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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Celtics vs. Kings Instant Overreactions: C's starting to feel Gordon Hayward's absence?

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Celtics vs. Kings Instant Overreactions: C's starting to feel Gordon Hayward's absence?

The Boston Celtics had their 10-game win streak snapped on Sunday as they fell to the Sacramento Kings, 100-99.

It came down to the final buzzer as Marcus Smart's last-second floater hung on the rim, but failed to fall into the basket.

Here are three instant overreactions from the loss, which brings the C's to 10-2 on the season:

1. The C's are starting to feel Gordon Hayward's absence.

Verdict: Overreaction

The Celtics have looked out of sync offensively in their last couple of games. Friday night's close call vs. the lowly Golden State Warriors left plenty to be desired, and their struggles in Sunday's loss didn't do much to inspire confidence either as they turned the ball over 14 times.

If we see one or two more lackluster performances like this on the West Coast road trip, it may be time to start counting down the days until Hayward's return. But for now, I'm willing to give the C's talented offensive unit the benefit of the doubt.

2. Jaylen Brown and Buddy Hield both are showing they're worth every penny.

Verdict: Not an overreaction

Jaylen Brown finished with 18 points and eight rebounds, going 4-for-7 from 3-point range. Once again, he was one of Boston's standout performers on the offensive side and is backing up his statement about his game improving.

As for Hield, he continues to reward the Kings for signing him to a four-year, $86 million contract extension last month. The Celtics simply had no answer for the Indiana product, who dropped 35 points while going 7-for-12 in 3-pointers. Hield also drilled a key 3 late in the fourth quarter to help Sacramento come out on top.

3. Semi Ojeleye is the new Steph Curry.

Verdict: Not an overreaction

OK, fine, it may be a SLIGHT overreaction. Still, Ojeleye surprised everyone by going 3-for-4 from beyond the arc and tallying 11 points off the bench. He was one of the bright spots in the Celtics' disappointing loss.

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Suns, which tips off Monday at 8 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 9 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.

Celtics-Kings Takeaways: C's 10-game win streak snapped in Sacramento

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Celtics-Kings Takeaways: C's 10-game win streak snapped in Sacramento

So. Close. 

Marcus Smart’s potential game-winning floater as time expired hit seemingly every part of the rim, paused for a moment before rolling out as time expired in Boston’s 100-99 loss to Sacramento. 

‘It was a good look in that moment,” Boston’s Brad Stevens told reporters after the loss. 

The loss snapped Boston’s 10-game winning streak, in addition to preventing them from being the first team in NBA history to win 11 in a row after dropping the season opener.

Sacramento (5-7), after dropping their first five games this season, have now won five of their last seven with the lone losses being a road game at defending NBA champion Toronto and a controversial defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers.  

After spending most of the first half playing catch-up, the Celtics — in all-too predictable form — swung the game’s momentum in their favor in the third quarter to take a 75-71 lead into the fourth quarter despite the offensive fireworks put on by Sacramento’s Buddy Hield (game-high 35 points). 

In the fourth, Boston’s slim lead didn’t last long with the Kings tying the game at 75 less than a minute into the quarter, only for Carsen Edwards to drain a 3-pointer to put Boston back on top, 78-75.

Things remained close for the rest of the game before Smart’s potential game-winner rolled out as time expired.  

Here are some takeaways from Boston’s one-point loss at Sacramento.


We have come to expect the best from Kemba Walker when the game matters most: the fourth quarter. That was not the case on Sunday, with Walker going scoreless in the fourth quarter to finish with just 15 points. You certainly love the season-high nine assists he tallied, but Walker’s greatest impact on this team night-in, night-out is his scoring down the stretch.


The Kings gave Hield a four-year contract extension worth as much as $106 million, and he showed on Sunday why he's worth every penny. Time and time again, he came up with one big shot after another while often being draped by Boston's best perimeter defender — and one of the best in the NBA — Marcus Smart.  Hield led all scorers with 35 points on an efficient 14-for-24 shooting performance from the field.


One of the biggest keys to the Celtics’ fast start to the season has been their ability to limit their mistakes. They came into Sunday’s game averaging a league-low 11.7 per game. On Sunday, the Celtics committed 12 of their 15 turnovers in the first half alone.


Ojeleye hit a big 3-pointer in the second quarter, capping off a 7-0 Celtics run to bring Boston within four points (36-32) with 6:30 to play in the first half. He would finish the day with 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting from the field, including a career-high-tying three 3-pointers. It was indeed a breakout scoring game for Ojeleye who came into Sunday’s game having scored just 14 points in Boston’s 11 games this season. 


While his play doesn’t necessarily find a home on the Celtics’ highlight reel, there’s no getting around the impact that Daniel Theis continues to make on this team. Usually he does it by excelling at intangibles such as setting screens, boxing out and rolling to the basket. But on Sunday, Theis’s impact was made in the more traditional sense: getting points. He finished with a season-high 14 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double this season. It was also the second time in the last three games Theis has reached double figures scoring. 


The Celtics did not shoot the ball well against the Kings, but their aggressive play offensively led to a number of trips to the free throw line, which was a huge difference-maker in the game’s outcome. For the game, the Celtics were 21-for-24 from the line, compared to the Kings who were just 10-for-12 at the free throw line, which included Richaun Holmes’ game-winning free throws with 13.3 seconds to play. 

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Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Suns, which tips off Monday at 8 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 9 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.