How two July 2013 moves altered the course of Celtics history

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How two July 2013 moves altered the course of Celtics history originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

There’s been plenty of discussion this month about the Boston Celtics’ future. Will Jaylen Brown sign his supermax extension and stay in Boston for the next five years? Can Kristaps Porzingis help get the Celtics over the hump and raise Banner 18?

But with the present in a holding pattern, it’s worth remembering the past — specifically two transactions from exactly 10 years ago this month that helped vault the C’s back to NBA relevance.

First, let’s set the stage by recalling the state of the franchise in June 2013.

The backstory

Morale was low entering the 2013 offseason, to put it mildly. Ray Allen had defected to the Miami Heat the previous summer, leaving the aging duo of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to lead a depleted squad that went 41-40 in 2012-13 and got bounced by the New York Knicks in the first round.

June 2013 began with the departure of head coach Doc Rivers, who left to join the Los Angeles Clippers after nine seasons with the Celtics. With Pierce and Garnett both on the wrong side of age 35, it felt like the end of an era with dark times ahead in Boston.

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That was true to some extent — but there was an unexpected light at the end of the tunnel.

Move No. 1: The coaching hire (July 3)

Exactly one month after Rivers’ exit, the Celtics named 36-year-old Butler head coach Brad Stevens their 17th head coach in franchise history.

It was a bold move at the time: Stevens came from a non-Power Five college program with zero NBA coaching experience, and while he led Butler to back-to-back Final Fours in 2010 and 2011, many were skeptical that he could manage the egos of an NBA locker room.

But Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge put his faith in Stevens, and it paid off: After a 25-win campaign in his first season as head coach, Stevens guided a plucky Celtics squad back to the playoffs in 2014-15, and they haven’t missed the postseason since — thanks in part to Stevens’ shrewd moves after transitioning to a front office role in 2021.

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But first, Stevens got a little help in the form of a seismic trade that came nine days after his hiring.

Move No. 2: The trade (July 12)

While the Celtics-Brooklyn Nets blockbuster was first reported in late June, the deal didn’t officially go through until July 12, 2013. The full trade:

Nets receive: Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry, D.J. White

Celtics receive: Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Marshon Brooks, Kris Joseph, Keith Bogans, first-round picks in 2014, 2016, and 2018, and the right to swap 2017 first-rounders

You know the rest: That 2016 first-rounder turned in to Jaylen Brown, while the 2017 pick swap brought Jayson Tatum to Boston. Both Pierce and Garnett were off the Nets within 24 months.

Brown and Tatum weren’t superstars right away, but they absolutely accelerated the Celtics’ path to title contention. Following injuries to Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward in 2017-18, the Jays stepped up as Boston’s two leading scorers during the team’s improbable run to Game 7 of the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals.

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Two years later, Tatum and Brown powered the Celtics back to the East Finals in the NBA bubble as their two best players. Two years after that, it was Tatum and Brown leading the way for Boston’s first NBA Finals berth since the 2010 season. The Jays have won a whopping 182 playoff games together over the past six seasons — more than any NBA duo in that span.

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The Celtics have come a long way in 10 years, and it’s remarkable to think that they found their future head coach, president of basketball operations and franchise cornerstones in a span of just 10 days.

Where will the C’s be a decade from now? It’s too early to predict, but if Stevens, Tatum and Brown have a say, there will be at least one more banner hanging in the TD Garden rafters.

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