When the Celtics acquired Malcolm Brogdon from the Pacers in July, it mostly elicited two reactions: 1. That’s a good move that adds shooting, playmaking, and defense. 2. Um, but what will Marcus Smart think about this?
Smart has been outspoken about his desire to become and remain this team’s floor general, and after helping the Celtics to the brink of an NBA title during perhaps his best season as a pro, it was hard to question his view.
In the immediate aftermath of the trade, the Celtics went out of their way to assert that Smart will remain the starting point guard. And Brogdon, who has not come off the bench since 2017-18, certainly sounds prepared for a secondary role.
“I envision being the sixth man, being a starter that comes off the bench,” he said last week. “That’s really what it is, to be a vet that can slow the game down, control the pace, and help this team close games.”
Brogdon and Smart will share the court often, of course, and Brogdon is optimistic that they can thrive together.
“I think we have different strengths,” he said. “He’s an All-Defensive player and Defensive Player of the Year, and he’s incredible in that facet, but I also think he contributes offensively. You’ve seen his game grow and seen him be able to knock down shots and create for his teammates.
“And we both can play on and off the ball. That’s the beauty of us. We’re smart, we have high IQs, and we’re unselfish, so I think it’s going to work well.”
▪ Danilo Gallinari’s likely season-ending ACL tear suffered while playing for Italy in a World Cup qualifier is unfortunate, but it’s hardly crushing for the Celtics. Gallinari, 34, likely would have played about 20 minutes per game. His size and 3-point shooting would have helped, but he is a limited defender.
Yes, this does leave the frontcourt somewhat thin. But last season, third-string big man Daniel Theis mostly fell out of the rotation anyway, and the Celtics will have plenty of small-ball options off the bench as they add Brogdon and get a full season of Derrick White.
Some have been clamoring for the Celtics to quickly replace Gallinari with a veteran free agent such as Carmelo Anthony, but there is no urgency. I was told they’d rather see what they have in 6-foot-8-inch second-year sharpshooter Sam Hauser, give a few more minutes to their younger players, and see how some training camp battles unfold.
If it turns out there is still a clear need, there will always be veteran free agents available, or opportunities to acquire one via trade.
▪ Whenever players suffer serious injuries during the summer, there are questions about why they were not encased in bubble wrap until the start of the season. But Gallinari was not exactly swimming through a shark tank with chum attached to his feet. He was just playing basketball for his national team. Injuries happen.
▪ Well, that was a fun month of everyone getting worked up about a potential Kevin Durant trade. On behalf of my fellow NBA journalists, we appreciate Durant and the Nets for providing fodder during what is usually the quietest month of the year.
But it was much ado about nothing. League sources insisted for weeks that the Nets seemed to have no intention of actually trading Durant, as evidenced by some outrageous asking prices that at least provided some good laughs. Boston, for one, was never remotely close to a deal for Durant. Onward.
▪ The Celtics received some praise in ESPN’s annual offseason survey of 15 executives, coaches, and scouts.
The Celtics and Bucks each received seven votes to win the Eastern Conference, and the Celtics were picked to win the NBA title on four ballots.
Six panelists said the Celtics had the best offseason, and one called the acquisition of Brogdon the most surprising move of the summer. Also, two said that Celtics star Jayson Tatum will be the NBA’s best player in five years.
▪ Salute to the Herald’s longtime Celtics writer, Mark Murphy, who announced his retirement Monday after more than 34 years at the newspaper. Murphy was the last remaining member of the beat who covered the team during the Larry Bird era, and he’s one of the true good people in the industry, even if he worked for the competition.