When Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov told then-Nets general manager Billy King to engineer a trade to acquire Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and D.J. White from the Boston Celtics for Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Kris Joseph, Keith Bogans, three first-round picks (2014, 2016 and 2018), plus the right to swap first-rounders in 2017, not only did he envision a championship, but he did not think the draft picks would come back to haunt him.
So much for that. To say it was a disaster is an understatement. This trade destroyed the Nets franchise to the point it may take a long time for them to recover. Garnett, Pierce and Terry did absolutely nothing for them, and the Celtics have prospered nicely to the point they could be building a dynasty of their own in a few years thanks to the Nets giving up draft picks to them.
Prokhorov was not at the game Tuesday night to see the Celtics celebrate an 109-102 victory over the Nets in front of a pro-Celtics crowd at Barclays Center, and neither was King. If they were there, they would have been given a reminder of what they did in shaping the Celtics franchise. With the existence of internet, they probably know what they did without going to the game.
The Nets’ 2018 draft pick belongs to the Cavaliers after the Celtics traded that pick for Kyrie Irving, and the Nets’ 2017 draft pick belonged to the Philadelphia 76ers, who acquired it from the Celtics, to draft Markelle Fultz, who in return got the No. 3 pick and drafted Jayson Tatum. As fate would have it, Irving and Tatum starred in the Celtics’ win.
After missing Sunday’s game against the Raptors with a facial fracture when he was inadvertently elbowed by teammate Aron Baynes on Friday night, Irving was back in action by scoring 25 points and dishing out five assists. He would jumpstart the Celtics by making shots after shots when the Nets were making a run. He also did it on the defensive end by denying the Nets to shoot.
Irving is a dynamic player that can be the go-to-guy that the Celtics need to go to the NBA Finals this year. With due respect to Isaiah Thomas, he is not in Irving’s level. There’s a reason Celtics executive Danny Ainge did not even hesitate to trade his point guard and get an upgrade in one. When it comes to making big shots, Irving is as good as it gets, and he demonstrated that against the Nets, which is why he was serenaded with MVP chants when he was at the free-throw line.
The Celtics can thank the Nets for getting Irving. When the Nets made that trade, they got Garnett and Pierce in their final stage of their career, and both were not enthused about playing for them. When the Celtics made the Irving trade, they got him in the prime years of his career. Remember he is only 25 years old, and he has more greatness in store. The Nets should get used to him beating them time after time.
While there is hype about Lonzo Ball and Fultz, Tatum is definitely not chopped liver. He has the potential to be one of the best big men in basketball for a long time. He showed what he can do defensively in the paint last night, and he is a guy that can score in the paint, too. He scored 19 points. He is a player the Celtics can build around for the next 10 to 15 years if he is healthy.
Again, the Celtics can thank the Nets for getting Tatum. They acquired him by trading this year’s Nets pick, which was the No. 1 pick, and they gave it to the 76ers. All one can do is laugh, and all a Nets fan (if that person exists) can do is cry of what could have been and what would have been.
No wonder why Prokhorov wants to sell the Nets. He knows he will never win a NBA championship as owner with the team being a mess for a long time. It may take 10 years until the Nets can build a foundation. Aiding the Celtics to be a championship contender can be tough for a proud man to take, especially when he claimed he would have the Nets win a championship in five years when he brought the team.
Make no mistake. Prokhorov’s legacy as a Net will be false promises and aiding the Celtics to form a new dynasty one day. There’s nothing he can change about it, and he knows this.
The Nets play hard. That’s the best thing anyone can say about them in years. The problem is a team needs a dynamic game-changer to win games, and the Nets don’t have one. This is team filled with role players. That’s good enough to get a cup of coffee, not winning games.
The Celtics have one in Irving and they likely have another one in Tatum as he progresses in the next few years. Complement them with role players and excellent coaching, they can make an NBA Finals appearance this season. They are on the right track of getting a championship.
The Nets can’t say the same. They are in purgatory for a long time.
All they can say is they contributed to the Celtics getting back to NBA greatness again.