Celtics guard/forward Abdel Nader shows up to practice, does his part in pre-game preparation, knowing more nights than not he’s not going to play.
“You guys know I’ve been getting minutes like, garbage minutes here and there, maybe I’ll get in the game every now and then,” Nader told NBC Sports Boston. “To get solid minutes throughout a whole stretch of a game, it’s big time.”
And for all of the injury-related issues the Celtics have been dealing with, Nader, as well as some of Boston’s other seldom-used players having a more prominent role, is indeed a silver lining in this injury-riddled period of time.
Nader will be among the Celtics to see action tonight as Boston tries to bounce back from a hard-fought, 125-124 double-overtime loss to Washington when they take on the Orlando Magic tonight.
And while Boston lost the game, it afforded players like Nader a shot at playing significant minutes which is a huge plus for a team that has to be even more about their collective sum with so many core guys out.
“It gives you confidence, the more you play,” said Nader who had a career-high-tying 10 points against the Wizards. “You can read-and-react to things faster … everything comes more natural.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens knows his roster better than anyone. So he’s not the least bit surprised when players who see limited action perform well when their number is called.
“Ab’s a good player,” Stevens said. “But Jayson [Tatum] and Jaylen [Brown] and Marcus Smart and all those guys are good players, too. And unfortunately, somebody has to sit – but it is good to have an opportunity. The NBA always gives you an opportunity at some point during the season.”
And that opportunity is now for Boston’s youthful reserves who will see more action than normal tonight.
Reportedly, Smart will have surgery today and is lost for the remainder of the regular season at least. Brown (concussion) is not with the team during their two-game road trip that begins tonight in Orlando and moves on to New Orleans on Sunday. Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness) is with the team and might play against the Pelicans. Al Horford (illness) is also on the trip, and is probable for tonight’s game against the Magic.
While there’s a heightened level of uncertainty with several key Celtics players, the same can not be said for the opportunity that exists for players who normally don’t play a lot.
“Whether you’re playing or not, you have to stay ready to enter the game,” Boston’s Semi Ojeleye told NBC Sports Boston. “Everybody has done a great job with guys being out the whole year. Different guys have had to step up. I think we’re all prepared for this moment since Gordon (Hayward) went out. We’re all going to have to step up at different times.”