The Curse of the Celtics Trade didn’t end on Monday night at Barclays Center. The effects of that trade will be felt for a long time. Losing four first round picks is not something you trifle with. And oh yes, it hurt ... bad.
But there were strings of numbers in Monday’s box score that suggest the effects of The Trade have been mitigated and now, the Nets can finally move on.
Here they are...
D’Angelo Russell, age 22, scored 34 points, made seven three pointers and finished with five rebounds and seven assists. It was the fourth time this season he’s compiled a 30/5/5 line. In the first five years of the Nets stay in Brooklyn, that’s only been done five other times.
Jarrett Allen, age 20, had 19 points, 12 rebounds, four blocks and a steal while shooting 5-of-9 from the field and 9-of-10 from the free-throw line. After the game, Kenny Atkinson called his defense “monumental.”
Rodions Kurucs, age 20, also had 19 points, shooting 7-of-11 overall, 2-of-4 from deep and 3-of-3 from the line, giving him a 91.3 percent average from the line this year and getting him closer to 10 point scoring average. He’s at 9.3.
And we didn’t see 24-year-Caris LeVert who before he went down was arguably the team’s best player. Similarly, we don’t know the full potential of 19-year-old Dzanan Musa who’s suffered a couple of nagging injuries. He dominated the G-League (as its third youngest player).
Yes, the Celtics have Jayson Tatum, also 20, and Jaylen Brown, also 22, and they played well vs the Nets garnering 34 and 22 points. Both those guys were taken with picks acquired in The Trade. We should note as well that another Nets pick was the big piece in the trade that brought Kyrie Irving to Boston.
But that’s what you’d expected when you have high lottery picks —the No. 3 picks in case of Tatum and Brown, the No. 8 pick traded to Cleveland for Irving. (The first pick out of the trade, James Young, is toiling in the G League, no longer a Celtic property.)
The Nets on the other hand have replenished their roster by hook or by crook, stealing Kurucs at No. 40; taking a broken LeVert at No. 20; hoping for the best with the geeky Allen at No. 22, and giving up one of the franchise’s most popular players —ever— for DLo, a No. 2 who’d fallen out of grace in L.A.
The details of the trades that provided the Nets with those picks are now almost as fresh in diehard fans minds as the memory of what happened on June 27, 2013. A salary dump here, a trade of a popular veteran there. Indeed, Brook Lopez, Thaddeus Young and Bojan Bogdanovic —each traded away for one of those players— are all still valuable players, but they are or will be 30+ by the end of the season. That’s a generation in the NBA.
The development of Spencer Dinwiddie and Joe Harris, who at 25 and 27 are a bit older than their youngest teammates was a bit different. They were picked up off the NBA’s scrap heap, repaired and polished, rather than drafted and/or traded for.
Now, all that work is bearing fruit. Kenny Atkinson has long said he and Sean Marks don’t talk about The Trade, don’t dwell on what might have been. “We just kind of put it in a box, and we never really talk about it,” said Atkinson before last week’s Celtics game.
Fans should do the same thing. Monday’s game showed that the gap between the teams’ best young players is not so wide. At the end of the day, the effects are not so great now that six years have passed. It’s getting so that the only people who talk or write about The Trade are those who note how much Marks and Atkinson have overcome. That’s a good thing.
The Nets’ rise is now the story, not their ascent from the depths. Kyrie Irving, who will be a free agent next July noted before the game how much they’ve improved.
“They’re playing well and in a spot that I know they want to be in, fighting for their eighth, seventh, sixth spot,” Irving said. “Obviously the top five teams are pretty solid in the Eastern Conference. Those guys can sneak right in there.
“They’re a young core figuring it out. So it’s exciting to see what they’ve been able to accomplish this season starting off the way they did and now coming along pretty strong as of late, playing pretty well.”
The next step of course is finding that one last piece, like an Irving or a Kevin Durant or a Kawhi Leonard. What seemed impossible two years ago —even getting meetings with top free agents was tough then— now seems doable.
Dinwiddie said before the game he expects to talk to KD. “I don’t see why we wouldn’t (be a destination for the stars this summer). Especially, I guess, at the forward spot,” Dinwiddie told the News. “That’s where all the big free agents are and our biggest hole is probably at the forward spot.”
Winning, it does seem, cures everything... even The Trade.