Brad Wanamaker

Celtics' recent backup power surge being fueled by Brad Wanamaker

Celtics' recent backup power surge being fueled by Brad Wanamaker

BOSTON -- A year ago, Brad Wanamaker was just another name on the back of a Celtics jersey.

On the rare occasion when his name came up in conversation, it was usually followed by a, “Oh yeah, that’s right. He is on the team!” kind of response.

The days of living an inconspicuous life for Wanamaker on the Celtics roster is a thing of the past now. 

His journey to the NBA and current status in many ways speaks to how he has come to symbolize the resilient, tough-minded brand of basketball that is slowly but surely coming to define Boston’s second unit. 

Wanamaker, 30, is averaging 7.6 points per game off the bench, connecting on 50.5 percent of his shots from the field and 41.7 percent of his 3-point attempts. 

He is one of four Celtics players to see action in all 19 games this season, but is the only one of the foursome (Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart and Semi Ojeleye are the others)  to see action in all of them as a backup. 

And while there have been legitimate questions about just how impactful Boston’s backups can be, they have shown lately a knack for making their presence felt at both ends of the floor. 

In the past five games, Boston’s bench has averaged 30 points per game which ranks fifth in the league during that span. 

And their defense? 

According to Hoopsstats.com, Boston has allowed second units to score a league-low 26.8 points per game in the past five games. 

And the play of Wanamaker, at both ends of the floor, has been a big part of that second-unit success. 

How he has thrived this season is surprising when you consider how things went last season and some of the Celtics' offseason changes. 

Rookie Carsen Edwards had a red-hot summer and preseason, but has cooled considerably once the regular season began. And while the departure of Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn) and Terry Rozier (Charlotte) was supposed to create more opportunities for Wanamaker, that was far from a given when you consider the player Boston added to replace those two, Kemba Walker, is a three-time All-Star who rarely misses games to injury. 

It didn’t matter to Wanamaker, who returned to the Celtics convinced that he could play his way into a significantly more meaningful role this season. 

In 19 games, he has played a total of 330 minutes.

Last season, he played a total of 343 minutes. 

“It’s been great,” a grinning Wanamaker told NBC Sports Boston. “Just be out there with the guys, having an impact on the game, consistent games, consistent nights. It’s been great for me. I’m happy with the role, cherishing every minute.”

And as important as it has been to establish himself, Wanamaker also sees tremendous value in lifting up those around him who may be experiencing something similar to what he went through last season when he played sparingly. 

“Brad has been great, checking in on me, seeing if I need anything,” Edwards told NBC Sports Boston. “It’s good to have teammates like that, for sure.”

Last season was a tough-love lesson in humility and patience for Wanamaker, who came to Boston after spending the previous eight years playing overseas where he established himself as one of the top guards in Euroleague play. 

But those accolades and praise did not translate to playing time initially, which Wanamaker admits is a tough pill to swallow if you’ve never experienced anything like before. 

“Me going through last year, I am constantly talking to the young guys,” Wanamaker said. “I’m constantly in their ears behind the scenes, because I tell them, the mental ... your mental [approach] can be really f’d 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. I’m constantly checking in on those guys.” 

He gets it.

As much as he wants his own individual success and play to shine, he knows that the ultimate reward for him and the group is to find success collectively. 

Still, this group, even at full strength, doesn’t have the kind of second-unit sex appeal you find with a lot of reserve groups.

They are a blue-collar, often overlooked cast who collectively play with a toughness and resiliency that is starting to look more and more like their identity. It's one that the team’s “old head” - Wanamaker - can relate to. 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Heat, which tips off Wednesday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Tommy & Mike have the call at 7:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

A. Sherrod Blakely's Takeaways: Smart delivers when it matters as Celtics hold off Kings, 103-102

A. Sherrod Blakely's Takeaways: Smart delivers when it matters as Celtics hold off Kings, 103-102

BOSTON -- Marcus Smart was defending just about every position on the floor. He was grabbing rebounds, dishing out assists. 

Heck, he was even doing ball boy duties, like using a broom to pry loose a ball that got stuck behind the backboard in the first half. 

And with the game on the line, Smart came up with the two biggest plays offensively and defensively, that helped the Celtics (12-4) hang on for a 103-102 win. 

Buddy Hield led all scorers with 41 points that included 11 3-pointers, the most ever made against the Celtics.  

But it was Smart’s driving layup with 31 seconds that proved to be the winning basket, a fitting end considering it was Smart’s last-second shot at Sacramento that rimmed out as time expired which snapped Boston’s 10-game winning streak eight days ago.

After the Kings called a timeout, Smart got a steal and went in for a potential layup but had the ball swatted away before it eventually rolled out of bounds with 24.1 seconds to play. 

The play was reviewed and the call - Celtics ball - stood firm. 

Boston initiated its offense, but there wasn’t anything there right away so coach Brad Stevens called a timeout with 13.6 seconds to play and nine seconds left on the shot clock. 

Out of the timeout, the Kings did a good job of denying entry, which forced Boston to call another time-out. 

Jayson Tatum’s baseline jumper was off the mark and was eventually rebounded by the Kings. who called a timeout with 5.7 seconds left.

Everyone in the building knew the Kings wanted to get it into the hands of Hield, who was once again having a field day knocking down shot after shot against Boston. 

The Celtics’ defense forced a contested shot by Bogdan Bogdanovic whose shot was off the mark with time expiring. 

Here are some key takeaways the hard-fought victory over the Kings, who had won seven of their past 10 coming in. 

JAYLEN BROWN

Without Kemba Walker, the Celtics needed someone to step up and be the Alpha offensively and that player for large chunks of Monday’s game was Jaylen Brown. 

The Celtics found him up against Bogdanovic, a matchup that they could work and get a bunch of points with Brown scoring seven in a row - all on Bogdanovic. It's yet another example of how Brown’s game continues to expand, regardless of who is available, regardless of the role he’s asked to play. He led the Celtics with 24 points on an efficient 9-for-16 shooting, proving to be too much for the Kings. Defensively, he was among those that got cooked by Hield again, but his scoring punch helped soften the blow. And going forward, with or without Walker, Brown has to continue to assert himself as a scorer because we’re starting to see there are more than a few nights where he is the one player that opponents don’t adequately gameplan for. 

SECOND-QUARTER SPURT

Boston was able to get its hands on a ton of balls in the second quarter, which allowed them to get out in transition and swing the game’s momentum in their favor for the first time. Going defense-to-offense was huge for the Celtics as they closed out the half with a 17-5 run and for the first time showed signs of life after having played a ho-hum game up to that point. No one should have expected Boston to roll like that for the rest of the game and they didn’t.

But what made that run so impressive was the energy level that all five players on the floor were playing with on each possession. It's the blueprint for success that they'll need to stick to and one they got away from on too many possessions later in the game, but returned to it just in time to get the victory. 

BRAD WANAMAKER

Apparently that strong play we saw from Brad Wanamaker didn’t quite make it back from the West Coast. Wanamaker played 21 largely ineffective minutes before finishing with four points but missing all eight of his field-goal attempts.

And when he wasn’t missing shots, he was among the Celtics defenders getting torched (again) by Hield, who shook off a not-so-great first half to finish with a game-high 41 points. 

Players talk all the time about putting games quickly behind them, regardless of how they play. Wanamaker would wise to do just that, especially if Walker misses the next game or two, which will mean more playing time for Wanamaker.

Get ready for Celtics-Nets Wednesday night with Celtics Pregame Live at 6 p.m., then check in with Halftime Live and wrap it up after the game with Celtics Postgame Live, all on NBC Sports Boston or stream them here through the MyTeams App.

Celtics Report Card: Offense deserves detention after woeful week out west

Celtics Report Card: Offense deserves detention after woeful week out west

"I knew before we went into the road trip that we were fighters. That was pretty clear from Day 1. I knew we would be together, that's been pretty clear from Day 1.”

That's how Celtics head coach Brad Stevens assessed what he learned about his squad during its five-game road trip out west.

The Celtics certainly showed hints of being resilient as part of a winning streak that reached double digits at the start of the trip but it felt like we learned a lot more about this team’s character in losses to the Clippers and Nuggets. 

And while Boston experienced some severe offensive struggles on the road trip (a league-worst 98.8 offensive rating over the last nine days), there were definitely encouraging developments during the 2-3 trip.

Click here for the Celtics' Week 5 report card.>>>>>

Don’t miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Kings, which tips off Monday at 7 p.m. ET with Celtics Pregame Live, then Mike & Tommy have the call of the game at 7:30 p.m. You can also stream the game through the MyTeams App.