STOUGHTON, Mass. — Marcus Smart’s fiancé Maisa woke him up in the middle of the night after the Celtics traded him to the Grizzlies thinking the Malcolm Brogdon trade already went through. Smart’s agent called Maisa around midnight, and though Smart expected Boston might trade him eventually, he never thought his tenure would end now.
The week prior, Smart said Celtics officials told him he stood on stable ground with the team, and not to worry about a trade. Speaking at The 14 League at Dana Barros Basketball Club, where fans, friends and members of his foundation celebrated his time in Boston and sent him off to Memphis, Smart expressed how much the trade shocked him. The Grizzlies acquired him last month in the Kristaps Porziņģis trade.
“I went to the gym next day to get my stuff, talked to Brad (Stevens) and Joe (Mazzulla),” Smart said. “It was definitely shocking to find out that way, especially because the week before, I was already told we were good, there were no trade talks with me and we were good. I understand the business side of it, I’ve always been like that. I’m the first one to tell anyone, you can’t mix personal with business, it just doesn’t mix. I understand it’s a business. For me, it’s just the 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, thank you. Especially with telling me the week before, my house flooding and having to deal with that. It was a whole lot at once. I love this team, I love this organization, I love the fans and the support I’ve gotten for my nine years. I’m excited and energetic to start my new life with the Grizzlies.”
Smart heard from each member of the Celtics team in recent weeks either through texts or social media posts. Jaylen Brown reached out to his phone. Jayson Tatum posted an Instagram story where he lamented falling short of a championship and promised to reunite one day and win one together. That will remain Smart’s lasting regret from Boston, their NBA Finals run in 2022 going down as his favorite memory of his Celtics tenure, how close they drew to a championship.
The Celtics made a move they believed would suit the team best, adding a big man and integrating Derrick White into the starting point guard role. Brown and Tatum become the longest-tenured players and leaders alongside veteran Al Horford, who projects to take a back seat to the team’s younger big men during the regular season. The team’s star duo now have no choice left but to lead.
“It’s gonna be fun for those guys. It’s gonna be challenging, there’s gonna be ups-and-downs,” Smart said. “That’s the beauty about growth. It’s another part of their game that they’re just gonna continue to evolve in. Even though I won’t be here and part of it, I’m proud of those guys and I can’t wait to see the growth that they accomplish. But I’m excited to see them take the next step in their games, not from a basketball standpoint on the court, but a leadership role and really taking hold of this team.”
For Smart and his family, the year began with his house flooding in January that left he and his fiancé outside of their home shortly after he proposed in December. They also awaited their wedding this summer, moving into that home this month and instead, Smart flew down to Memphis for a physical last week in to begin a whirlwind summer. He’s still trying to wrap his head around no longer playing for the Celtics, as fans flooded him for photos at his children’s camp and the weekend basketball tournament.
Several Celtics employees, including longtime public relations vice president Jeff Twiss arrived to say goodbye to Smart. He left the team secure in his relationships, including with Brown, who he made a point to address his relationship with after seeing speculation over it online since Brown didn’t post a social media sendoff Smart’s way.
“It was hard, seeing the texts, hearing the guy’s voices saying the goodbyes, reminiscing on the good times,” Smart said. “To be able to be with one group of guys in a city for so long, it’s tough … Jayson and Jaylen are my brothers for life, and I don’t think what the people see is enough of what and how our relationship really is. We’ve been through a lot together, we’ve been through the fire. My mom passed away and J.B. was actually one of people on that plane that came to Dallas to the funeral. So I just want to shut all the rumors down now that me and J.B. had beef. I have no beef with anybody with the Celtics, none of my teammates, I love those guys, they love me. We’re brothers and I know that if I’m ever in need, or need or what anything, I can call those guys and it’s vice-versa, but me and J.B., we’re great, that’s my brother. He actually texted me and was just as disappointed as I was. So we’re good and just because J.B. or any of my teammates didn’t post anything, doesn’t mean we have beef.”
Smart knows the Celtics fell short of expectations in the Heat series and the Game 7 disappointment concluding his career in Boston will stick with him at least until the day he returns to TD Garden with Memphis. He expects an emotional first game back, but hasn’t envisioned it extensively as he tries to piece together the move to the new team. He’ll wear No. 36, the same one he spent nine seasons in with the Boston Celtics, a team he said he was proud to represent. Fans approached him devastated throughout the last week, some in tears and leaving him emotional, too.
Now with the Grizzlies, he spoke with Desmond Bane for his birthday on his birthday on June 25, could tell teammates stand prepared to work and heard he’ll fit right in with the team by bringing an outside perspective. He’s excited to help Ja Morant grow and take the next steps in his career, and quickly realized only Steven Adams surpasses him in age. Smart occupied a similar status with the Celtics as teammates came and went, and as time progressed, he saw the business side and knew anything could happen.
“It was a tough conversation with Brad, he was very emotional, but like I said, I’m sure there’s a lot more that went into that won’t be said, can’t be said,” Smart said. “But it’s all love, Brad knows that. We’ve had our talks over the years, we’ve had our moments, and I grew up with Brad as well. My first year was his second year. It was definitely an emotional talk for him, but like I said, the love will always be there, and there’s no hard feelings.”