The shocking trade that sent Marcus Smart from the Celtics to the Grizzlies seemed like it came together in an instant. But in reality, it was a long time in the making.
The deal, of course, nearly didn’t happen on June 28, when the Celtics’ initial plans to acquire Kristaps Porzingis that included Malcolm Brogdon, not Smart, broke down. About 90 minutes later, the Celtics pivoted to trade Smart to the Grizzlies. It didn’t just develop spontaneously, though. The Grizzlies have long admired Smart and had expressed their interest in him long before that night last month.
As the Grizzlies introduced Smart in Las Vegas on Friday, Memphis general manager Zach Kleiman explained how their acquisition for Smart came together. They targeted the point guard as a potential addition this summer, even if it didn’t seem likely.
“When we started putting names on the board, there was no one higher than Marcus,” Kleiman told reporters in Vegas. “This was early on, it was like, ‘Hey, this is the pie in the sky. If there happens to be a way that Boston would engage on this.’ Obviously there was a transaction that didn’t happen earlier in the day before the trade was agreed to with Boston. Never know what could have happened if that possibility didn’t come together. But we had expressed a very high level of interest and Boston knew that Marcus is someone that we have felt passionately about, being able to bring into our group and were willing to put assets, compelling draft assets and otherwise. …
“When the opportunity presented itself to acquire Marcus, it was something we were… going through all the iterations of things that we possibly could do, bringing Marcus into the organization, that was at the top of the list. Gotta be opportunistic sometimes, but thankfully it came together that way.”
The trade was almost a no-brainer for the Grizzlies, who view Smart as a perfect fit to their young core. Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins was excited when he learned the news, to put it lightly.
“For me, it was, ‘Yes, let’s blanking go,’” Jenkins said. “I was fired up. I’m telling you, you always do your due diligence, right? Year after year, we’re always trying to continue to surround our group with great people, great competitors, people that have high IQs, super unselfish. That’s what Marcus stands for. Ultimate competitor, got the highest basketball IQ, super selfless. He exemplifies that on the court, but also off the court. …
“Hopefully he feels that energy from us. I can’t wait to get him into Memphis, get going, get on the court, like he said building relationships with his teammates. We’ve got a great, competitive group that needs more juice to get us to the next level and that’s what Marcus is going to do for us.”
Smart still had some green in his hair during Friday’s introductory presser. He plans to change it to blue soon to reflect his new team.
But before he does, Smart tried to put his nine years in Boston into words.
“I grew up (in Boston),” Smart said. “I met some very wonderful people throughout my time there. My experiences, while in Boston I lost my mom, my fiancé lost her dad while we were in Boston together, so I’ve been through some stuff and it’s all been in Boston, and Boston is my second home. It’s been tough. They’re always going to have a place in my heart, and everything I accomplished. I left everything I had wearing that jersey out there on that court, and although we didn’t win a championship in the big scheme of things, I don’t consider my time there a failure. I helped rebuild that team at the time when I came in, and I left it better in that sense. So, I’m very ecstatic with my time there but like I said, I’m excited about the future and what it holds for me.”
Smart is excited to join Jaren Jackson Jr. as the Grizzlies became the first team in league history to pair each of the last two Defensive Player of the Years as teammates.
“That’s unheard of,” Smart said. “That’s never been done, to be on the same team, so we’re already making history with that. We’re going to try to continue to make history.”
Walsh impresses in summer debut
The Celtics lost to the Heat, 99-88, in their first game of the Las Vegas Summer League on Saturday as they couldn’t stop Orlando Robinson and his 36 points. But Jordan Walsh, their second-round draft pick, was impressive in his debut as he displayed his all-around game, which included 18 points and flashes of his standout defensive game.
Walsh was a 27.8 percent 3-point shooter in his lone season at Arkansas, but after selecting him No. 38 overall on draft night, C’s president of basketball operations Brad Stevens expressed confidence, saying he’s a better shooter than he showed and seemed hesitant at times last season. But there was no reluctance on Saturday as Walsh made his first four 3-point attempts with a smooth and confident release.
With Stevens, Joe Mazzulla and Jayson Tatum all in attendance, Walsh produced a very solid debut. He committed two fouls in the opening two minutes of the game, but was otherwise sound defensively as he used his long wingspan to bother the Heat. He had a block and two steals.
“For me, at this point, it’s just about playing my role to the (best) ability I can,” Walsh said in a courtside interview on NBA TV. “I know that my goal is to be somewhere, to be able to play with the guys who are on the sideline, like Jayson Tatum, and I know to be able to play with a guy like that, I have to be able to make open shots, I have to do the dirty work, and that’s just what I’m preparing myself for.”
J.D. Davison played with a lot of pace as the Celtics’ starting point guard, and though he was out of control at times with five turnovers, still finished with 11 assists. He also added 14 points, including eight in the fourth. Jay Scrubb, a signee for the summer Celtics, flashed with 17 points, including 12 in the first half. He finished a pair of and-one plays, including a highlight dunk.
Dalano Banton, who signed with the Celtics last week, did not play Saturday due to an injury, coach Tony Dobbins told reporters in Vegas.
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