The Boston Celtics' union with Kristaps Porzingis was six years in the making

There's no denying what Kristaps Porzingis did for the Celtics. A crazier thought would be what would have happened had they acquired him back in 2017 when they tried to. Even crazier, that wasn't the first failed attempt.
The Boston Celtics nearly traded for Kristaps Porzingis several times
The Boston Celtics nearly traded for Kristaps Porzingis several times / Adam Glanzman/GettyImages

Though the Boston Celtics managed without Kristaps Porzingis during their playoff run, the difference he made for them during the 2023-24 season was both undeniable.

Trading Marcus Smart left a mark that still smarts us, but winning a title made it all worth it.

But fun fact: 2023 was not the first time the Celtics attempted to bring Porzingis aboard. In fact, their initial interest in him dated back to the offseason following his sophomore year in the NBA back in 2017. Had their initial pursuit of Porzingis succeeded, it may have altered the entire course of the franchise.

The Boston Celtics would have potentially traded Jayson Tatum to the Knicks for Porzingis in 2017

Hours before the 2017 NBA Draft commenced, plenty of rumors started swirling that the Celtics had discussed acquiring Porzingis from the then-turbulent Knicks. This wasn't internet buzz, either. NBA Insiders like Marc Stein reported that the Celtics wanted Porzingis.

But it was Ian Begley's tweet that certainly would catch the eye knowing where the Celtics currently are.

Every Celtics fan knows that said No. 3 pick turned out to be Jayson Tatum. One can only imagine where the Celtics and Knicks would be had the Knicks agreed to it. Would the Knicks have ended up with Tatum, or would they have taken Josh Jackson or De'Aaron Fox?

Snapping back to reality for a moment, no deal was agreed upon because multiple insiders said the Knicks' demands were too high.

While it didn't appear to be on the table, imagine if Porzingis had come up with Tatum and Jaylen Brown from the very start. Knowing the damage the three of them did together, it goes without saying that the Cs may have seen that level of dominance from a much earlier time.

Even crazier, this apparently was not the last time the Celtics tried and failed to get Porzingis before they tried to and succeeded in 2023.

The Boston Celtics discussed swapping Kristaps Porzingis for Kyrie Irving in 2019

Shortly after the Celtics made history, now does not seem like an appropriate time to discuss one of the most turbulent seasons the franchise has ever seen. The only reason why the 2018-19 season is being brought up is because, yup, the Celtics tried to get Porzingis again right then and there.

Before the 2024 NBA Finals started, Yahoo Sports! Jake Fischer reported that the Celtics and Knicks had seriously discussed swapping Porzingis for Kyrie Irving before the trade deadline in 2019.

"Come late January, when New York’s front office began to quietly pursue deals to move on from Porziņģis, the Celtics and Knicks even held tangible dialogue about swapping Irving for the 7-2 sharpshooter, league sources told Yahoo Sports, before the Mavericks swooped in and sent a package headlined by two first-round picks to New York."

It's already been asked what if Porzingis had been acquired earlier, so instead of rehashing that, the question here is, why didn't the Celtics jump on this immediately before Dallas got him? Before the Mavericks acquired Porzingis, the following had already happened.

The red flags were there and the Celtics were not doing anything to dispel the problems. Everyone knows Irving's role in why that team was so dysfunctional. Fischer added more of the details of what happened behind the scenes in that same article.

"There were days during Irving’s second year with the Celtics...when Irving walked into the facilities with a hoodie pulled over his face, side-stepping eye contact with passersby as if he were dodging defenders in the lane."

If only Fischer stopped there...

"Irving was prone to grunt and nod as he milled around the practice floor. He’d string his sneakers together while sitting in the corner. There were activities and practices Celtics figures questioned if Irving was even going to show up for, sources said, as his participation in routine team functions was never guaranteed."

Acquiring Porzingis could have negated the entire second half of the total nightmare of 2019. Maybe it wouldn't have fixed the team, and maybe Porzingis would not have been as willing to accept the lesser role in Boston then that he embraced with open arms when they acquired him. But at least the tension could have been eased somewhat, knowing that Irving never got better in Boston.

Now, of course, the Celtics eventually got their guy. Even that came with some unforeseen drama before they pulled the trigger. And yes the Celtics indeed won the title. However, even if in hindsight the wait should have been that, it was still worth it in the end knowing the heights that Porzingis brought the Celtics to.

The next step is for him to do that again for a full playoff run.