Wafer: I just want to play basketball


Wafer: I just want to play basketball

By Jessica Camerato

BOSTON -- A group of reporters stood behind Von Wafer as he sat at his locker with his back to the herd. He kept to himself while he scanned through his phone, like he had done after so many preseason games.

Minutes passed. He had no idea the media was waiting on him.

"That's crazy," said Wafer. "I thought you were trying to talk to somebody else."

Not on Wednesday night. By the time the Celtics wrapped up their final game of the preseason, Wafer had emerged as the favorite to land the coveted 15th spot on the roster. Training camp invitees Stephane Lasme and Mario West had been cut, and now Wafer, who signed a non-guaranteed contract, is expected to make the squad.

"It's been a great experience," he said. "It's just been fun. It's just been good to get back out there on the court. I feel like I've gotten a lot better defensively. I've just had a lot of fun."

Wafer has goals for himself. The first: To make an NBA squad. The second: To earn minutes. The 25-year-old guard made it clear he wants to play. He hopes that he has shown the Celtics enough potential during the preseason to have his name called. Wafer felt more comfortable with his game after "finding his legs" and felt that the pace of the game seemed to slow down after doing so.

"I think I showed them that I can get better, that I'm willing to just play defense," he said. "I feel like I got a lot better defensively, but hopefully I can continue to play. Just making the team is not enough for me. I want to play. I've been playing in the NBA five years and I've been sitting on the bench for four. You just can't get better sitting on the bench. I want to play, bottom line."

The bottom line on the Celtics, though, is that minutes are not readily available. The team added depth to its bench this summer, making it even more difficult for a player -- especially one who has been out of the league for over a year -- to get on to the court.

"I would rather be out there," he said. "But I've got to take whats given to me."

Wafer doesn't hide his desire to play. It's only been heightened since he lost the opportunity to do so.

Wafer was kicked off the bench by Rick Adelman during a 2009 playoff game as a member of the Houston Rockets. The reason -- arguing about playing time.

He has been out of the league since then. Wafer signed a deal with Olympiakos in Greece but returned to the United States early after reportedly clashing with his coach. He signed a 10-day contract with the Dallas Mavericks in February, yet never appeared in a game.

"When I didn't get anybody who wanted to sign me for a contract, that hurt," he told CSNNE.com. "So I learned that way."

Wafer says he has learned his lesson and understands what he needs to do to fit in with the Celtics' team-first system. Acting out of line is a mistake he cannot afford to make.

"I think they should know I'm just an emotional player," he said. "But I had to learn to control those emotions because that situation in Houston cost me a lot of money. I cant afford to be giving out money (laughs). I had to learn the hard way to control my emotions. I had to learn through experiences. I know what it takes to be in this league. You just shut up, keep your mouth closed, and work hard and you're going to get paid."

Wafer could get his first opportunity at playing time at the start of the regular season while Delonte West serves a 10-game suspension for weapons charges. He doesn't know if hed get the nod, but if he did, he would be ready.

"I hope so," he said. "Like I said, I just want to play. I just want to contribute to the team. I just want to play, man. I don't know what else to say. I don't want to sit on the bench anymore. I just want to play basketball."

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.comJCameratoNBA.

Al Horford makes his mark on Celtics win with defense

Al Horford makes his mark on Celtics win with defense

BOSTON – Al Horford had the kind of game that stands out because of the way he scored from so many different spots on the floor. 

But the true measure of his value to this team usually lies in what he brings to the floor defensively. 

Horford had one of his better games defensively in Boston’s 97-92 win over Sacramento on Friday, a game in which he had a season-high six blocked shots. 

For the season, the four-time All-Star is averaging a career-high 2.9 blocks per game.

He’ll be looking to do more of the same tonight against the Philadelphia 76ers. 

While Philly doesn’t have a player as dominant and difficult to contain as DeMarcus Cousins, their top post player Joel Embiid has been impressive even with a minutes restriction after having missed the last two seasons with injuries and recovery. 

Against Sacramento, he had a season-high six blocked shots which was one short of tying his career high which came against the Kings during the 2010-2011 season. 

Although Horford has ranked among the NBA’s top big men when it comes to blocking shots, the Celtics knew when they signed him to a four-year, $113 million contract they were adding a player who could help with rim protection. 

The biggest play in the Celtics’ win over Sacramento came in the closing seconds when Horford was credited with blocking DeMarcus Cousins’ shot. Horford was fouled and went to the line and made his free throws to secure the victory. 

“Playing at the power forward position it really frees me up defensively,” Horford said. “I feel like I can run around a little more and have more impact. When you are a center a lot of the times you get caught up with the bigs and it’s a little harder to get out to shooters and stuff. I’m just trying to be active, as active as I can.”

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas who was among the Green Teamers to recruit Horford to sign with Boston, seeing him protect the rim the way he did on Friday was no surprise.

“We’ve always known when we recruited him we knew that was what he was good at,” Thomas said. “Even if he doesn’t block shots, he alters shots and changes them. He’s a hell of a player on both ends of the floor and he played a hell of a game (on Friday).”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens likes what he sees out of Horford defensively, especially now that he plays for Boston and not Atlanta which eliminated the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs last season. 

“He was terrific in our series,” Stevens said. “Terrific. And so, playing him 10 times last year, and so, I mean, I think I’m an idiot but after 10 times I had at least an idea. You know, he’s all over the place and he covers a lot of ground, he calls out calls, and I think he’s a competitive guy. And that proof is in his winning track record.”