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.