Talented Celtics Summer League players determined to embrace their roles

Talented Celtics Summer League players determined to embrace their roles

SALT LAKE CITY – As you look at the Summer League roster of the Boston Celtics or any other Summer League squad for that matter, you’ll find a collection of talented players.

For most of their lives, they have been the best player on their team, the alpha male who things got tough on the floor, they were the ones more often than not who got things going.

Fast forward to today, a time when past success does not necessarily serve as a prelude for production in the present.

Indeed, there is very much a sense that the reset button has been hit on the basketball careers for most of the players here participating in the Salt Lake City Summer League with the Boston Celtics’ games slated to begin on Monday evening.

Celtics assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry will be coaching Boston’s team in Salt Lake City. He has indicated that while finding minutes will be difficult, everyone on the roster will get an opportunity to showcase their skills.

Among those players will be Jaylen Brown, the 6-foot-7 forward selected by Boston with the third overall pick in last month’s NBA draft. The 19-year-old spent one season at Cal before turning pro, just enough time to have earned First Team All Pac-12 honors in addition to being the conference’s rookie of the year.

His departure from Cal after just one season did not come as a surprise to anyone, not after he came in as one of the most sought-after prep stars in the country who at one point had just one player rated ahead of him – LSU’s Ben Simmons, who was the No. 1 overall pick in June’s NBA draft by Philadelphia.

Even with all the praise and accomplishments, Brown knows his role in the NBA – for now at least – will be significantly different than what it has been for most of his basketball career.

“I went through some of that at college as well,” Brown said. “We had a senior point guard (Tyrone Wallace who was the 60th and final pick in last month’s draft) who was the majority ball-handler on the team so I had to find my fit in the organization. So it’s the same process here on a bigger scale. It’s about staying patient, waiting for your opportunity and staying ready.”

Celtics rookie Demetrius Jackson was selected with the 45th overall pick, a surprising dip for a player that many projected to be drafted somewhere in the first round or at worst, the early stages of the second.

Among his strengths while at Notre Dame was his ability to hit clutch shots in big games or come up with key plays defensively.

As a second round pick, Jackson knows first and foremost he has to do enough to make the 15-man roster which is far from a given when you consider the logjam Boston has even without including him, in the backcourt.

That’s why his approach to summer league is pretty simple.

“You have to embrace your role, whatever is required of you,” he said. “And just attack it.”

That kind of mindset has done wonders for Ben Bentil, a lightly regarded player NBA prospect at Providence College who emerged as one of the nation’s top scorers while playing with point guard Kris Dunn who was the fifth overall pick in last month’s draft.

Like Jackson, Bentil was a second-round pick (51st overall) last month who needs a strong showing this summer in order to secure a guaranteed contract and with it, a roster spot for this season.

And as far as going from being a go-to guy to a role player, Bentil said he doesn’t believe the transition will be all that challenging.

“I came in as a freshman and I wasn’t the go-to guy,” said Bentil who left Providence College following his sophomore season. “I was a role player. I worked my way up. It’s starting (over) again. Hopefully when it’s all said and done I’ll be one of the go-to players.”

The transition from being a star player to having a more limited role is a subject the Celtics were quick to address with their rookies.

“That was one of the first things coach (Brad) Stevens told them,” said Shrewsberry, adding, “that there are 10 guys in the NBA that are superstars. They can go to whatever team and do what they want to. And you fit around them. Then there are 400 role players and you have to find your role, you have to do what you do well within that role on that certain team. So, and for these guys they have to find that spot; they have to find what that role is. We have to help define it for them.”

Finding requires walking a fine line between what they do best while doing so within the confines of what’s best for the team and do so without being selfish.

And Shrewsberry knows it’s easier – a lot easier – said than done.

“When we play together, everybody is going to look good,” Shrewsberry said. “When you try and overdue it and try to do too much, that’s when you start to look bad. Just make simple plays. Everybody will feed off that success; everybody will share the ball and we’ll all have fun.”

A. Sherrod Blakely can be followed on Twitter: @SherrodbCSN

The Enes Kanter Show: Why he snapped at Kendrick Perkins over Celtics tweet

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The Enes Kanter Show: Why he snapped at Kendrick Perkins over Celtics tweet

Enes Kanter likes to have fun on Twitter.

But the Boston Celtics big man also has to look out for his own.

That's why, when ESPN analyst (and former Celtic) Kendrick Perkins openly proposed that the Celtics trade Gordon Hayward for Steven Adams to give them their "missing piece," Kanter snapped back

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On the latest episode of "The Enes Kanter Show," Kanter explained to NBC Sports Boston's Chris Forsberg why couldn't let Perkins' tweet slide.

Click here to listen and subscribe to The Enes Kanter Show Podcast:


I look at it this way: This is my family. My teammates are like my brothers. ... And it doesn't matter who you are. I will not let anyone mess with my brothers.

You don't know what Gordon or anyone else is going through. People respect Perkins a lot, and I respect him too. But for him to just go out there and say it like that, I was like, 'You cannot mess with my family like that."

The Celtics have been involved in speculation about adding a big man before the Feb. 6 trade deadline. This current group is tight-knit, though, and it's nice to see Kanter standing up for Hayward, who was also his teammate for three-plus seasons on the Utah Jazz.

"Our locker room is our locker room," Kanter added. "We won't let any distraction or outside voice break us down."

Check out the full episode above -- Kanter also discusses his fondest memories of the late Kobe Bryant and growing up a Lakers fan in Turkey -- and subscribe to "The Enes Kanter Show" on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network.

Celtics' Marcus Smart again comes up with 'unbelievable' key plays late that shouldn't be overlooked

Celtics' Marcus Smart again comes up with 'unbelievable' key plays late that shouldn't be overlooked

MIAMI — Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Marcus Smart labors through a rough shooting night and is uncharacteristically sloppy handling the ball for the better part of three quarters. Then, crunch time rolls around and Marcus Smart morphs into the most valuable player on the court.

It’s a tale as old as time. But it played itself out again on Tuesday night in Miami. Smart missed nine of his first 10 shots and matched his season-high with four turnovers.

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Still, with the game in the balance, Smart did Smart things. Like calmly knocking down a straightaway 3-pointer with 1:50 remaining on a kick out from Kemba Walker. Like swatting down what should have been an easy Bam Adebayo dunk a short time later. Like flinging himself into a trio of baby-blue jerseys and out-jumping the springy Adebayo for an impossible offensive rebound in the final minute.

A cursory glance at the box score will have most dismissing Smart’s night. He finished with 11 points on 3-of-13 shooting — missing all five of his shots inside the arc and five more of eight beyond it — with the four turnovers. 

But he balanced it out with eight rebounds, four assists, and three blocks in 36:29. All while being absolutely everywhere down the stretch as the Celtics picked up one of their best road wins of the season in Miami.

What was going through Smart’s mind late in the game?

“Win,” said Smart. "To me, it’s just what can I do to help my team? And, [on the offensive rebound], I saw a loose ball. I just thought, first one to get it, whatever happens, happens.

"I’m in the air, so I was hoping I didn’t get flipped or get hit in the face like I usually do. But you can’t think of that in the moment. You gotta go, and go hit the ball. First person to the floor, first person to the ball wins.”

Walker marveled at the way Smart makes all the key plays in high-pressure situations.

"Man, that dude. I love that dude,” said Walker. "I love his passion for the game. I love his energy. I love how he competes each and every night. He makes me want to compete just like him.

"He’s just so tough. He’s not scared of the moment. He made so many huge plays down the stretch. I know everybody will probably say the 3 that he made, but Adebayo had an open basket, he blocked his shot. I missed a shot, he got a huge [rebound]. He’s unbelievable. Unbelievable.”

Smart seemed smitten to learn of Walker’s praise. He noted it carries additional heft because of Walker’s All-Star status and the intensity that Walker brings to the floor.

“It’s a great feeling. I love Kemba, that’s my brother,” said Smart. “Just like all these guys in this locker room. But to hear somebody of his caliber just really really really give you praise and the recognition that you probably never get, it means a lot.”

Smart said he couldn’t allow missed shots to impact his energy. In fact, the missed shots only caused him to lock in a bit more defensively and find other ways to impact the game.

And all the struggles of the first 46 minutes will be forgotten because of his efforts in the last two.

“Continue to do what I normally do. I don’t really let shots not falling affect how I play, energy-wise,” said Smart. “Times like that, when your shot's not falling, your defense has to be at an all-time high. So, for me, just making sure guys are in the right spots on the defensive end and just really really really getting guys like [Jaylen Brown] and Gordon [Hayward] — they were the hot guys tonight, so we were trying to find them as much as we can.”

Still, teammates marvel at the way Smart can just take over a game with nothing more than grit and desire.

“Getting that tip-out…when he tipped it out and we were able to shoot free throws, that was a big momentum play, a huge play, at the end of the game,” said Grant Williams, who has affectionately dubbed himself a "Smart Mini-Me” and left a similar energy-filled stamp on the game Tuesday night. Williams noted that Smart’s play undoubtedly rubs off on the rest of the team.

Said Williams: “Just following his lead.”

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Warriors-Celtics, which begins Thursday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 8 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.