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On 10th anniversary of Boston trade, a look back at how it happened, lessons learned

The worst trade in NBA history? It’s right up there. Today is its 10th anniversary. The only celebrants wear green.

Brooklyn Nets v Miami Heat - Game Five Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

June 28, 2013. It was a day that will live in infamy. Okay, it wasn’t as bad as Pearl Harbor but for Nets fans it was certainly a surprise and ultimately an attack.

It looked like a plain vanilla Draft Day, with no rumors of anything impending. But it turned out to be the most momentous Draft Day in franchise history, at least since 2001 anyway when Rod Thorn got Jerry Colangelo to shake hands on the Kidd deal in the afternoon, then drafted Richard Jefferson and Jason Collins that night. But in terms of consequences, it was as bad—or worse— as the 2001 Draft Night was good. It was franchise-changing but not in the way the 2001 Draft was.

Here ya go, blow-by-blow.

By the time Draft Day 2013 dawned, the Nets and Celtics had an agreement in principle to send Paul Pierce to the Nets for Kris Humphries and the Nets 2016 pick. No one outside the teams knew the deal was on the table. That’s when King and Dmitry Razumov got greedy and made a play for Kevin Garnett. As the rest of the league sorted out scouting reports for the worst draft in memory, King and Danny Ainge kept talking to each other.

Here’s how King described the early process...

”Danny and I started talking back and forth. Then, Bobby Marks and their assistant GM (Mike Zarem) were talking back and we were really focused on Paul Pierce. I think as we got close to a deal for Paul, we said, pretty much, ‘We’ll do this.’ So I said, ‘What about Garnett?’ Danny (Ainge, then Boston GM) said, ‘Nah, I don’t think there’s anything on your roster that can do it.’ So, I kept throwing things at him and kept adding and then I guess it was Draft day, the night before the Draft, I pretty much know that there’s a deal there. So, we got to decide do we want to do this. Spoke with ownership and we agreed and I called Danny and said, ‘We’re in’.”

Meanwhile in Boston, owner Wyc Grousbeck had a different spin.

“As I recall — and Danny (Ainge) may remember slightly differently — but as I recall, he came to me with that deal on draft day [in 2013] and said, ‘We’re going to get two first-round picks from Brooklyn for [Garnett and Pierce], and take on some contracts.’ And I said, ‘OK, are [the picks] unprotected?’ And he said, ‘Yes, in fact, they are.’ I said, ‘Great. Let’s go get a third pick.’ And he goes, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa,’ but, ‘All right, I’ll ask.’ And he’s not afraid to ask, he wasn’t pushing back. But he went and asked, and he said, ‘Unbelievable. We got a third pick. This is great.’ And I said, ‘Great. Go get a fourth pick. I think these guys have deal fever — we’re going to keep going until they say no. I think they’ve been told by ownership to get the deal done, so let’s go back.’ And Danny sort of gave me a look, like I don’t want to lose the deal by pushing too hard. Normally we try to play down the middle of the road with people, [but] I said, ‘Go push aggressively for a fourth pick.’

King couldn’t trade any more picks, but he could agree to swap one more and he did, the pick that turned into Jayson Tatum. Feeling woozy yet?

In fact, according to participants, the first iteration of the deal had Nets giving up two more first round picks, in 2014 and 2018, plus Gerald Wallace, Reggie Evans and Toko Shengelia for Garnett. Ainge wanted the Nets to take on Terry or Courtney Lee. Lee had one more year on his deal so Terry was added to the mix. To make the deal work under the CBA, the Celtics agreed to take Keith Bogans in a sign-and-trade with a starting salary of $5.2 million. By accepting Bogans in an S&T, the Celtics sentenced themselves to a hard cap. More wrangling ensued. The Nets needed one more agreement to get it all done: Garnett would have to waive his no-trade clause. Jason Kidd and Deron Williams were enlisted to text-bomb KG. The Nets agreed to pay his full salary in 2014-15. Meanwhile, the Nets were pursuing another deal: MarShon Brooks and Reggie Evans for Minnesota’s Luke Ridnour, an expiring contract, and the Timberwolves’ 26th pick in that night’s draft. The T-Wolves want the Nets to take J.J. Barea, who has an added year on his contract. No deal. A little before 10 p.m. between picks No. 17 or 18, the efforts to convince KG finally bore fruit. Garnett agreed to join the Nets, but the deal wasn’t quite done. Shengelia was replaced by Kris Joseph who had a non-guaranteed contract. Ultimately, in the early morning hours, Evans was replaced by Brooks, who badly wanted out of Brooklyn. Who could blame him! At some later point, D.J. White become a Net. The Nets’ decision to dump Brooks was based largely on their inability to get value for him in that night’s draft. Also, Evans was valued by Garnett, with whom he shares an agent. In the midst of all this, the Nets selected Mason Plumlee at No. 22, even though they had Garnett as well as Brook Lopez and Andray Blatche up front (at that point in the evening, Evans was still in the deal.) One other footnote: The Nets’ Russian ownership was greatly disappointed when the Cavaliers took Sergei Karasev at No. 19 and wanted to see if Cleveland would do a deal, perhaps in exchange for Plumlee and Bojan Bogdanovic’s draft rights. Cleveland wasn’t interested. Whew.

If you want to read more about the 2013 trade, you’re a masochist, but we will abide your weirdness and point you to tour Mr. Bondy’s Chamber of Horrors.

The Nets also considered Allen Crabbe. Crabbe in the draft. in fact, told YES Network in 2018 that he had “heard” he was going to the Nets. He lasted until No. 31 when the Blazers took him.

Bottom line: don’t get deal fever and don’t sell the future for the past. The Nets lost out on Jaylin Brown and Jayson Tatum, two of the best basketball players in the world. The Nets decided not to extend Pierce in 2014, partly because he was near done, partly because Russia invaded Ukraine and the US imposed sanctions on Russia, complicating Mikhail Prokhorov’s business prospects. (Another lesson: pay attention to geopolitical issues if your owner is from a former Communist country.) King did get value for KG, trading him for Thaddeus Young. By 2016, Prokhorov and Razumov had enough and dumped King in favor of Sean Marks who rebuilt the team and signed Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving and traded for James Harden… Let’s stop there. You know the rest!