At the doors of TD Garden this October, the leaves will be falling as the Boston Celtics take the floor for a new NBA season. Fans and players alike will feel the cold, wild wind — perhaps a little more than usual. There will be hope in this new Celtics team, which will be more fleshed out than its 2022-23 predecessor and more secure in its future. But they’ll still miss someone.

Point guard Marcus Smart, a nine-year veteran who has spent his entire career in Boston, will be a world away in Memphis.

In a three-way trade finalized Wednesday night with the Grizzlies and Washington Wizards, the Celtics sent away Smart and their 2023 first-round pick in exchange for center Kristaps Porzingis and first-round picks in 2023 and 2024. On paper, the trade appears favorable for Boston, which needed a quality big man and more draft picks. Beyond the analytics, however, it comes at a great human cost.

By many Celtics fans’ considerations, Smart’s role on the team extended far beyond his supporting contributions and well-documented hustle on the floor. He’s an elite defender and effective offensive facilitator, but he had also become the Celtics’ most determined leader in their perpetual, seemingly Sisyphean quest to win the NBA Championship.


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Since Smart’s debut in the 2014-15 season, Boston has made nine straight postseason appearances, four of which ended in the Eastern Conference Finals and one of which ended in the Finals. When the Celtics fell just short in 2022, losing to the Warriors in six games, they seemed poised to take another step forward in 2023 and finally validate the tireless work Smart and others had put in for the better part of a decade. Instead, the team lost to the Miami Heat in yet another Eastern Conference Final.

Now, barring a trade back to Boston at some later date, Smart will never lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy as a Celtic.

Boston will likely remain one of the best teams in the league without Smart, as Porzingis is a force when healthy and is coming off a full season with the Wizards. He will join Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, young stars who have developed into NBA talents. Future draft picks could also prove highly useful in sustaining the Celtics’ incredible, albeit fruitless, postseason streak.

That being said, it’s still difficult to quantify the loss of Smart, who contributed most often to the team without the ball in his hands. He will now lend his abilities as a veteran leader to the Grizzlies, a team in desperate need of stability.

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