NEW YORK – Danny Ainge once told Boston Celtics patriarch Red Auerbach he should have traded Larry Bird while the Hall of Fame forward still had value at the end of his career. Years later, Ainge listened to his own advice.
The Celtics general manager broke up the remaining core pieces of the franchise's most recent championship team by agreeing in principle to a blockbuster trade that will send Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets.
In return, the Celtics will acquire valuable draft picks and millions of dollars in payroll flexibility to begin their rebuilding process. Earlier in the week, Ainge acquired the Los Angeles Clippers' 2015 pick in return for releasing Doc Rivers from his coaching contract.
That was enough to make the Celtics one of draft night's biggest winners. The Garnett-Pierce trade, which also will send Jason Terry to the Nets, will land the Celtics three first-round picks (2014, '16 and '18) and the right to swap first-round picks with the Nets in 2017 – along with Gerald Wallace, Kris Joseph and the expiring deal of Kris Humphries.
Boston now has two first-round picks, including its own, in a stellar 2014 draft that will possibly be led by coveted Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins.
Rajon Rondo is now clearly the Celtics' franchise player, but Boston won't have much reason to rush him back from knee surgery in what will be a rebuilding year. Armed with more draft picks and eventual cap room, Boston now hopes the rebuilding process won't take as long.
Among the biggest losers on draft night? One could make a case for the other team in the evening's big trade.
Yes, the Nets added Garnett and Pierce to play with guards Deron Williams and Joe Johnson and center Brook Lopez. But Garnett and Pierce are at the end of their careers, which puts heavy pressure on rookie NBA head coach Jason Kidd to produce a title contender immediately. Brooklyn faces a luxury-tax bill of nearly $80 million and will have a payroll close to $100 million.
Even with the upgrades, Brooklyn isn't a lock to be a top-three team in the Eastern Conference. The Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers and the Chicago Bulls (with a healthy Derrick Rose) should all be formidable.
The Nets did win by temporarily stealing some of the NBA spotlight from the New York Knicks.
The trade won't be official until July 10.
Here's a look at some of the other winners and losers from the 2013 NBA draft.
WINNER: Anthony Bennett
On the eve of the draft, Bennett said there was a chance he could be the top pick. Few listened. Now, after being selected No. 1 overall, the former UNLV forward could be the biggest surprise pick in NBA draft history.
"I'm just really as surprised as everyone else," Bennett said. "I didn't have any idea who was going No. 1 or who was going No. 2. I heard everything was up for grabs. But I'm just real happy, glad I have this opportunity."
The Cavaliers were expected to select Kentucky center Nerlens Noel or Maryland center Alex Len. Bennett was viewed as a dark horse candidate, especially since Cleveland already had another power forward in Tristan Thompson. The undersized Bennett is also recovering from shoulder surgery.
Other intriguing candidates included Indiana guard Victor Oladipo, Georgetown small forward Otto Porter Jr., and Kansas guard Ben McLemore.
So when did Bennett know for sure he was going to be taken No. 1?
"When they said my name," he said. "I had no idea."
LOSER: Nerlens Noel
It was nearly 1 a.m. ET Friday when Noel finally addressed reporters as a surprised member of the Philadelphia 76ers. It was a long and disappointing night for the slim center as he fell from the possible top pick to the sixth overall selection by the New Orleans Pelicans. Noel then learned he had been traded to the Sixers – with a protected 2014 first-round pick dealt to the Sixers for All-Star guard Jrue Holiday and the rights to Baylor guard Pierre Jackson, the 42nd overall pick.
"I'm going to look at this night a few years down the road when I'm established in the NBA as the night that gave me the motivation that I needed to become the player I wanted to be," Noel said.
Noel hopes to be able to play by November following knee surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament that cut short his freshman season at Kentucky. He believes the injury contributed to his slide in the draft.
"They're going to make their own decisions that are best for them," Noel said of the teams that passed on him. "Down the road they can just hope they made the right decision."
The Pelicans acquired one of the NBA's marquee young point guards. Holiday, 23, might help New Orleans finally soothe the loss of Chris Paul from two years ago while giving them another key player to build around.
Holiday averaged 17.7 points and eight assists last season and is beginning a four-year, $44 million contract extension he previously signed with the Sixers.
"He's shocked," said Holiday's agent, Tony Dutt. "He understands it's a business as well. He's OK. It is what it is – something we didn't expect."
The Pelicans might explore trading disgruntled shooting guard Eric Gordon. Point guard Greivis Vasquez also is coming off the best season of his young career.
"Jrue will be great for us," Gordon said. "Very excited."
LOSER: NBA hecklers
One of the draft's greatest pastimes is the booing of NBA commissioner David Stern as he announces the first-round picks. Hecklers, however, no longer have Stern to pick on.
Stern was booed for the last time at the draft Thursday. He retires as commissioner on Feb. 1, 2014.
Stern took his final booing in stride by bantering with the jeering Barclays Center crowd.
The fans eventually gave him a standing ovation at the end of the first round. The crowd, of course, followed by booing Stern's replacement, Adam Silver.
"We've had to explain to our international audience that the 'boo' is an American sign of respect," Stern said.
WINNER: Lucas "Bebe" Nogueira's Celtics hat
The hat had the ride of its life atop the Brazilian center's large afro, but somehow didn't fall completely off. Alas, the hat was eventually traded for a Atlanta model when Nogueria's rights were officially shipped to the Hawks.
"I want them to recognize me because of my hair, too, but mostly for my game," Nogueira said.
LOSER: Shabazz Muhammad
Muhammad was viewed as a possible No. 1 NBA pick as the NCAA season began. But the former UCLA star's stock dropped dramatically, and he wasn't invited to the draft green room for the top prospects. He was eventually taken with the final lottery pick (No. 14 by the Utah Jazz) before his draft rights were acquired by the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Muhammad learned of his draft selection while watching on TV near the Barclays Center. He still came to the arena to hear his name announced and shake Stern's hand.
"Some teams passed on me," Muhammad said. "That's why you have a chip on your shoulder. I'm a guy who has a chip on his shoulder and wants to work."
Oladipo and former Indiana University teammate Cody Zeller were selected with the second and fourth overall picks by the Orlando Magic and Charlotte Bobcats, respectively. Oladipo was considered a top-three pick, but Zeller was more of a surprise."I was just kidding my agent because he didn't bail me out," Zeller said. "He didn't tell me. I didn't know until David Stern announced it."
NBA draft coverage on Yahoo! Sports:
• Yahoo! NBA draft tracker
• Anthony Bennett speechless after being picked No. 1
• David Stern trolls fans in final NBA draft
• Pelicans trade Nerlens Noel to Philadelphia for Jrue Holiday
• Lucas 'Bebe' Nogueira wins best hair at NBA draft
• Hakeem Olajuwon shows up in style to bid David Stern farewell
• NBA draft night trade tracker