Tale of the tape: There's motivation on Celtics PG Carsen Edwards' wrist

Tale of the tape: There's motivation on Celtics PG Carsen Edwards' wrist

A lot of NBA players scrawl tiny messages on the soles of their game sneakers. Jayson Tatum typically draws a heart and writes, “Deuce,” the nickname of his young son. Kyrie Irving used to write “Whiplash,” a reference to the movie, with some family nods on the opposite side of his shoes.

But Celtics rookie Carsen Edwards’ motivation isn’t as subtle. During his time at Vegas summer league, Edwards continued a college tradition of wrapping his right wrist with athletic tape and writing inspirational messages in black Sharpie.





The messages might not have been particularly noteworthy if Edwards hadn’t forced eyeballs on himself in Vegas. In Boston’s five summer games, Edwards averaged a team-best 19.4 points (6.4 points higher than the next closest teammate) over 23.4 minutes per game. That’s the highest scoring output of any Boston player at summer league since 2004.

On Sunday, the Celtics formally announced they’d signed the 21-year-old guard to his rookie pact. Given that Boston pounced on Edwards at No. 33 in last month’s draft, he wasn’t subject to the first-round scale. The Celtics could have offered him a minimum-salary contract that many second-round picks settle for but would have only been able to ink him for two seasons. Instead, Boston used a sliver of available cap space to sign Edwards to a four-year deal that includes three guaranteed seasons. Edwards gets paid a bit more like a late first-round pick (at least later in the contract) and the Celtics protect their investment for a player that could be a steal if he keeps scoring the way he did this summer.

All that attention left Celtics fans zooming in on the messages on his left wrist. The tape was a familiar presence during Purdue’s tournament run that saw Edwards put himself on the radar with a couple of 40+ point efforts, including against eventual champion Virginia.

The messages sometimes change but one seems ever-present. "Help Mama Out" is almost always on the top side and most visible. It’s a nod to Edwards’ mother, Carla Desmuke-Edwards, and all her efforts in helping Edwards along his basketball journey.

While Edwards doesn’t need any motivation to keep proving himself, the wrist memos are there to make sure he doesn’t take his foot off the gas.

"Just reminders,” Edwards said. "At this level, or even the college level, being motivated — I feel like you should be self-motivated at this point. But also just having those reminders, on why you do things, on why you play so hard. And everything like that. 

"To have that on my wrists and see it every time I’m on the floor is important.”

Edwards doesn’t need any reminders that little on his basketball journey has come easy. Edwards said that, right before he got to high school, he wasn’t much of a shooter. His father, James, implored him to work on his shot. Yes, the same kid who showed fearless Steph Curry-like range at summer league didn’t have a jump shot until roughly the mid-2000s. 

“Honestly, growing up, maybe until 7th or 8th grade, I really struggled with having a jump shot, which, honestly, it just wasn’t my thing. Shooting the ball wasn’t my thing,” said Edwards. "It was all just going to the basket. My dad just kind of explained to me how important it is to be able to score the ball at a high level, especially at my height, if I want to get to the next level. So he focused on getting me a jumper and making myself more difficult to guard. I give it to my dad.”

Edwards made the varsity team at Atascocita High School in Humble, Texas as a freshman but got assigned to junior varsity as a sophomore, something that still baffles him. Frustrated by the demotion, he angrily decided he’d simply focus on football — where he played slot receiver and running back — until his mother convinced him to stick it out on the basketball court.

Edwards landed at Purdue and after a breakout sophomore season, put his name in for draft consideration. He did the pre-draft circuit, which included a visit to Boston, where he says he had a lackluster workout. Eventually he decided to return to Purdue for his junior season and spearheaded the team's run to the Elite 8 before bowing out against Virginia.

Draft projections had Edwards as a late first- or early second-round pick but it was still a bit of a surprise to see him on the board when Boston picked at 33, after moving back in a deal with the Philadelphia 76ers. And there seemed to be an audible cheer from near Boston’s war room right before the Edwards pick came on TV. Co-owner Wyc Grousbeck emerged for a television interview beaming right as the pick played on ESPN's telecast.

Edwards will wear No. 29, a nod to his brother, Jai, who wears the same number as a defensive back at Tarleton State University. Edwards’ friends have given him some grief about the double digits but watching him drop shoulders into defenders to create space makes you wonder if the thick-legged Edwards could have played NFL cornerback if he had chosen that path.

The messages on his wrist remind him that he was supposed to end up in the NBA. And, if summer league is any indication, he’s not content to simply land an NBA gig. He’s eager to carve out his role, especially on a Celtics team that has a need for backup guard minutes with the departure of Terry Rozier.

So what can Celtics fans expect from him this season?

"Best way I can explain it: Just really giving everything I have. That’s all I know really,” said Edwards. "I love this game, I enjoy playing, I enjoy competing. Coming in, I just want to do what’s best to help this team win. I want to make an impact the best way possible but, for most part, doing what the coaches ask me. And just giving everything that I have, day in and day out, and competing.”


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Marcus Smart shares beautiful tribute to mother one year after her death

Marcus Smart shares beautiful tribute to mother one year after her death

Sept. 16, 2019 marks one year since Marcus Smart's mother, Camellia, passed away after a battle with cancer.

Since then, Smart has paid tribute to Camellia in several touching ways. Before last year's season opener, the Celtics guard honored his mom by dressing like a "little king" -- a name she always used to call him. He also has a tattoo to remember her, and continues to make her proud by putting his heart and soul into every single play and representing his home country in the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

On Monday, Smart took to social media to honor Camellia with a heartfelt message.

Read below:

Beautifully said.

With the FIBA World Cup in the rearview, Smart's attention shifts to the start of Celtics camp a few weeks from now. He'll hope the chemistry built overseas with C's teammates Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, and Jaylen Brown will carry over to the season opener on Oct. 23.

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Countdown to Celtics Camp: What is the most intriguing camp storyline?

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Countdown to Celtics Camp: What is the most intriguing camp storyline?

The Boston Celtics will huddle two weeks from today for Media Day and the unofficial start of the 2019-20 season. The next day, they’ll launch into two-a-day sessions and the start of training camp at the Auerbach Center. Basketball is just about back.

Not that it ever left. The NBA experienced maybe its wildest summer in league history as stars relocated all over the map. The late summer/early fall doldrums were filled by the FIBA World Cup and Team USA’s roster featured four of Boston’s primary rotation players, including newly signed All-Star Kemba Walker.

Still, when camp opens for the Celtics, it’ll have been nearly five months since their head-slapping 2018-19 campaign ended unceremoniously with the Milwaukee Bucks rattling off four straight wins in the conference semifinals. A lot has changed with the departures of Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Aron Baynes, Terry Rozier, and Marcus Morris. The Celtics are hoping that the “Plan A” additions of Walker and Enes Kanter can help them remain competitive in a wide-open East.

But there’s no shortage of questions to be answered about this team.

So today we’re unveiling our Countdown to Camp series, a two-week march to Media Day in which some of NBC Sports Boston’s top hoops voices will join me in trying to set the table for the new season.

Today’s topic: What will be the most intriguing storyline at training camp?

This writer’s choice: How does Gordon Hayward look after a summer of working out in Boston, and what sort of expectations will emerge as he prepares for a season now two years removed from that gruesome ankle injury in Cleveland.

Maybe it’s because much of Boston’s other key players have been on an international stage for the past month while Hayward has been grinding away back home that makes Hayward’s progress so intriguing. Every time a Celtics teammate, coach, or front-office figure has talked to reporters this offseason, the conversation has always included some form of gushing about Hayward and the upcoming season.

Heck, that hype train left the station back in early June when, just a few weeks removed from Boston’s playoff exit, Danny Ainge detailed Hayward’s initial workout schedule and how he was “anticipating great things from Gordon this season.” 

Along the way, we learned Hayward was selling his San Diego residence an had spent nearly his entire summer in Boston working out with the coaches and trainers at the team’s facility. Just last week, Celtics coach Brad Stevens further elevated the Hayward intrigue level by saying that Hayward has put himself in position for a “great” season with his offseason workouts while discussing Hayward’s summer on Jeff Goodman’s podcast.

Later in this series, we’ll get into what exactly type of season Hayward might have and how his role might change now after the departure of the two All-Stars he used to share the locker room with. Boston’s roster got incredibly young this offseason and it’s clear that 29-year-olds Walker and Hayward will be in the leadership spotlight.

But the start of camp will allow us to set our expectations gauge for Hayward. He had some very encouraging moments at the end of the 2018-19 season, particularly in Boston’s first-round sweep of the Indiana Pacers. Alas, his struggles against Milwaukee confirmed that he was still searching for his pre-injury consistency and it tempered expectations entering the offseason.

In a way, it feels like some have forgotten just how good Hayward was before the injury and how his all-around talents made him a top-25-caliber player in the league. Hayward might never quite get back to that level but those glimpses at the end of last season suggest he can really impact winning. 

A new-look roster, and restored confidence, might give him a chance to accentuate his talents again this season. The Celtics are loaded with wing depth and must figure out how all those versatile pieces fit together but if Hayward gets back to the player he was, and Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown make leaps, that would be Boston’s most direct path to being a true contender.

So if we get a glimpse of 5-on-5 work to close out one of the team’s early sessions of camp, these eyes will be directly on Hayward.

Here’s what others in our panel will be keeping an eye on:

Abby Chin: The adjustment of — and to — Kemba Walker

This covers multiple angles, not the least of which, I assume, will be an improved vibe in the locker room. There’s a big adjustment for Walker with a new team, new environment, and leaving the only NBA home he’s ever known. That can’t be understated. 

Al Horford said it took him the better part of a year to really get comfortable after he made the move from Atlanta, and that surprised him. It’s all-encompassing for every area of your life: new house, new facility, new coaching staff and trainers. Even just figuring out the best way to get to TD Garden to avoid traffic. Everything is different. 

And, of course, the adjustment on the court for Walker, and for his new teammates in playing with Walker. This is the most talented group of guys Walker has ever played alongside during an NBA season. How does he balance his 1-on-1, pick-and-roll heavy style with getting others involved? Irving never really figured that out. How effectively is Walker able to pick his spots? His teammates have to adjust to a new floor general as well. A few got a head start with Team USA but it’s still going to take time to gel.

Sherrod Blakely: The wing position

Jaylen Brown is in a contract year. Jayson Tatum will look to take a significant leap forward.  Gordon Hayward's looking to get back to the player he was prior to coming to Boston. Keeping all three happy this year? Good luck with that Brad Stevens.


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