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NBA Finals 2024, Boston Celtics vs. Dallas Mavericks - The twists and turns that led Jrue Holiday back to the Finals - ESPN

Editor's note: This story was originally published on June 3. Jrue Holiday scored a team-high 26 points on 11-of-14 shooting in the Celtics' Game 2 win in the 2024 NBA Finals.

AS TEAMS GATHERED ahead of training camp in September, a surprising piece of information came down the NBA rumor mill: The Milwaukee Bucks weren't just in play to acquire Damian Lillard in a trade; they had become the favorites.

How were they going to do it? This is what team front offices were attempting to figure out. It was a potentially league-altering transaction, and there was sure to be fallout.

With a jammed payroll, limited draft assets and only a couple of tradable young players, the Bucks didn't have a simple way to pull off such a blockbuster. Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez, two large-salary stars who plausibly could have been in an offer to help Milwaukee match Lillard's $45.6 million salary, had just signed new contracts and weren't permitted to be traded for months.

The Portland Trail Blazers had done a good job all summer of keeping details of the Lillard trade talks private. But now there was a blitz to scrounge up details. As the cap strategists and executives examined the situation and spoke among themselves, many started coming to a conclusion:

Jrue Holiday was in play.

That turn of events ended up having a major impact on the season, though not in the way many expected. Eight months later, after a five-day pitstop with Portland, the player who spent last summer thinking about returning to the mountaintop with the Bucks is four wins away from helping the Boston Celtics hang elusive banner No. 18 in a key role as one of the final players in their championship puzzle.

«I mean, [winning a title] takes everything,» Holiday said