Celtics

Celtics' Semi Ojeleye the latest 'Next Man Up' success story

Celtics' Semi Ojeleye the latest 'Next Man Up' success story

BOSTON – You never know when your number is going to be called.

It’s the kind of coach-speak that players hear all the time, on all levels of play.

But when it comes to the Boston Celtics, it’s a way of life that is deeply woven into who they are as an organization.

That’s why the emergence of a bench player into a role of prominence, barely raises an eyebrow anymore.

But make no mistake about it.

Performances like the one put on Thursday night by Semi Ojeleye are not taken for granted.

When called upon to play a larger role due to Jaylen Brown (right foot) not being able to play, Ojeleye rose to the occasion and delivered one of his best scoring nights as a Celtic in helping Boston hold on for a 117-113 win over the Bucks and in doing so, became Boston's latest 'Next man up' success story.

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Never mind the fact that he scored a season-high 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting, and that it was only the third time in his 96-game playing career (that includes the playoffs) that he reached double figures scoring.

Ojeleye more than anything else, was a presence; the kind of presence that speaks to Boston’s depth which the Celtics have maintained will have to be a dominant theme for their club to have the kind of success this season they believe they are capable of.

Of course, Ojeleye’s primary reason for being in the starting lineup in place of Brown, was because of his defense which has matched up well against Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Antetokounmpo had a game-high 33 points, but only nine of those points came when he was guarded by Ojeleye who defended him on 24 possessions – more than any other Celtics player.

“Giannis is a tough cover,” said Ojeleye who added, “It was a joint effort to try and (contain) him.”

And while not having Brown available certainly didn’t help Boston’s chances, the Celtics can breathe a little easier knowing they have a player like Ojeleye who can fill in at the last minute and not be overwhelmed by the opportunity to start against one of the league's most dynamic scoring threats in Antetokounmpo. 

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We saw glimpses of that during his rookie season a year ago.

In fact, it was an early regular season win over the Bucks that seemed to open the eyes of many to the defensive potential of the 6-foot-6 Ojeleye.

Similar to last night’s game, Boston found itself in a back-and-fourth tussle with the Bucks while Antetokounmpo doing some amazing things.

Ojeleye defended him for a few stretches early on, as well as lengthier stint down the stretch. In the fourth quarter of that game, Antetokounmpo missed three of the four field goal attempts he took when guarded by Ojeleye.

That success led to more opportunities down the road which included his first career starts coming in the playoffs against the Bucks.

Coach Brad Stevens has shown no hesitation, whether it’s in the regular season or playoffs, to turn to Ojeleye.  

“I think everybody here knows what I think about Semi,” said Stevens who added, “and you know, whether he starts or doesn’t play, he’s the first guy in the gym the next day working, and he’s a really, really good teammate. And he was ready to be called upon again, which is, I think, is one of the hardest things to do when you’re a guy who’s playing sporadically.”

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WATCH: Belichick's classic answer to halftime question about Josh Gordon

WATCH: Belichick's classic answer to halftime question about Josh Gordon

Bill Belichick has left us with yet another hilarious interview bit.

At halftime of the New England Patriots' preseason game against the Tennessee Titans, Belichick was asked if he had anything to add to the statement he had released about Josh Gordon's return to the team. Gordon, who was reinstated by the NFL on Friday, is now eligible to join the Patriots.

However, Belichick gave a very short answer and didn't elaborate much in this comical exchange captured by Boston 25 News' Chad Amaral.

Instant classic.

In fairness, Belichick does have a point. There was a statement released earlier in the day. But given how quickly Gordon's return was announced, it was also fair to see if the coach had anything extra to add. Belichick just happened to be focused on the game, so he didn't want to talk about Gordon's reinstatement.

Gordon's addition could end up being big for the Patriots' receiving corps, so maybe Belichick will show him more love once he actually gets back onto the field.

CURRAN: Patriots are smart to manage Josh Gordon's expectations>>>

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Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca 'almost crashed his car' when he heard of Kemba's interest

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Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca 'almost crashed his car' when he heard of Kemba's interest

This offseason, the Boston Celtics were in a state of flux. With the impending departures of Kyrie Irving and Al Horford, it seemed that the team was entering a rebuilding phase in which they would have to build around their young talent.

Instead, the team was able to retool. That was largely thanks to Kemba Walker's interest in joining the team. Walker's interest surprised their co-owner, Steve Pagliuca, who shared how he reacted when he heard the news.

"I almost crashed my car when I heard that," Pagliuca said, per Nicole Yang of The Boston Globe.

It's easy to understand why Pagliuca was so surprised. Walker, who had spent his entire nine-year NBA career with the Charlotte Hornets, could've gotten a supermax to stay put with the Hornets. Instead, he wanted to join a winner and evidently was impressed with the Celtics.

Walker should be the perfect replacement for Kyrie Irving and should help to build better chemistry in a locker room that dealt with numerous issues last year. And Walker's addition plus the acquisition of rookies Grant Williams, Romeo Langford, Carsen Edwards, and Tremont Waters has done a lot to transform the Celtics' personality, as Pagliuca noted.

"There’s just really a positive attitude from everybody this year," Pagliuca said, per Yang. "We’ve got a bunch of hard-working players that really want to achieve. We couldn’t ask for anything more."

After last season, that should be refreshing to Celtics fans, especially if they can stay competitive in what should be a wide-open Eastern Conference outside of the favored No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks.

BLAKELY: It's time to make Marcus Smart captain of the C's>>>

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