During the Boston Celtics’ recent West coast trip, it wasn't an uncommon sight to see Daniel Theis walking the streets with a handful of teammates, cracking jokes which they will tell you, he does a lot.
Inside the locker room, Theis’ jovial demeanor remains strong as ever.
As important as Theis’ defense has been to the Boston Celtics, his easy-going demeanor has also been valuable to a Celtics team that has exceeded the expectations of many with how they have been able to hold down the top spot in the East most of this season despite being without Gordon Hayward for all but the season's first five minutes.
Yes, the Celtics have been a bit of a surprise.
The same could be said for Theis who has distinguished himself as one of the better rookies in the NBA this season.
He ranks among the league leaders among first-year players in a number of categories such as rebounds (4.9, ninth among rookies) and field goal percentage (.523, sixth).
And among players who average at least 13 minutes per game like he does, his defensive rebound percentage (.233), offensive rebound percentage (.139) and overall rebound percentage (.169) each rank second among rookies which speaks to how he makes an impact on the boards in limited minutes.
But you won’t find Theis complaining about his time on the floor.
Having won a German League championship each of the last three seasons, Theis understands all too well the importance of putting team first ahead of any individual agenda.
And having had such a healthy dose of success prior to signing with the Celtics, Theis feels right at home with Boston (36-15), currently tops in the Eastern Conference.
“I felt ready,” Theis told NBC Sports Boston regarding his decision to sign with the Celtics. “The last three years, every year I developed as a player, as a person. I felt after winning three championships in Germany, I thought it was the right time.”
It has been for a Celtics team that radically altered their roster from a year ago that finished wit the best record in the East before losing in the Eastern Conference finals to Cleveland.
There were many questions at the start of this season about the Celtics, among them being who would be able to contribute as a backup power forward/center off the bench.
Enter Daniel Theis, a 6-foot-9 forward who plays much bigger than his physical dimensions might suggest.
“He’s been great,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “Been what you expect him to be from a skill set standpoint and activity standpoint. But he does it every night. One of the best things you can be called in this league is consistent. And he’s very consistent.”
That’s because unlike most rookies, Theis did not come into the NBA looking to prove anything more than he’s a player who can help a team win.
"That’s all I want to do; is win,” Theis said. “Of course I want to play, too. But I know … I have a role on this team, to rebound, defend maybe score sometime. That’s what I try to do, every time I play.”
Lately, Theis has shown he can also get his teammates involved offensively as well.
He’s averaging just 0.8 assists per game this season, but has tallied at least two in each of Boston’s last seven games. Prior to that, Theis had tallied two assists or more in a total of six games.
“He always makes the right play,” Stevens said. “I don’t think he’ll be making the Larry Bird flip pass anytime soon. But i think … he makes the right extra pass, he looks for guys, he can roll and catch it in the seam and kick it out. He knows what to do.”
Jaylen Brown is among the Celtics who quickly took a liking to Theis.
“Theis, that’s my guy man,” Brown said. “Not only what he does on the floor but off the floor. Good energy, good guy, always smiling, making jokes …”
Brown believes that because Jayson Tatum has been such a dynamic rookie for Boston, Theis becomes sort of a forgotten man … not to his teammates.
“It’s his first year in the NBA, and it’s a tough adjustment,” Brown said of Theis. “He’s been great in his role and continues to get better.”