STOUGHTON — Marcus Smart could have easily backed out of his basketball camp commitments in Boston, considering the Celtics traded him to the Memphis Grizzlies and his official affiliation with the organization is done.
But that’s not his style. He arrived Sunday at the Dana Barros Basketball Center to watch a highly competitive adult tournament, shake hands, take photos, and perhaps say his final personal goodbyes to his adopted city.
Smart spoke publicly for the first time since the trade, which became official last Wednesday, and like he was during his nine-year tenure with the Celtics, he was honest and upfront about his shock of being sent to Memphis in the three-team deal, agreed to before the NBA Draft, that brought Kristaps Porzingis to the Celtics from the Washington Wizards.
“It was a shock,” Smart said. “My agent called my fiancée and she woke me up out of a sleep, literally, right after the deal had been made and I think [the media] had already tweeted it out. That’s how we found out.”
The next day, June 22, Smart went to the Celtics’ practice facility to clean out his locker and have a difficult conversation with president of basketball operations Brad Stevens, his first NBA coach.
Smart said he had a conversation with Stevens a week before the trade and was told he was safe. The Celtics, as has been reported, initially had a deal sending guard Malcolm Brogdon to the Los Angeles Clippers as part of a three-team trade for Porzingis but it fell through, and Smart was moved about two hours later.
“It was definitely shocking to find out that way,” he said. “We was expecting [to stay]. But for me, I understand the business side of it. Anybody who knows me knows that I’m the first one to tell people, you can’t put personal with business, it just doesn’t mix. And if you do, you’re going to get yourself hurt. I understand it’s a business.
“But for me, it was just the [lack of] courtesy. They probably already knew they were thinking about trading me. They had this trade in their back pocket just in case something else didn’t happen. And for me, it’s just the simple fact, ‘Hey, we’re thinking about trading you, most likely we’ll trade you, just letting you know.’ Especially telling me [I’m safe] the week before and my house flooding. It was all a lot at once.”
Smart, whose Dallas-area home is still recovering from flooding in January, said he holds no hard feelings toward the organization. He said he thoroughly enjoyed his time as a Celtic.
“I love this team; I love this organization; I love the people, the fans, everybody, the support I have always gotten for my nine years,” he said. “I’m definitely going to miss it but I’m excited and energetic to start my new life with the Grizzlies.”
The Grizzlies are a title-contending team in desperate need of a veteran leader and mature mentor. Star guard Ja Morant will miss the first 25 games of the new season while serving a second NBA-mandated suspension for brandishing a gun on social media. Forward Dillon Brooks was not re-signed partly because of his on-court antics and comments that cost the team in their Western Conference semifinal series loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
“Right when I heard [about the trade], I was like at least I’m going somewhere to a team that wants me and a team that I can compete to hopefully try to win a championship,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of great players on the Grizzlies and I’m very excited. I love the way that they play. I love the culture. And just like in Boston, I fit right in and it’s up my alley, the style of play and the mentality that they bring to the game.”
Smart stressed that he heard from all of his former Celtics teammates after the trade, including Jaylen Brown. Because Brown did not leave a goodbye to Smart on social media, as teammate Jayson Tatum did, there was speculation there were ill feelings between the two. Smart repeatedly said that was not the case.
“I actually want to clear up something I’ve seen online around because JB didn’t post something about me like JT did, that we had beef,” Smart said. “Jayson and Jaylen are my brothers for life. I don’t think what people see [is accurate] on what and how our relationship really is. We’ve been through a lot together. We’ve been through fires.
“My mom passed away, JB was actually one of the people on that plane that came to Dallas to the funeral. I just want to shut all rumors now that me and JB had beef. I have no beef with anybody from the Celtics, none of my teammates. I love those guys. They love me. We’re brothers and I know if I’m ever in need or want anything I can call those guys and it’s vice versa.
“Me and JB, we’re great. That’s my brother. He actually texted me and he was just as disappointed as I was. We’re good. I just wanted to clear that up.”
Smart said he had just one regret in his nine years in Boston. The Celtics reached five Eastern Conference finals and one NBA Finals during his tenure but didn’t get any rings. He leaves Boston without helping the Celtics back to the mountaintop.
“Not actually getting us one, that’s probably my only regret,” he said. “I love the journey that I’ve been a part of with this organization, with this team. I couldn’t ask for more. The only thing I regret is we didn’t get [the championship] when we had our chance when I was here. But other than that I’ve enjoyed my run.
“I’m very thankful to the organization, to the city, to my teammates for allowing me to be me and really taking me in. A Dallas kid, to be able to take me for everything I have, who I am and just allow me to be me, I say thank you.”