BOSTON – Brad Stevens, normally straight-faced Celtics basketball boss, couldn’t hide his smile after watching just one practice. Junior Holiday On the team.
“We made a thousand mistakes. But you also see, like, there’s that thing,” Stevens said at an introductory press conference Wednesday, three days after the Celtics made the trade for Holiday. “There’s a unity. There’s an excitement. There’s a joy, there’s a competition.”
“And I think he brings that as well as anyone in the neighborhood. I think it’s contagious.”
The Celtics acquired Holiday on Sunday from Portland, where he was sent as part of a relocation trade Damian Lillard In Milwaukee. The deal came together Sunday, the night before training camp opened, and Holiday sat out Tuesday’s practice.
A day later, with Celtics Hall of Famer Paul Pierce as a spectator, Holiday joined his new teammates at their practice facility and set a tone that the team hoped would lead to a championship.
“There was only electricity in the gym today,” said co-owner Steve Pagliuca. “Paul Pierce turned to us and said he had never seen an NBA practice in his entire career, that they went so hard, so fast for so long.”
Although they’re tied with the Los Angeles (and Minneapolis) Lakers for an NBA-best 17 championships, it’s been 15 years since the Celtics last hung their banner at TD Garden. They’ve reached the Eastern Conference Finals five times in the last seven seasons — making it to Game 6 of the NBA Finals two years ago — but don’t seem to be getting close to another title.
So in an offseason disaster, Stevens traded the point guard and defensive star Marcus is smart for Kristaps PorzingisBeing an All-Star big man but letting go of the player who was the emotional heart of the team.
During the holidays, they believe they’ve filled that void. It costs them point guards Malcolm BrogdonThe NBA’s reigning Sixth Man and Forward of the Year Robert Williams III With two first-round draft picks, but joins the Holiday All-Stars Jason Tatum And Jaylen Brown.
“We’re adding everyone we can who will add character, commitment and extreme talent,” said co-owner Wyc Grousbeck. “We’re doing everything we can.” But if you own the Celtics, that’s what you do. Or you’ll make way for someone else.”
Holiday began his career in Philadelphia, spent the next seven years in New Orleans, and then moved to Milwaukee in 2020-21, joining Giannis Antetokounmpo Winning an NBA title in his first season there. The following year, the Bucks lost to Boston in seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals, and Holiday noticed something about the city and its fans.
“The fans are literally crazy, and I’m proud to be a part of it,” said Holiday, who grew up a Lakers fan in Los Angeles. “I know a lot of people in my family are probably hurt, but I know this is a blue-collar town. They love people who work hard and they put their heart into it. And I’m the person that every time I go to court, I’m their everything. I gave.”
It was also a feature of Smart’s career in Boston. The three-time All-Defensive Team member and 2022 Defensive Player of the Year was beloved in Boston — more for his effort than offensive threat, averaging 11.5 points and 6.3 assists last season.
Holiday averaged 19.3 points, 7.4 assists and 5.1 rebounds last year, matching Smart’s 1.5 steals. Grasbeck confirmed that, in addition to his two All-Star selections and his five appearances on the All-Defensive Team, Holiday is a three-time winner of the Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year award.
He is under contract for two more seasons, but Stevens said they will begin talking about an extension as soon as permission is granted. The deal puts Boston above the salary cap’s new “second apron,” which comes with increased penalties for big-spending teams.
“We didn’t blink at all,” said Grousbeck, who was part of the ownership committee that worked on the restrictions. “I’m aware of all that. We’ll be on the second apron and pay that fine, and that’s life.
“It’s designed so we can compete more. We’re good at competing,” he said, “as long as we win.”