By Jessica Camerato
BOSTON -- Ray Allen has been hard on Von Wafer. He critiques his game. He tells him right from wrong. He urges him to be a good teammate.
He doesnt always tell him what he wants to hear -- he tells him what he needs to hear.
And Wafer loves every word of it.
Allen sees potential in Wafer beyond the coach-imposed ejection during a playoff game during his time with the Houston Rockets, the European career-gone-sour, and the altercation with Delonte West earlier this season.
Allen sees a 25-year-old with the opportunity to establish himself on a championship-contending team this season. So hes tough on him.
He believes that underneath Wafers previous reputation, there is a good NBA player. But talent alone doesnt guarantee success, and Allen is pushing him to reach that next level.
I believe that he has the talent to do what I do out there on the floor, Allen told CSNNE.com. He can shoot the ball, he can get to the hole, hes got athletic ability. But at this stage, theres a lot of guys that have that. Hes on the same team as I am, he has the ability to learn from me, from what I do on a daily basis. He has the ability to learn from Paul (Pierce).
But the question is, does he want to learn? One. And two, mentally, can he stay with it to try to gain whatever expertise he needs to become one the best players in this league?
Those questions have tested Wafer this season. Rather than letting his pride get in the way, Wafer is putting his guard down to be receptive to Allens challenges. He has learned that criticism can be constructive, which has helped him improve his game.
Ray stays on me in a good way. I love that, Wafer told CSNNE.com. Sometimes Ive been in the past dealing with guys that just try to bring negative attention toward you, make you look bad, but Ray is genuinely helping me and its done wonders for me. Hes constantly telling me to watch what he does and he watches what I do and he critiques me on it. Its been helping.
Injuries on the Celtics have created the opportunity for Wafer to see more playing time. He is averaging more than 10 minutes in the last five games, including nearly 16 on Monday against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Wafer put together his best performance as a Celtic, posting 10 points (4-8 FG) and six rebounds. The last time he scored 10 points (excluding preseason) was May 17, 2009 with the Rockets, a Game 7 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Semifinals.
On Monday, there was a different result - and Wafer was part of the success.
We give him a lot of crap about it because I think on Media Day he says, Im an offensive player was his quote, said Doc Rivers. Hes proven to us that hes more than that. I think a lot of players have that in them, they just dont know it sometimes, and were getting it out of him. And hes actually enjoying it. Its funny to watch him. He gets excited about defensive stops now, and thats great because I get excited about that as well.
Fitting into the Celtics system is important to Wafer. He is on his sixth NBA team since being drafted in 2005, and Allen has stressed the importance of sticking with one squad.
I just want to be a good teammate, said Wafer. Just try not to be difficult to deal with and try to treat everybody the way I want to be treated. I think thatll go far in the end. Im learning. Im doing a lot of things differently. I think I had a lot of bad ways. I dont feel like Im a bad person. I just think I was immature and didnt know. But what Im learning from Ray is the right way to do it and how to do it. I think its helped a lot.
It takes a committed work ethic to make it on the Celtics. That goes beyond the basketball season, too.
Wafer recognizes there is a difference between saying he wants something and doing it. He admits that sticking with a regimen during the summer will be a test, and is aware of the obstacles that lie ahead to develop a routine.
Wafer knows it wont be easy. He has seen discipline pay off for Allen, though, and looks to follow that example - even if it will be a mental and physical challenge along the way.
I really want it. I want it really badly, he said. Theres no doubt, but its easy to sit here and say you want something, but when youre going through it, you learn a lot about yourself.
This is where Allen hopes his conversations will make a difference. If Mondays performance was any indication, their talks are paying off.
Im proud of him, said Allen. He knows that doing everything the right way, theres a reward to it. He can see because I know how he felt today. Everybody came in and told him great job, and Im sure the media talked to him, so hes like, okay Ive got to continue this trend.
One game is not enough for Wafer. Allen has shown him that hard work will pay off over time, and he hopes this is just the beginning.
Said Wafer, I cant wait for my chance to come to try to put out there what Rays taught me because I think Ive become a much better basketball player.
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