By Gethin Coolbaugh, Boston Sports Today
WALTHAM, Mass. -- It took nearly two years, but MarShon Brooks finally got his Celtics hat back.
Imagine the delight of Brooks, the 6-foot-5 shooting guard who made a name for himself playing college basketball at Providence College, when he heard the most powerful man in the NBA say those words that every kid who's ever picked up a basketball in New England has dreamed about.
"With the 25th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, the Boston Celtics select MarShon Brooks from Providence College."
With a single sentence uttered from the mouth of David Stern, a dream came true. Brooks was going to the NBA. Better yet, he was going to get to play professional ball in his own backyard.
Could it get any sweeter?
And yet, just as Brooks put on the hat representing the franchise that has more championships than any other team in the sport and shook the commissioner's hand, it was all stripped away.
They took his hat away, and before he could even blink, he was on his way to the New Jersey Nets.
"MarShon was drafted by Boston. Obviously the Nets had worked out a trade," said Seth Cohen, Brooks' agent. "But at the draft, we still talk about it to today, they came, they put Boston Celtics hats on us, and we were taking pictures with them. Then all of the sudden, they came back minutes later, and took it away."
As for his Celtics career? It was over before it even began.
"It really was [an emotional roller coaster]," said Cohen. "It was probably about two minutes real time. Those two minutes seemed like a week. I still remember the feeling just giving the hats back and being told we were now with New Jersey."
Brooks spent two years with the Nets franchise, one in New Jersey on a bottom-dwelling team and the other in the newest (yet already the biggest) basketball market on the map in Brooklyn.
Year one justified the Nets' trade for Brooks. He finished third among rookies in scoring with 12.6 points per game and quickly became one of the bright spots on an otherwise gloomy team.
In year two, Brooks wasn't as fortunate. After starting in 47 of the 56 games he played as a rookie, Brooks was sent to the bench to back up Joe Johnson. With a dip in minutes came a dip in production, and Brooks' average dipped to 5.4 points in 12.5 minutes on the floor per game.
"MarShon grew up fast in his first two years," Cohen said. "You look at the contrast between his first two years. His rookie year, third in rookie scoring and got a lot of minutes and really showed his thing on the court. Then in his second year, you had the acquisition, the trade for Joe Johnson. Obviously his minutes went down, and coming off the rookie year he had, it's a big adjustment. We really feel like we've experienced both ends of the spectrum in only his first two years."
Brooklyn knew what it had in Brooks, but the franchise decided that it wanted to chase a championship immediately, so it sacrificed one of its potential future cornerstones to obtain the services of proven winners Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry in a trade with the Celtics.
With one move, the Nets became title contenders, and Brooks got back what was taken from him.
"Now we feel like we got [our hats] back," Cohen said.
Yet these aren't the same Celtics that drafted Brooks in 2011. Ray Allen is gone to South Beach, Doc Rivers darted for Hollywood and Pierce and Garnett are moving on to new adventures in Brooklyn. What does remain the same, however, is the talented prospect the Celtics are getting in Brooks.
"The Celtics are getting a player that [has] tremendous talent, tremendous upside and I really believe is a future All-Star in the league ... [He has] a lot of experience and [has learned] how to deal with adversity going into our third year and our first year in Boston," said Cohen.
Brooks was robbed of the chance to be a Celtic and play alongside greats like Pierce, Garnett, Allen and Rajon Rondo under the tutelage of Rivers, but he's extremely grateful for a second chance.
"It's a great feeling," Brooks said. "Even when I was walking through the hallway talking with Danny [Ainge] ... Just walking by, just seeing all the greats in the hallway, and if you really believe in yourself. You walk by, you see Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Bill Russell. It just gives you that extra oomph before you go shoot, so it's great. ... I'm just really looking forward to the situation."
"It means a lot [to him]," Cohen said. "MarShon's career blossomed and really took off, you know, not a long way away in Providence, so to be able to play here in his own backyard where things really took off for him to a different level is an amazing opportunity. We're really excited."