C's-Bird deal shows how two-way contracts should work

C's-Bird deal shows how two-way contracts should work

BOSTON – When the NBA decided to institute two-way contracts as a roster option for teams, no one knew how it would turn out.

There have been some failures, for sure.

But there have been a decent number of success stories, with the latest being Boston’s Jabari Bird who signed a two-year deal with the Celtics on Thursday.

The 6-foot-6 wing was drafted by the Celtics with the 56th overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft and was soon signed to a two-way contract which meant he could spend as many as 45 days with the Celtics while the rest of his professional basketball career was with the Celtics’ Gatorade affiliate, the Maine Red Claws.

For a late second-round pick like Bird, it was the best of both worlds: a chance to play in professional basketball and within that, potentially get some time in the NBA.

The path that Bird has taken, from being a two-way player to one who is now a member of the team’s 15-man roster, is exactly why the two-way system was implemented.

The time Bird spent with the Red Claws, being put in a system that mirrored what the Celtics were doing, made for a seamless transition when his opportunity to play with Boston manifested itself.

While many marvel at how well he played with Boston’s summer league team earlier this month and how he made the most of playing time at the end of the season, die-hard Celtics fans go back to the team’s first win of the season – at Philadelphia – when it was Bird’s play that played a major factor in Boston netting its first win of the season.

Called upon because of Gordon Hayward’s injury, Bird stepped in to do what so few had felt he was capable of – defending at a high level.

His task that night was clear: stay as close as possible to J.J. Redick.

Where he goes, you should already be there.

And to Bird’s credit, he did as good a job as any other Celtic which drew praise from both players and the coaching staff.

For months, that was about as good as life in the NBA got for Bird which as he would later tell NBC Sports Boston, is the life you live when you are in the league on a two-way contract.

“Like anybody else, you want to play in the NBA,” Bird told NBC Sports Boston. “But you have to be patient, and be ready when you’re time comes. You don’t know when it comes, but Brad (Stevens, Boston’s head coach) always tells us, ‘stay ready, stay ready.’ I did that all season and for the most part, things worked out when I got a chance to play.”

For Bird, a prep All-American in high school, signing with the Celtics has fulfilled a dream that not that long ago seemed as though it was a given when you consider his size, athleticism, and the direction and pace of the NBA game today.

But injuries at Cal left many seeing his game as promise unfulfilled, only to have injuries once again impact his availability for the Celtics and Red Claws earlier this season.

However, we saw in summer league just what a healthy Jabari Bird could do.

His play in the summer was a direct reflection of the time he put in during the offseason to strengthen his body and his overall game, often driving an hour to for a 6 a.m. workout.

“He has always wanted to be in the gym,” Bird’s trainer Packie Turner told NBC Sports Boston. “But you could tell, he could see how close he was and came in committed to doing everything he could to make it happen, now.”


Watch Celtics' Tacko Fall help young fan dunk at WNBA playoff game


Watch Celtics' Tacko Fall help young fan dunk at WNBA playoff game

A young fan was able to experience the excitement of dunking a basketball with a little assistance from Tacko Fall.

The Boston Celtics center, who stands at 7-foot-6, was in attendance for Tuesday night's WNBA game between the Connecticut Sun and Los Angeles Sparks. During a break in the action, he picked up a small child and helped it dunk on a regulation-sized hoop.

Check out the special moment in the video below:

Celtics rookie Tremont Waters and assistant coach Kara Lawson also joined Fall to watch the Sun.

Fall played four seasons at the University of Central Florida and went undrafted earlier this year. He signed with the Celtics to play on their Las Vegas NBA Summer League team and performed well enough to earn an invitation to training camp, where he'll compete for one of Boston's final roster spots.

Report: Celtics to sign former SEC Player of the Year>>>

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Enes Kanter on Gordon Hayward: 'Start eyeing the All-Star Game'

Enes Kanter on Gordon Hayward: 'Start eyeing the All-Star Game'

Celtics big man Enes Kanter spent Tuesday morning working out with old friend Gordon Hayward and offered his assessment of Hayward’s progress now nearly two years removed from the gruesome ankle injury in Cleveland.

“Gordon Hayward — I think he should definitely start eyeing the All-Star Game,” Kanter told NBC Sports Boston on the Celtics Talk Podcast. “He had a very bad injury [but] I see his work ethic, he’s been doing an amazing job.

"I just actually played against him [Tuesday morning] and he looked amazing. Very good shape, lot of confidence, and he is comfortable out here.”

Kanter is the latest member of the Celtics organization to hop on a Hayward hype train that rumbled throughout the summer. Kanter’s assessment carries a bit more heft if only because the two players were teammates together for three-plus seasons in Utah and Kanter had a front-row seat for Hayward’s ascent to becoming an NBA All-Star in 2016-17.

"I played with that dude three and a half years with Utah Jazz. I know the guy, I know how hard he works, how much he is willing to learn, and he makes his teammates better,” said Kanter. "I’m very excited about him. He should definitely be eyeing the All-Star Game.”  

Hayward showed flashes of his pre-injury form late in the 2018-19 season but never quite harnessed it consistently. He was fantastic for much of Boston’s first-round sweep of Indiana to open the playoffs then struggled against the Bucks as the Celtics were eliminated in five games in the East semifinals.

Hayward spent nearly all of his summer in Boston and worked out most mornings with the team’s coaching staff at the Auerbach Center. Coach Brad Stevens has lauded Hayward for setting a tone that left many Celtics players spending extended time at the practice facility this summer.

Kanter, even as he’s toured the country putting on 49 youth camps (his 50th and final occurs in Boston later this month), has checked in regularly and has seen Hayward’s progress.

"He’s been here all summer,” said Kanter. “[Hayward] puts the work in, [he] focused on what he needed to focus on. Like I said, again, obviously he’s a really really good basketball player but the confidence, with that injury -- I think last year was a little rough for him but I think this year, man, I see him, he looks strong, he looks in really good shape, and he’s enjoying his time here.”

The Celtics signed Kanter to a two-year, $10 million contract this summer as they look to help patch a frontcourt void left by the departures of Al Horford and Aron Baynes. Kanter, who averaged 11.4 points and 9.7 rebounds in the Portland Trail Blazers' postseason run to the Western Conference finals, projects as Boston’s starting 5 but the Celtics could lean heavily on a committee of big men including Robert Williams, Daniel Theis, Vincent Poirier, and Grant Williams.

Check out the latest episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast to hear the full interview with Kanter, who discusses that new-look frontcourt, why he devoted so much time and resources this summer to his youth camps, his early impressions of Brad Stevens, and why others are sleeping on Boston as the 2019-20 season approaches.

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