His to New Jersey originally excited him but subsequently resulted in frustration and outright exile from . The specter of hung over him like some Damoclean sword, as he was linked to a deal that was never made. He was told he would be sent to Detroit, another move that never occurred. That might have been the best thing that happened to him this season.
Traded in February back to his original team, the Warriors, he was quickly bought out and waived. Lottery-bound Golden State had no use for him. Then, on the open market, he listened to proposals from Miami and Boston — and chose the , who were down by 2-0 entering Saturday’s Game 3 of the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals against .
When asked Saturday about this season, Murphy said: “Exasperating. If you had told me it would have been like this, I would never have believed you.”
He also said he still would choose the Celtics even knowing now what he didn’t know then: that his team would be trailing Miami, and that he would be rendered to wallflower status at the most critical juncture of the season. He is not part of Coach ’s rotation and has yet to play against the Heat.
“You can’t look back,” Murphy said, choosing his words carefully after the morning shoot-around at the Celtics’ practice facility outside Boston. “You make a decision and you stick with it. I made the decision to come here, and it is what it is. I felt both teams had a chance to compete for a championship, and Boston made more sense to me at the time.
“There was a definite tug of war. They were two of the top teams in the league. It was a very tough decision.”
made the 6-foot-11 Murphy worth pursuing. In 2009-10, he averaged 14.6 points and 10.2 rebounds for Indiana, the fifth time he finished a season averaging double figures in those statistical categories. He was an excellent 3-point shooter for his size and had been a starter and contributor for most of his career.
That was certainly the expectation when the Nets acquired him from Indiana in a four-team, five-player trade last August. But Murphy, a native of Sparta, N.J., was soon hurt (back and foot injuries) and never fit in with the rebuilding Nets.
Soon, he was hearing his name mentioned almost daily in the trade talk involving Denver and Anthony, not because of his ability, but because his contract was needed to make the deal work.
“We thought there was a deal in the beginning of January, and I thought I was going to Detroit,” Murphy said. “I was told to stay home and wait a week for the deal to go through. It didn’t go through, but I still stayed home, and it went on like that.”
His last game with the Nets was Jan. 7. Then came a Feb. 23 deal to Golden State, the release by the Warriors on Feb. 28, and the subsequent signing with the Celtics on March 2. At the time, it looked like a brilliant stroke, for it was thought that Murphy would provide help for the Celtics in the playoffs.
But he sprained his right ankle in practice March 24 and he did not return until April 5. He has appeared in one playoff game — his first in 10 seasons — playing three minutes in the Celtics’ blowout Game 3 win over the in the first round.
“When he first got here, I’m not sure he was ready to play because he hadn’t played all year,” Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge said. “Then, he sprained his ankle. But since he has come back, I think he has looked very good. I know Doc has contemplated using him, but it’s tough with the depth we have. I know Troy is an option Doc believes in and trusts in.”
Rivers has given Murphy the treatment — Be Prepared — and likens Murphy’s situation to that of Nate Robinson in 2010. Like Murphy, Robinson was a part-timer, but Rivers maintained that Robinson would help them win a playoff game. He was right. Robinson played a huge role in the Celtics’ Game 4 victory over the in the N.B.A. finals.
But will that day ever come for the 31-year-old Murphy? He has no clue.
Asked whether he thought his first N.B.A. playoff experience would be different, Murphy said: “Yeah, I did. But I was coming into a tough situation, a veteran team that is pretty well set and a coach that has been with that group for a while. It’s tough to get minutes in the middle of the year. Doc is comfortable with a certain group of guys, and those are the guys he goes with. There’s nothing I can really do about that.”