February trip to Boston was aborted for Gafford, much to the Mavs’ delight

BOSTON – Daniel Gafford is experiencing a full circle that directly involves the Boston Celtics.

When Gafford woke up on the morning of February 8, he was still a member of the Washington Wizards. And the Wizards were scheduled to face the Celtics in Boston on February 9.

This meant that the Wizards planned to leave Washington on February 8 to travel to Boston. However, Gafford received an important phone call from Wizards general manager Will Dawkins informing him that he may have to rearrange his travel plans because a trade was in the works.

“The crazy thing is, when I got traded, (the Wizards) were going here to play Boston,” Gafford said Wednesday. “I got to the training center (and) Will Dawkins called me and said there was a possibility you could go to Dallas.

“I said, ‘OK, let me know.’ I sat in the parking lot for 30 minutes. He called me and said, “You got traded to Dallas.” “

While Gafford’s life was suddenly turned upside down, the trade was actually the best career move involving Gafford to date.

“I would say as far as the emotions involved in a trade, you might be angry (or) you might be happy,” Gafford said. “I would say I didn’t really have a crazy reaction because I’ve been in this situation before.

“I just took it as an argument: one door closed, another door open for me. So this is another opportunity for me to progress throughout my career.

As Gafford progressed throughout his career, he became a fan favorite in Dallas and a key cog in the Mavs’ qualification for the NBA Finals for the first time since they won it all in 2011. Gafford’s strength, breathtaking shooting around the basket and defensive prowess helped the Mavs go 12-5 in the playoffs and win three series, all despite to be a definitive outsider in each series.

When the trade with the Wizards was finally finalized, Gafford wanted to make sure he was in the right frame of mind to move from one part of the country to another at a moment’s notice.

“I just wanted to make sure I definitely took the right approach,” he said. “I didn’t want to think about it too much.

“Like I said, it’s another opportunity for me. I just took this as it is another step on my path to success.

In Gafford’s first game with the Mavs, his run led him to score 19 points, grabbing nine rebounds while converting 7 of 11 shots in just 17 minutes in a 146-111 blowout victory over Oklahoma City on the 10th. February in Dallas. That’s when Gafford knew trading from the Wizards to the Mavs would be a perfect fit.

“Oh, man, the first game when we were there, Luka (Dončić) threw me the first lob (dunk),” Gafford said. “The crowd went crazy.

“The crowd in Dallas reminds me a lot of Bud Walton Arena (at the University of Arkansas) when I was in college. Just being in that atmosphere – the love and the energy throughout the arena – it’s just something that I felt was missing throughout my career.

And now, that full-circle moment has brought Gafford back to Boston, where the Mavs will face the Celtics in this year’s NBA Finals. For Gafford, that phone call from Dawkins was one of the best phone calls he ever received.

Here are some other nuggets surrounding Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Mavs and the Celtics.

*This will be the first time the Mavs face anyone in the NBA Finals other than the Miami Heat. Miami beat the Mavs in six games to win the 2006 NBA title. The Mavs returned the favor and beat the Heat in six games in 2011.

*The Celtics have posted the best record in the NBA this season at 64-18, and are also a very good 12-2 in the playoffs. But critics point out that the Celtics had a virtual cakewalk. In the first round of the playoffs, the Celtics beat Miami in five games, and the Heat played that entire series without their best player – All-Star guard Jimmy Butler. In the second round, the Celtics beat Cleveland in five games and the Cavaliers were without All-Star center Jarrett Allen, and Cavs All-Star guard Donovan Mitchell missed the final two games. And in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics earned a 4-0 sweep over the Indiana Pacers, who were without All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton for the last two and a half games.

*Mavs guards Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving seriously shook the world in this year’s playoffs. In the Western Conference Finals’ Game 5 series-clinching victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, Dončić and Irving each scored 36 points. The only other duo to score at least 35 points in a game that advanced to the NBA Finals was Los Angeles Laker stars Elgin Baylor and Jerry West in 1962. Additionally, Dončić is the first player in NBA playoff history to lead his team in scoring (489 points), rebounding (164) and assists (150) when that team entered the NBA Finals. And the only players with at least 450 points, 150 rebounds and 150 assists in a single playoff are Larry Bird (1987), LeBron James (six times), Nikola Jokic (2023) and Dončić.

*During a stellar NBA career that lasted from 1989 to 2003, guard Tim Hardaway Sr. never appeared in the NBA Finals. But his son, 11-year-old veteran Mavs guard Tim Hardaway Jr., will now play in his first NBA Finals. However, Hardaway Jr. never misses an opportunity to thank his father – he is in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame – for restarting his NBA career. “I wouldn’t be here without my dad,” Hardaway said. “He is always by my side. He’s always a phone call away, he always supports me, he always comes to the games. Like I said, he’s just a phone call away when I’m having trouble. Even though I’m having good matches, (he said), ‘Keep your head down, don’t stop, keep that energy, keep that flow.’ He always tells me to always have fun. He’s been telling me that since high school. That’s what I’ve tried to do throughout my career.

*The Celtics haven’t played a game since sweeping the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals on May 27. By the time Game 1 of the series against the Mavs begins, the Celtics will have had nine days without playing. So what has Celtics center Al Horford been doing during his long stretch without a game? “I just continue to stay consistent in the things I’ve been doing – coming in, training individually, doing things as a team when we needed to,” he said. “It was just for a longer, longer period of time. I think the first day, I took a day off right after Indiana – Game 4. After that, I just continued my routine, continued to stay ready, enjoying the time. For me, this time off, I feel like it’s been good to prepare as best I can for (Thursday).

*Mavs forward PJ Washington thinks all the multitude of defensive schemes his team saw in this year’s playoffs against the Los Angeles Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Minnesota Timberwolves should bode well when The Mavs will face the Celtics in this final seven series. “I think it prepares us very well,” Washington said. “I feel like we’ve played a lot of different teams that throw different things at us. Boston is an excellent offensive team. They pretty much have a bunch of different weapons. I feel like we’ve been preparing for this throughout the playoffs. I’m excited to play them, excited to go out there and see what we can do. Acquired in a February 8 trade with the Charlotte Hornets, Washington played a key role in the Mavs’ advance to the NBA Finals for the third time in franchise history. In the Mavs’ 17 playoff games this season, Washington averaged 13.6 points per game and 6.7 points per game, and also shot 43.2 percent from the field and 36.3 percent from three points.

*When the Celtics lost to the Golden State Warriors in the 2022 NBA Finals, Joe Mazzulla was an assistant coach under head coach Ime Udoka. Udoka is now the head coach of the Houston Rockets, while Mazzulla has taken over the reins of the Celtics. Mazzulla remembers after the loss to the Warriors how Celtic stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown reacted to the loss to the Warriors. “I think it’s not the only time these guys use to get better,” Mazzulla said. “The coolest thing about Jaylen’s situation is his surrender to everything external, and the most important thing is his growth and development as a person and as a player. That’s all he cares about is getting better. I think it’s really cool to see. I think it’s the same for Jayson. There are many experiences you can pick out that everyone in our locker room has had that you need to be able to use in the situation we are in now. I think it’s all about using what you’ve experienced – good, bad, indifferent – ​​to help you in the present moment. The guys do it.

*The Mavs are the fifth team seeded fifth or higher to advance to the NBA Finals since 1984. The only team to win the NBA title seeded fifth or higher is the sixth-seeded Houston Rockets, who swept Shaquille O’Neal, Penny. Hardaway and the Orlando Magic to win the 1995 championship.


When: 7:30 p.m., Thursday

Or: TD Garden, Boston


Radio: KEGL 97.1 FM L’Aigle; 99.1 FM Zona MX (Spanish)

X: @DwainPrice

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