BOSTON – Brad Stevens had a plan for how to utilize his roster against the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night.
And it involved Daniel Theis who was supposed to play for a few minutes in the first half and would then be replaced by Greg Monroe.
But the Celtics played well with Theis on the floor, and that led to Theis getting an extended run – and ultimately wound up keeping Monroe on the bench for the entire game as the Celtics easily defeated the Grizzlies 109-98.
Theis finished with 12 points on 5-for-8 shooting to go with seven rebounds in 24 minutes of court time.
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Theis has been forcing head coach Brad Stevens to call roster audibles involving him all year, consistently making it damn near impossible for Stevens to take him out of games.
“He’s been great,” Stevens said. “Been what you expect him to be from a skill set standpoint and activity standpoint. But he does it every night. One of the best things you can be called in this league is consistent. And he’s very consistent.”
And as we know, consistency is what all teams are looking for when it comes to all their players but especially rookies.
But Theis has shown himself to be anything but your typical first-year player, displaying a level of maturity that seems advanced even for a 25-year-old.
That’s because Theis’ basketball resume has given him a perspective that few players coming into the NBA from overseas with so little fanfare, are equipped with.
Theis has been playing professionally since he was a teenager, winning a German championship each of the last three seasons with Brose Bamberg.
It is that latter point – winning championships – that sets him apart in some ways from other international prospects.
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Having gone through multiple seasons that end in championships, provides insight into what it takes to be a champion, and the sacrifices required to make that happen.
So there’s a question that begs to be asked about Theis … how the hell does a guy this consistent as an NBA rookie, go unnoticed for years by NBA folks?
“He was a good player in Germany, but never really a star per se on his team,” one international scout texted NBC Sports Boston. “A good role player, played hard, good defender, all that stuff. But he didn’t really do anything that just jumped out at you and said, ‘Yeah, he’s an NBA player.’ But clearly, he is that and then some.”
As much as he flew under the radar to NBA folks, Theis readily admits that it wasn’t until he was part of a third straight championship team in Germany last year did he feel the time was right for him to take his talents to the NBA.
And while there were some other teams that had shown some level of interest, the Celtics were far and away the one team that Theis felt really wanted him.
“They really wanted me to come here, and I really liked that the Celtics were a team that had the same goals as mine; to win championships,” Theis told NBC Sports Boston. “That’s what you play for; that’s what I play for.”
And because he has won championships before, he’s well aware of how important it is to be a star in whatever role you’re called upon to play.
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But with Theis, we’re seeing him seemingly get better as the season progresses.
For the season, Theis is averaging 5.2 points and 4.3 rebounds per game.
But in February, Theis is averaging 6.9 points while logging 19.1 minutes per game – both representing his best month statistically this season.
"I’d like to claim development, but I don’t know if we’re in the business of development,” Stevens said when asked about Theis’ improved play. “I think we’re more in, you know, getting really good players to sign here and hopefully put them in good spots.
Obviously, you’re trying to enhance guys and help them find their way through the league. But he came with everything he’s doing. And now he’s just more comfortable doing it. That’s his greatest growth; he’s got 60 games of NBA experience now.”
Theis added, “I know my role. I know my strength. So, for me it’s fitting into the system. That makes it easier for me.”