And so was Smart.
“It was a shock,” Smart said. “My agent called my fiancée, and she woke me up out of a sleep. Literally, right after the deal had been made, and I think [the media] had already tweeted it out. That’s how we found out.”
Smart spoke to reporters for the first time since the trade at the Dana Barros Basketball Center in Stoughton, Massachusetts. He arrived as a spectator for a high-intensity adult basketball tournament, but what ensued was a final sendoff of sorts.
The now-29-year-old veteran came to Boston as a 20-year-old kid nearly a decade ago. Celtics fans embraced him with love, and he hugged them back, bringing the love, trust, and hustle he became known for.
And while he understands the business side of the NBA, when the moment came for his time in Boston to end, Smart wasn’t kept in the loop.
“It was definitely shocking to find out that way, especially because the week before, I was already told we were good, there were no trade talks with me, and we were good,” said Smart. “I understand the business side of it. I’ve always been like that. I’m the first one to tell anyone, ‘you can’t mix personal with business.’ It just doesn’t mix. I understand. It’s a business.”
Smart went from sleeping comfortably, knowing his place in Boston and his new home to being shipped off to the Memphis Grizzlies and having to edit the Celtics logo off his Honey Dew Donuts campaign.
“For me, it’s just the [lack of] courtesy,” Smart said. “They probably already knew they were thinking about trading me, [that] they had this trade in their back pocket just in case something else didn’t happen. And for me, it’s just the simple fact, ‘hey, we’re thinking about trading you — most likely we’ll trade you — just letting you know. Thank you.’ Especially with telling me the week before, my house flooding, and having to deal with that. It was a whole lot at once.”
Now, Smart will join a young and hungry group of Grizzlies looking to break through in a tough Western Conference, while the Celtics will welcome Kristaps Porzingis to town in hopes of getting over a hump of their own.
The memories and relationships Smart created in Boston will never cease to exist, and that may be the most difficult part of it all.
“It was hard, seeing the texts, hearing the guy’s voices saying the goodbyes, reminiscing on the good times,” Smart said. “To be able to be with one group of guys in a city for so long, it’s tough.”
For Tatum, it was an Instagram post. For Grant Williams, it was a statement at a media appearance. And for others, it was a private talk over the phone, defying the conspiracy-esque rumblings of Celtics Twitter.
“I actually want to clear up something I’ve seen online around because JB [Jaylen Brown] didn’t post something about me like JT did, that we had beef,” Smart said. “Jayson and Jaylen are my brothers for life.”
Brown entered the league in Smart’s third season and they have been teammates ever since, forming a close relationship that goes far beyond the opinions of the public eye.
“[When] my mom passed away, JB was actually one of the people on that plane that came to Dallas to the funeral,” Smart said. “I just want to shut all rumors now that me and JB had beef. I have no beef with anybody from the Celtics, none of my teammates. I love those guys. They love me. We’re brothers, and I know if I’m ever in need or want anything, I can call those guys, and it’s vice versa. Me and JB, we’re great. That’s my brother. He actually texted me, and he was just as disappointed as I was. We’re good. I just wanted to clear that up.”
And while Smart may wish the situation was handled differently, he made sure to emphasize that there’s no ill will at all.
“It was a tough conversation with Brad [Stevens]. He was very emotional, but like I said, I’m sure there’s a lot more that went into that won’t be said, can’t be said,” Smart said. “But it’s all love. Brad knows that. We’ve had our talks over the years, we’ve had our moments, and I grew up with Brad as well. My first year was his second year. It was definitely an emotional talk for him, but, like I said, the love will always be there, and there are no hard feelings.”
During his time with the Celtics, #36 was one of the most captivating players of the decade, but not in the traditional sense. Fifty-point games and highlights dunks were instead replaced by double-charge game-winners against James Harden and Game 7 trailer blocks on Norman Powell.
Smart was one of the most divisive figures amongst Celtics fans, but his work off the court drew zero debates. Through his YounGameChanger Foundation, Smart was able to leave an incredible impact on the city of Boston that can never be questioned.
And on the court, he helped lead Boston to four Eastern Conference Finals appearances, making the postseason in every single season he played. He just wishes he could have helped them win Banner 18.
“Not actually getting us one, that’s probably my only regret,” Smart said. “I love the journey that I’ve been a part of with this organization, with this team. I couldn’t ask for more. The only thing I regret is we didn’t get [the championship] when we had our chance when I was here. But other than that, I’ve enjoyed my run.”
Smart’s tenure with the Celtics was as impressive as it gets. And he’s grateful for it.
“I’m very thankful to the organization, to the city, to my teammates for allowing me to be me and really taking me in. A Dallas kid, to be able to take me for everything I have, who I am, and just allow me to be me, I say thank you.”