BOSTON – When it comes to playing time, Daniel Theis has no idea how much action he’ll see, or whether he will even play for that matter.
You hear players talk all the time about staying ready at a moment’s notice, about making the most of whatever minutes they get with no promises that it’ll lead to more playing time.
But it’s rare to see a player, an NBA rookie nonetheless, embrace such a role with such uncertainty.
Which is why Theis has been such a pleasant surprise for the Celtics who absolutely smashed the Sacramento Kings, 113-86, on Wednesday.
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The 6-foot-9 rookie from Germany finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds for his first career NBA double-double.
Like most newcomers to the NBA, Theis acknowledged the biggest adjustment early on for him was the game being so much quicker than what he was accustomed to in Germany.
“I struggled a little bit in the preseason,” he admitted. “But now it’s better. I’m getting used to it.”
And his teammates are getting used to his all-out hustle and energy which has made him a key contributor off the bench and an analytics star for this team.
For most of this season, Theis (pronounced Tice) has been among the Celtics' most productive rebounders.
He has appeared in seven of Boston’s eight games, and has a rebounding percentage of .205, which is tops among all his teammates.
Theis has been especially effective on the offensive glass which is where four of his 10 rebounds came from against the Kings
This season, he has an offensive rebound percentage of .175 which leads all Celtics who average at least 10 minutes played per game and ranks fifth among all NBA players who play as much (he averages 14.6 minutes per game) as he does, or more.
“He just has a good motor to him,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “He’s always in good position. Never quits on plays. He’s got good balance as we can see, and he’s awfully long so he keeps his hands … even when he doesn’t get it, he tips it, kind of keeps it alive.”
There are many who have been surprised at how quickly the 25-year-old Theis has adjusted to the NBA game.
“I mean, it’s still basketball,” he said. “I played in Europe for the last seven years. It’s just a little bit faster here, I needed some time to get used to it. With the team we have, like Al (Horford) was helping me a lot in the preseason, Aron (Baynes) helped me a lot in just talking to me about the game and how Brad (Stevens) wants us to play.”
And those conversations have helped Theis navigate his way on to the floor in what has been a significant role which has contributed to the team winning its last six games which is the longest current winning streak in the NBA.
Theis came into Wednesday’s game averaging 5.2 points per game, but he’s fully aware how to score points with his head coach – rebound the ball.
“That’s my job here,” Theis said. “I just want to play with energy and go for rebounds, offensive rebounds.”