Celtics

Vincent Poirier's opportunity with the Celtics is now

Vincent Poirier's opportunity with the Celtics is now

BOSTON — Vincent Poirier chuckles when he hears the various pronunciations of his first name by his teammates and Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. 

His teammates refer to him as Vincent (vin-SENT) but the French big man’s name in his home country is pronounced (vɛ̃-sɑ̃), which Stevens attempts to pronounce whenever asked about the 7-footer. 

“Three days before he came here I was in Paris so I learned all my accents first,” quipped Stevens. 

Poirier (pronounced pour-ee-yay) is patient with his coach and teammates in pronouncing his name, just like they have been patient with him as he gains a greater understanding of how he can be most effective in the NBA.

That patience should be rewarded tonight when the Celtics close out their preseason slate of games at Cleveland. 

Stevens is planning to go deep into the team’s bench. And to make sure he avoids the temptation of playing his more seasoned players, several of the team’s top players did not make the trip

That’s good for Poirier, who will get his first shot at playing significant minutes with the Celtics. 

Even with several players not suiting up, Poirier is not taking for granted that he will play significant minutes tonight. 

“Because even if you want to play me like 30 minutes, if I’m bad I will be fired,” Poirier told NBC Sports Boston. “So I just focus on doing what I do; be on the court and be focused on what I need to be focused on.”

Stevens admits that it has been difficult to judge where Poirier is and how he fits into the scheme of things as far as playing time this season. 

"That could be one of those deals where he doesn’t play one night and starts the next,” Stevens said of Poirier. “All those bigs are a little bit different, a little unique.”

But Poirier at this point lags behind the others, partly because he hasn’t played much but also because he’s coming from overseas with the role he played in Spain being very different than what’s required of him in Boston.

However, Poirier isn’t worried that he’s currently behind a number of players, adding that he knew coming in that it would take some time for him to find a comfortable pace to play at, in the NBA. 

“I’m learning everyday,” Poirier said. “I wasn’t expecting to play 30 minutes. I know I have to deserve my minutes. I try to walk out in practice to be comfortable on the court and prove I can play ball. I’ve been in this situation before where I have to fight to find my spot. So I’m ready. I’m just working hard, learning fast and I’m OK with that. I know that’s the process. I’m focusing on my role.”

And it is a role that more likely than not, will expand with time considering his strengths as a player and how they relate to what the Celtics will desperately need this season. 

Last season, Poirier played for Baskonia of the Spanish Liga ACB, and led all Euroleague players with 8.3 rebounds per game which earned him a spot on the All-Euroleague second team.

But Poirier has been a player on the Celtics’ radar for years. 

“Vincent had a great season in Spain,” Austin Ainge, Boston’s director of player personnel, told NBC Sports Boston. “We saw a lot of progression at his age which was great. He got better the last three years, continues to improve. He’s 7-1 and catches lobs above the rim, and blocks shots above the rim. there’s a lot to like.”

Maybe so, but that talent and potential means nothing without opportunity, the kind of opportunity Poirier will get tonight in Cleveland. 

Poirier is eager to prove his worth on the floor, but again, he’s in no rush because he … trusts the process. 

“I’m learning,” Poirier said. I try to do my best on the court. And you know, sometimes it’s gonna work a lot and I could play a lot and sometimes I need to focus on something else to help the team. So I’m relaxed now, focus on what I can do, and the next game.”

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Forsberg: A year later, these Celtics don't crack from adversity

Forsberg: A year later, these Celtics don't crack from adversity

After the Boston Celtics’ 20th game of the 2018-19 season, Marcus Smart was speechless. And not in the good way.

On that night in late November, the Celtics lost for the fourth time in five games while dropping to 10-10 overall. A smoldering Smart, who had already bristled after a rough road trip out west earlier in the month, considered his team’s general lethargy and fumed, “Until we [change our ways], we’ll continue to get our ass whooped.” Kyrie Irving wondered if the team was near, “rock bottom."

Fast forward a year and, no longer encumbered by the heavy burden of expectations, it’s all sunshine and puppy dogs in CelticsLand. The 2019-20 Celtics are 15-5 and, despite being pegged a Tier 2 team in the East, they have asserted themselves as a legitimate East contender even while playing at less than full strength for nearly the entirety of the season.

And therein lies the biggest difference between last year’s Celtics and this year’s squad. When last year’s team encountered adversity, or things started to go sideways, that group splintered and cracked. When this year’s squad hits bumps in the road, the players stick together.

Take Wednesday night against the Heat as an example. Boston, playing without two starters, fell behind early by double digits. Last year’s team probably would have packed it in; this year’s team ripped off a late first-half run and controlled the rest of the game against a team that had been ahead of them in the standings.

That resiliency is a particularly endearing trait of this year’s team. This year’s Celtics squad competes every night. Take away a jagged opening-night loss in Philadelphia and Boston has stuck close in every other game this season, their other four losses coming by a combined 13 points.

It’s almost certainly unfair that we keep comparing and contrasting last year’s Celtics team to this year’s version. This year’s version has stressed a desire to focus on the now. Alas, the juxtaposition is undeniably stark and you can’t acknowledge where the Celtics are now without remembering what they went through.

Last year’s team internalized their struggles, which caused unnecessary friction and things always seemed tense around the team. This year’s squad gets contributions throughout the roster, celebrates each other’s successes, and then engages in a playful team snowball fight.

How this year’s team reacts to large-scale adversity remains to be seen. Boston’s longest losing streak is two games and, even then, the Celtics came away encouraged with the fight they showed while losing to the championship-favorite Clippers out west and fighting back after Kemba Walker’s injury scare in Denver.

The next few weeks will tell us a lot more about this year’s team and its resiliency. A rematch with the Nuggets looms Friday night and then a challenging Indiana-Philadelphia back-to-back highlights next week’s schedule. A visit to Toronto awaits on Christmas day.

Boston could soon be back at full strength, with Gordon Hayward seemingly trending toward an early return as he rehabs from a left hand fracture. Jaylen Brown has been so good in his absence that the only question is whether there are enough shots to go around for four star-caliber players the way Walker, Hayward, Brown, and Jayson Tatum have all performed this season.

That visit from Philadelphia could help answer the question of whether Boston truly needs to make a move for another big, the sort that could engage in hand-to-hand combat with the likes of Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Games against Indiana and Toronto will tell us if Boston is definitely a top-tier team in the East or part of the pack trying to get on Milwaukee’s level.

But even with the question marks that remain, the outlook is a lot rosier than it was a year ago through 20 games. Last year’s Celtics squad actually played their best ball after that 10-10 start, performing so well in the stretch that followed that Danny Ainge kept the roster intact the rest of the season.

The next few weeks will tell us if Ainge needs to make any changes for this year’s squad. We’ll get a better idea of where this team stands. And, maybe most importantly, we’ll see just how long these positive vibes can persist fr the 2019-20 Celtics.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Nuggets, which tips off Friday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Tommy have the call at 8 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

How Tremont Waters, Vincent Poirier fared for Maine Red Claws vs. Wisconsin Herd

How Tremont Waters, Vincent Poirier fared for Maine Red Claws vs. Wisconsin Herd

Tacko Fall (knee) remains out for the Maine Red Claws, and Romeo Langford suffered another ankle injury, so that put Tremont Waters and Vincent Poirier in the spotlight on Thursday.

Waters has been sensational to begin his tenure in Maine. So good, in fact, that he earned NBA G League Player of the Month honors for November. 

For Poirier, Thursday night marked his first game playing alongside Waters with the Red Claws.

Here's how the two Celtics rookies performed in the 123-118 loss:

TREMONT WATERS

Waters filled the stat sheet again with a double-double as he notched 13 points (5-for-15 shooting) and 10 assists. The Celtics' No. 51 overall pick in this year's NBA Draft knocked down 3 of his 9 3-point attempts.

VINCENT POIRIER

Poirier made an instant impact in his first game in a Red Claws uniform. The Frenchman contributed 14 points while going 6-for-9 from the field and bringing down nine boards.

Next, the Red Claws will take on the Delaware Blue Coats on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET. You can tune in to that matchup right here on NBC Sports Boston.

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Kings, which tips off today at 3 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call of the game at 3:30 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.