Tony Parker

Here's how close the Celtics were to drafting Tony Parker in 2001

Here's how close the Celtics were to drafting Tony Parker in 2001

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Mavericks, which tips off Monday at 7:00 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Tommy have the call of the game at 7:30 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

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Here's your friendly reminder that Tim Duncan wasn't the only San Antonio Spurs player who got away from the Boston Celtics.

In a column for The Athletic on Monday, NBA writer Mike Monroe detailed how close the Celtics came to selecting Tony Parker with the No. 21 pick in the 2001 NBA Draft.

As Monroe wrote, first-year Boston general manager Chris Wallace was ready to draft Parker at No. 21 -- before team president and Celtics legend Red Auerbach overruled him.

"It was Auerbach who nixed Parker and insisted that North Carolina shooting guard Joe Forte be the team’s pick at No. 21," Monroe wrote, "a fact confirmed in recent days by several league executives familiar with the Celtics decision on what would become a fateful night for the Spurs."

If you haven't heard of Forte, it's because he lasted just one season in Boston and was out of the NBA by 2003. Parker, meanwhile, went on to win four NBA titles over 17 seasons in San Antonio.

But Parker apparently was convinced he'd be a Celtic on that 2001 draft night.

"I remember the lady from the NBA coming to get me,” Parker told Monroe. “She came to get me and said, ‘OK, you’re going to be the next one. They’re going to draft you, 19 or 21, something like that.' "

That's when Auerbach infamously intervened with a decision that would leave the Celtics without a star point guard until Rajon Rondo arrived in 2006.

"She came back and said, ‘Oh, no, go back,' " Parker said. “I don’t know what happened."

One executive told Monroe that Auerbach's skepticism of European point guards led him to overrule Wallace and spurn the France native.

Parker, whose jersey will be retired in San Antonio on Monday night, spent the better part of two decades proving Auerbach wrong over one of the biggest "what if" moments in Celtics history.

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Mavericks, which tips off Monday at 7:00 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Tommy have the call of the game at 7:30 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

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Celtics-Spurs preview: C's look to grab two in a row vs. San Antonio

Celtics-Spurs preview: C's look to grab two in a row vs. San Antonio

Beating San Antonio in late October may have seemed like just one of the many clubs Boston sent away with a loss.

But the Spurs’ victory was, well, different.

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It was the first real test for the Celtics who had lost their previous six games on the TD Garden floor to the Spurs.

Beating them, obviously, was a big deal.

And to do it on the road?

That would be even more impressive considering the Celtics have lost 11 of the last 12 games on the road against the Spurs (17-8) heading into tonight’s matchup.

This season has been one in which the Celtics have had several mile marker-type wins to their credit, victories that in many ways validated them as one of the better teams in the NBA.

And the first of the bunch was Boston’s 108-94 win over the Spurs on Oct. 30, a game in which the Spurs were without Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker.

But as we’ve seen time and time again, the Spurs are still one of the league’s best teams when it comes to winning, regardless of who is in their lineup or not.

Making Boston’s success thus far so surprising is how much they have leaned on first- and second-year players to win games.

“You never know how quick guys are going to pick up things,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “But from Day One with this group, guys try to play the right way, they’re about the right things. When you have a group of guys like that, you get these kind of results.”

In addition to getting significant contributions from rookies like Jayson Tatum as well as second-year wing Jaylen Brown, Boston has also benefited from playing their best basketball in the second half of games.

Boston ranks among the top-10 teams in the NBA in several categories based on second-half play, such as field goal percentage (.466, 8th in the NBA), 3-pointers made (5.7, 8th), 3-point percentage (.390, 3rd), points scored (53.6, 6th) in addition to a league-best defensive rating of 96.9 and an offensive rating of 111.4 which is second in the league.

 “Initially hearing that, you don’t want to necessarily be a second-half team,” said Boston’s Kyrie Irving. “Some of our first halves haven’t been the best; we understand that. Teams come out and hit us right away. We’ve come to expect (that) and we always try to keep it within (close) distance, especially if we’re not playing particularly well on both ends of the floor. The second half, we have to raise our level of play. Otherwise, teams are going to kick our butts.”

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