Midway through the 2001-02 season Celtics general manager Chris Wallace saw an opportunity.

The once-proud franchise which was still recovering from the disastrous Rick Pitino was on its way to its first playoff appearance since 1995 behind strong play from Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker when a trade possibility materialized with the Suns. So Wallace sensing a chance for the Celtics to make a playoff run pounced sending Randy Brown Milt Palacio a 2002 first-round pick and a rookie named Joe Johnson to Phoenix for veterans Rodney Rogers and Tony Delk.

While Rogers and Delk played significant roles off the bench as Boston advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals — where they lost ironically in six games to the Jason Kidd-led Nets — the Celtics paid a significant price down the road as Rogers signed as a free agent with the Nets that summer Delk left the year after that and Johnson blossomed into one of the NBA’s elite shooting guards with Phoenix and then Atlanta.

“I just remember seeing a kid who had a huge upside who I said was going to be an All-Star one day who was going to be one of the best players in the league one day” Pierce said after Thursday’s practice now finally reunited with his former teammate 11 years later on the Nets. “We just didn’t give him a chance to develop in Boston.

“I thought we could’ve been a great tandem in our younger years. You can imagine if we’d had me and Joe on the wings for 10 years. … Who knows what would have happened. But we’re here now and we’re still trying to see what’s going to happen.”

You could hear a bit of wistfulness in Pierce’s voice and understandably so. While Johnson developed into a six-time All-Star Pierce spent several years trying to carry a mediocre supporting cast with limited success before the arrival of Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett prior to Boston’s championship-winning 2007-08 season.