Prior to heading into the NBA’s restart bubble, Boston’s Brad Wanamaker had a plan.
“Stay consistent. Try to stay in the rotation,” Wanamaker told NBC Sports Boston. “Just enjoy the journey. It’s been great so far.”
Especially for Wanamaker, who has been a steady presence off the Celtics bench in their seven seeding games in Orlando.
And with an eighth and final tuneup before the playoffs start, Wanamaker has achieved most of his goals this season with the playoffs around the corner.
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But what Wanamaker has done in the seven games in the bubble goes beyond keeping the playmaking seat warm for the likes of Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart. He’s heating things up with his play that ranks among the best players under the bubble.
Wanamaker’s return was a bit unexpected considering he played sparingly last season and the Celtics already had a roster of playmaking versatility.
He has a net rating of +23.9, which is second only to current Los Angeles Clipper and former Celtic Marcus Morris Sr. (+24.0) among players to appear in at least five games in the bubble. Wanamaker’s net rating stands head and shoulders above any other Celtics player, with the next in line being Jayson Tatum at +14.0.
His play has been somewhat surprising, serving as a clear push-back on the notion that Boston has a weak bench.
Other than Marcus Smart, Boston’s backups haven’t gotten much love this season. But in the bubble, a number of them have made the most of opportunities to play a more steady role, with Wanamaker near the top of that list.
Alongside Smart, Wanamaker gives Boston a gritty defensive tandem that has made its mark. The duo has played in all seven bubble games for Boston, and has a net rating of 33.3 which ranks second on the team's two-man units to Wanamaker and Gordon Hayward (35.0) among tandems to play together in each of their seven games.
While Wanamaker’s numbers paired with others are indeed impressive, his individual scoring (11.5 points on 65.2 percent shooting from the field) during Boston’s four-game winning streak has been among the keys to the team’s run of success lately. And while his play has been steady of late, his presence behind the scenes has been a constant all season.
“A lot of guys look up to him,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said earlier this season. “He’s kind of been a quiet leader for us.”
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The 31-year-old Wanamaker has been a voice in the ears of the team’s younger players, some of whom Wanamaker has found himself having to compete against for minutes.
Like so many of them, he knows all too well what it feels like to sit on the bench and not play, unsure when — if at all — your number is going to be called.
“Your mental can be really (expletive) up if you’re not playing like you want to play or you come into a situation and look for it to go a certain way and it doesn’t,” he said. “I’m constantly checking in on those guys. We have a very talented group of guys. You see it in the summer, preseason and some games … just try to stay in their ear so that when their time comes, they’re ready.”
Words he not only preaches, but also lives by with his play.