LAS VEGAS -- The Kangol hat and matching suede sweatsuit; joking around with his teammates which often leads into a locker room of laughter. The music bumping out of his headphones with an occasional dance move thrown in that instantly brings a smile to the faces of his teammates.
The fun-loving ways of Boston’s Guerschon Yabusele tend to mask the basketball skills that made him a first-round pick of the Celtics in 2016.
Yabusele will get an opportunity to dramatically change the narrative as to who he is by simply doing what he’s supposed to do — play great basketball.
His efforts along those lines begins this weekend when the Celtics open up summer league play against Philadelphia on Saturday. (Note: all Celtics summer league games can be seen on NBC Sports Boston. Click here for the full schedule.)
The most experienced player on Boston’s summer league team, Yabusele is well aware that he will be counted on to provide more leadership to this group than he was tasked with as one of the younger Celtics the past couple of seasons.
In many ways, the 23-year-old’s summer will be a trial run of sorts as to what will be expected of him this season.
Al Horford signing with Philadelphia and Aron Baynes being traded to Phoenix left a huge hole in the frontcourt for Boston.
While they have added some talent, it will still take the new additions a little bit of time to figure out their roles and how that fits in with the grand scheme of the Celtics system.
Having been on the team a couple years already, Yabusele does indeed have a head start of sorts on them along those lines.
But even with a new opportunity to have a more increased role, Yabusele maintains he’s not approaching this season any different than previous ones.
“The two years I’ve been here, I didn’t know if I was playing or not,” Yabusele told NBC Sports Boston. “I had to stay ready every game. It’s gonna be the same. Same routine, do everything I know how to do on the court.”
Indeed, minutes for Yabusele were few and far between last season as he appeared in just 41 games and averaged 2.3 points, 1.3 rebounds and shot 45.5 percent from the field and 32.1 percent from 3-point range in 6.1 minutes per game.
Celtics assistant coach Scott Morrison will be coaching the summer league team this season.
And while it remains to be seen what exactly Yabusele will do with the group, his experience in the NBA should bode well for him this summer.
“There’s some new stuff that we’re doing that’s new for everybody,” Morrison said. “But when you have that NBA experience, usually you can pick things up quicker which he is doing. Hopefully he’ll get out there and flex his muscles a bit, pun intended … punish some switches. Teams want to switch on him at the 4 (power forward), put somebody under the rim and score, draw some help; he’s always been a good cutter, good passer, so try to put him in position where he can showcase off his strengths for the team but also work on some of the things he didn’t get a chance to work on all season as more of a role player.
Morrison added, “When he’s on the court for us this summer league, he’ll be one of our main guys.”
And we have seen how impactful summer league can be for young players who are thrust into more prominent roles than the one they had during the NBA season.
We saw how a strong summer league a couple years ago for Terry Rozier, did wonders for his confidence and set the tone for his emergence as a player in the NBA.
Rozier, who spent most of his Celtics career as a backup, agreed to a three-year, $58 million contract from the Charlotte Hornets.
There’s too much time between now and when the season starts to project how much this summer will impact Yabusele’s future.
But the one thing we do know is this: Even with more pressure to perform on his shoulders heading into this season, Yabusele maintains he’ll still be the fun-loving, Kangol-hat wearing, jovial teammate.
“You still gonna see that,” Yabusele said, smiling. “I’m the same guy, same person. I’m still gonna come in with a smile.”
Those who are close to him such as the Celtics coaches and teammates, know that the work he puts in isn’t all fun and games.
But the upbeat, happy-go-lucky demeanor he carries all the time, makes the work needed to get better, far more enjoyable.
“I have fun at what I’m doing,” he said. “It makes it a lot easier. If you go to work everyday and you’re not happy, it’s going to be harder. But if you keep going in, have fun, smiling, it makes it easier to do your job.”
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