wednesday, there is a strong expectation in circulation already that Boston will indeed extend him.”

At 27 years old, Porzingis fits the same timeline as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Not only that, but he is also arguably the most offensively talented center the two of them have ever played with in their NBA careers.

Marcus Smart Trade May Have Come Down to Derrick White

On the June 23 episode of “Off the Pike with Brian Barrett,” Bill Simmons said that because of Smart’s reputation with the Celtics made it harder for them to cut his minutes down.

“I think Marcus has been on the team for nine years and felt like it was his team,” Simmons said. “It was him and Tatum and Brown. It was the big three, and he had an outsized voice in the locker room, on the court. I think it was really tough to bench him.”

That proved to be inconvenient for the team, as playing Smart led to the Celtics putting Derrick White on the bench, which Simmons believed to be unwise, as well as what led to the Celtics trading Smart away.

“I think it became a real thing where (Smart) was being treated like he was Tatum or Brown. Meanwhile, White was the better guard the whole year unquestionably, so maybe that was a piece of it. I just feel like, eh, this is awkward. Maybe we gotta just fix this.”