Wafer steps up for undermanned Celtics

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Wafer steps up for undermanned Celtics

By JessicaCamerato
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- Lets be honest. When Von Wafer checked in for Ray Allen with just over a minute left in the first quarter and the Boston Celtics trailing the Miami Heat, 20-13, how many people thought, "This will be one of the guys to get the Cs back in it." Anyone?

If you didnt raise your hand, that's OK. Wafer hadnt proved yet that he could be that guy.

True, he had played well in 20 minutes against the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday, but he had also struggled the previous game against the Charlotte Bobcats. A few good games here, a handful of meaningful minutes there, Wafer had not been a consistent contributor, especially not against a team like the Heat.

So what would the Celtics get when he walked on to the court -- a guy who would continue to step up against big teams or someone whod be hot one night, cold the next?

On Sunday, Wafer proved to be option A.

I thought Von came in and gave us some great minutes tonight, Kendrick Perkins said following the Celtics 85-82 win. He was huge."

Wafer entered the game averaging 2.8 points in 8.7 minutes. He scored 10 points in 14 minutes off the bench to give the Celtics an edge with their second unit. Despite being shorthanded by injuries, the duo of Wafer and Glen Davis (16 points) helped the Cs fight back from an early deficit.

The Celtics trailed, 20-15, to start the second quarter. Within a span of two-and-a-half minutes, Wafer picked off two steals and connected on two fastbreak lay-ups. His second layup with 8:36 to go in the second gave the Celtics their first lead since 4:22 left in the first.

The bench won the game in the first half. They got us back into it, said Doc Rivers. I thought in a role-reversal they showed the first unit how we were going to have to win this game, and then I thought our first unit took it from there. But Von and Baby were absolutely huge for us and terrific.

Wafer provided a spark in the second half by knocking down a three-pointer to give the Celtics a 74-61 lead at the end of the third quarter. He hit another trey less than two minutes into the fourth.

He was one of the most offensively efficient scorers for the Celtics, shooting 4-for-5 from the field and 2-for-3 from three-point range.

Wafer, though, was quick to point out that he committed two turnovers. While he isnt getting ahead of himself, he isnt dwelling on the negatives, either.

Ive got some room for improvement, he said. Im always going to believe in myself, no matter if I miss ten shots in a row, Im feeling good because I know the next ten are going to go in. Thats just how I feel. If I make a few mistakes, Im not going to get down. Im just going to keep coming.

In addition his scoring, Wafer stepped in and played tight defense against the Heat when the starters needed a rest. After taking on Kobe Bryant on Thursday, he was also tasked with guarding LeBron James at times as well.

I just tried to stay low and stay in front of the ball, Wafer told CSNNE.com. The only kink in his armor may be his shooting, so I was trying to make him shoot, but he drove it anyways. I just wanted to stay in front of him, and I did that.

He added, I just make it tough, try to play as hard as I can. If my man scores, he scores. If he doesnt, he doesnt. Im not going to be scared. Ive just got to try to make it tough for him.

Wafer maintains that he is simply doing his job. But coming off the bench for the championship-contending Celtics is different than any other role he has been assigned before. While he still has progress to make, he proved he is continuing to develop and buy into the Celtics system.

Were all on one page and weve got one mission, he said. It helps when youve got guys pulling for you and not trying to tear you down. These guys are here to build everybody up. Nobodys here to tear anyone down, but when you do something wrong, theyll get on you. Its like a family really.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter athttp:twitter.comjcameratoNBA

Thomas excited for reunion with Green

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Thomas excited for reunion with Green

WALTHAM, Mass. -- When the phone rang this summer, Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas had to do a double-take when he saw the name on the caller ID.

It was Gerald Green, his ex-teammate in Phoenix.

Although they only shared a locker room for 45 games in Phoenix, the two became quick friends.

On the court they developed instant chemistry while coming off the Suns bench. And that bond spilled off the court as Green would later spend time with Thomas in the Seattle-Tacoma, Wash. area in the summer months.

They were cool with each other, cool enough to where Thomas knew it wasn’t in Green’s nature to pick up the phone and call just to say hi.

“Gerald doesn’t call anybody,” Thomas said. “When he called I knew something was up.”

Green said Boston, the team that drafted him in 2006 straight out of high school, was interested in bringing him back for a second stint with the club.

“I tried to put my two cents in and he got here,” Thomas said.

There were several factors that led Green back to Boston, with a chance to reunite with Thomas being high on that list.

Green, already in Phoenix at the time the Suns signed Thomas in 2014, was impressed with the way the 5-9 guard carried himself.

“He was a genuine guy, came in really humble,” Green said. “I saw the talent was there. I knew he had the potential to be one of the best point guards in this league.”

Thomas certainly made a case for such lofty praise with how he performed last season, good enough to earn his first all-star selection.

What really stuck out to Green was that Thomas’ mentality and approach to the game was almost a carbon copy of his own.

“When we stepped on the court we had the same mentality,” Green said. “By any means necessary, get a bucket and play harder than the next team; just try and push the first team, make the first team better every day.”

Thomas was coming off the bench, showing lots of potential and promise that he could carry a heavier load if given an opportunity to do so.

He averaged 15.2 points, 3.7 assists and 2.4 rebounds in 25.7 minutes off the Suns bench in 46 games. Even more significant was that when Thomas did play for the Suns, they were 26-20.

In the games without him, they were just 13-23.

Green was admittedly disappointed they traded away Thomas, believing that season would have had a very different outcome had they not sent him to Boston.

And just like Green recognized Thomas’ skills and how much his team could have benefited from keeping him around, Thomas speaks in glowing terms about Green and what his return to Boston means for the team.

“We needed someone like him; a guy that could shoot the ball, a guy that could space the floor; instant scorer whether he starts or comes off the bench,” Thomas said. “Where the he starts or come off the bench. He’s going to really help us.”

Horford, Johnson wasting no time in developing chemistry

Horford, Johnson wasting no time in developing chemistry

WALTHAM, Mass. – When the news came out that Al Horford was going to be a Boston Celtic, Amir Johnson couldn’t wait to meet his new teammate.

He didn’t have to.

Johnson soon found himself on plane headed to Atlanta to not only work out with Horford, but also try and work out some of the kinks that tend to come up among new teammates in those early days of training camp.

“I took it upon myself when I saw Al was part of the team, I automatically wanted to go down to Atlanta and work,” said Johnson who added that he brought his daughter along for the trip and they went to dinner with Horford’s family during the visit. “I thought it was great just to get that chemistry going. I just wanted to get to known him, make him feel comfortable.”

It’s still early in training camp, but Johnson and Horford seem to be meshing quite well on the floor. 

“The chemistry’s definitely coming along,” Johnson said. “I know when Al wants to roll or pop, and just working my way around it. Al’s more of a popper and eventually he’ll roll. It’s up to me to read whether I stay up or work the baseline.”

Johnson has been in the NBA long enough to know that often the keys to success are subtle nuances that may be overlooked by fans and spectators, but players know are essential to them being successful.

Being able to not only understand a player’s game but figure out how to play well with them, are critical to teammates being successful.

Last season, Johnson was Boston’s primary rim-protecting big man which is a role the 29-year-old Johnson has been cast in the last few years he was in Toronto. Horford brings a similar set of defensive skills to the table which gives Boston a true 1-2 defensive punch along the frontline.

“It’s big time,” Johnson said. “We communicate to each other. It’s all about communication out there; just knowing he can hold it down and he trusts me to hold it down. It’s key.”

GREEN INJURY UPDATE

Gerald Green is expected to get a few more days to rest his hip flexor injury which he said on Thursday was feeling better.

The injury should keep the 6-6 wing from participating in the team’s Green-White scrimmage on Friday, but it isn’t considered serious.

Still, Green is eager to get back and return to full contact work which is why he is getting a steady diet of treatments during the day and returning in the evening for more treatments from the Celtics’ medical staff.

“It’s almost like a precautionary thing; make sure it doesn’t get worst,” Green said.

The injury occurred earlier this week but Green could not pinpoint exactly what he did to suffer the injury.

“I don’t think I stretched properly,” Green said. “I’m not 25 no more. Just try to come out there and go at full speed. Those are things I’ve got to learn now I’m in my 30s.”
Indeed, one of the many benefits of being older now is that Green sees the big picture of things better now, which is why he isn’t trying to rush back to the floor too quickly.

As a veteran, it’s a long season,” Green said. “You’re not trying to do too much to make it worst. Training camp is important, but being healthy at the beginning of the season is even more important.”

RUN, YOUNGSTERS, RUN

Near the end of Thursday’s practice, the Celtics had a full court game of 3-on-3 involving some of the team’s rookies and end-of-the-bench training camp invitees like Jalen Jones of Texas A&M. The 6-7 undrafted rookie had a dunk over Jordan Mickey, a 3-pointer and another strong, uncontested flush at the rim in a matter of minutes. He’s likely to wind up with Boston’s Developmental League team, the Maine Red Claws.

With Thursday morning’s session being the team’s fifth practice this season, head coach Brad Stevens thought it was a good idea to get some of the team’s younger players on the court.

“It was good to play some 3-on-3,” said Stevens who added that it was good for their conditioning since a lot of the running at this point involves trying to get the starters and the likely rotation players as acclimated and familiar with one another as possible. “We try to do that occasionally even through the season just to get everybody up and down.”

TURNOVERS? WHAT TURNOVERS?

Five practices in the books and there’s only one thing that really has stood out to the eyes of Isaiah Thomas.

It’s turnovers.

Apparently the Celtics haven’t committed too many thus far.

“We haven’t turned the ball over as much as teams usually do the first couple of days,” Thomas said. “We’re trying to learn the system, trying to get everybody familiar with what we do. But we’ve been playing well together. Guys are playing hard. Guys have gotten better, worked on their game.”

Ball-handling will be one of the areas to watch during the preseason as the Celtics look to find a replacement for Evan Turner (Portland) who has been one of the team’s best ball-handlers the past couple of seasons.

The Celtics were middle-of-the-pack last season with 13.5 turnovers per game which ranked 14th in the NBA.

Low turnovers often serve as a common trait among playoff teams. Just last season, eight of the top-nine teams in fewest turnovers committed, were in the playoffs.