Owner of East rival admits Miami Heat led to breakup of team

Milwaukee Bucks v Boston Celtics
Milwaukee Bucks v Boston Celtics / Maddie Meyer/GettyImages

After meeting in the Eastern Conference finals in three of the last four years, the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics have become the biggest rivalry in the NBA. The Heat have a 2-1 advantage in those series, including knocking off the Celtics in route to the 2023 Finals.

Because of that loss, the Celtics decided they needed to retool. Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck told Boston’s WCVB that after losing Game 7 on their home floor, he told team president Brad Stevens that they weren’t going to bring the same team back.

Losing to the Miami Heat in the playoffs forced the Boston Celtics to revamp the roster around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, says the team's owner.

“I walked in and met with Joe [Mazulla] and Brad [Stevens] and I just said ‘I know one thing. We're not bringing this team back.’ That was over the summer. It was two years in a row of really good teams that fell short," Grousbeck said. "In my view they were inconsistent. We were hot and cold, high and low, and we lost. We lost to two good teams, the Warriors and the Heat, but we lost. And I just said ‘We're not running it back. Period. That's my decision. Now you tell me what changes we gotta make guys.’ … Did I know we were gonna get Porzingis and Holiday? No, I did not.”

The Celtics with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart had made the Finals in 2022 but lost to the Warriors, then went down 0-3 to the Heat in the 2023 East finals. They rallied to force a Game 7, but were blown out 103-84.

It’s a hard decision to break up a team that had so much regular-season and postseason success, but that’s what losses to the Warriors and Heat in back-to-back years forced the Celtics to do.

Over the summer, the Celtics traded Smart to Memphis in a three-team deal that landed them Kristaps Porzingis. When Damian Lillard was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks, Boston pounced at the opportunity to trade for Jrue Holiday, sending out Malcolm Brogdon and Robert Williams III.

Suddenly the core outside of the two Jaylens had dramatically changed. It seems to have worked. The Celtics are the No. 1 seed in the East and owners of the NBA’s best record and point differential.

But will it result in a championship? That remains to be seen, and the path may still go through the Heat, winners of nine of their last 12.

There’s a chance the Celtics and Heat could meet again in the playoffs and, if the Heat get their way again, it could force even tougher decisions in Boston this summer.