Semi Ojeleye

A big summer boosts chances of Celtics trio

A big summer boosts chances of Celtics trio

BOSTON – As good as someone may look in summer league play, it should never be viewed as a sole barometer for NBA success. 

There have been countless players who dominate the floor this time of year, only to become NBA doormats when the games really count. 

More than anything else, summer league helps teams get a better feel for their bench – a place where most summer leaguers will be if they are even on a roster at all.

And the Celtics must feel pretty good about their second-unit players who were on the floor in Boston’s summer league run.

Semi Ojeleye, Guerschon Yabusele, and Jabari Bird were all reserves (or in the case of Bird, a two-way contract player), who are likely to have opportunities to play more prominent roles this season.

All were viewed as having a significant area in need of improvement heading into the offseason.

Ojeleye was essentially a talented defender who, offensively, was a catch-and-shoot guy who only took corner 3’s last season.

In summer league, Ojeleye put the ball on the floor more than we’ve ever seen in addition to finishing at the rim for lay-ups or dunks.

And Yabusele, who at times looked dazed and confused on the floor, was far more assertive in his decision-making – qualities he needs to display when camp starts in September and he’s competing for minutes off the bench.

Bird was the breakout star for the Celtics this summer, solidifying himself as a player who will be on someone’s NBA roster - if he’s not back in Boston - this season.

The athleticism that has been a hallmark of Bird’s game for years was on full display in Las Vegas. More than anything, he showed a heightened level of attention to detail while being consistent at both ends of the floor – traits he’ll need to display more of if he’s back with the Celtics and wants to compete for minutes off the bench.

So as Celtics fans are impressed with the strong play of Ojeleye, Yabusele, and Bird, keep in mind that all three are reserves who likely won’t be the first option off Boston’s bench this season.

Still, they have all shown skills that at a minimum, give Boston hope that when called upon, they will be ready to step up and contribute at a level greater than what we saw last season.

And as we know with all Brad Stevens-coached teams, players must always stay ready to play regardless of how deep they might be buried on the depth chart.

Ojeleye is a great example of this.

A second-round pick last year, Ojeleye played limited minutes most of the season only to find himself inserted into the Celtics’ starting lineup about midway through their first-round series with the Milwaukee Bucks.

And while Yabusele saw sporadic minutes, that was in large part due to him not being effective in the minutes he was allotted. Still, the Yabusele we saw last season wasn’t nearly as mobile, athletic or impactful as the one we saw that helped Boston to a 4-2 summer league record.

Bird, on a two-way contract last season, has done enough to at least warrant serious consideration for a spot on the 15-man roster.

All three players raised the level of expectations for fans, and while it was certainly a good sign, by no means does it alone mean they are ready to make major contributions this season.

A strong showing in summer league play can certainly be part of the puzzle for a Celtics team that heads into the season as the odds-on favorite to reach the NBA Finals.

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Celtics, Semi Ojeleye surge past Knicks in Summer League playoffs

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Celtics, Semi Ojeleye surge past Knicks in Summer League playoffs

Thursday's Celtics' Summer League contest against the Knicks didn't leave room for many surprises.

It was the usual suspects - Boston's second-year players - leading the way to an 82-75 win as the C's advanced in the playoff opener of the tournament in Las Vegas, led by 21 points from Semi Ojeleye. Guerschon Yabusele netted 10 of his own while Jabari Bird contributed 13 points with 10 rebounds. Celtics first-round draft pick Robert Williams, who hasn't played since he left his Summer debut with a knee injury last week, again sat out.

The C's jumped out to a 27-16 lead, and despite a 25-point surge from the Knicks in the fourth, in which a 15-point lead was cut to four, Boston had established enough of a lead to hold on. 

Boston outscored the Knicks in each quarter and led throughout, holding as much as a 21-point advantage following a 14-point run. The Celts' shot 42.7 percent from the field and forced 12 Knicks turnovers.

Knicks' top draft pick Kevin Knox, the No. 9 overall pick out of Kentucky, shot just 5-for-20 from the field and finished with 15 points,

The Celtics improved to 3-1 in Vegas and advanced to face the Miami Heat on Saturday. A victory then would move them to the quarterfinals. The Summer League championship is Tuesday. 

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Semi Ojeleye working hard to improve offensive game

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Semi Ojeleye working hard to improve offensive game

LAS VEGAS – Semi Ojeleye is aware that most of the time when he’s on the floor, there’s likely to be at least two or three players who shoot the ball better than he does.

But that doesn’t mean he can’t at least be an offensive threat, which has been a focus of his throughout most of Summer League play.

Ojeleye acknowledged that improving his shooting mechanics has indeed been at the top of his need-to-improve list.

And while the three Summer League games Boston (2-1) has played are indeed a small sample size, it’s clear that Ojeleye is showing clear signs of being a better player offensively now than he was this past season.

In Boston's three Summer League games, Ojeleye has averaged 10.7 points while shooting 43 percent from the field along with 3.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists.

“I’m just trying to be more of a threat on offense,” Ojeleye told NBC Sports Boston. “I realize that’s one thing I can do to take a step forward going into next season. Just attacking more, making good decisions.”

Even when he’s not scoring, Ojeleye wants to at least be considered a threat.

One of the first things he has done has been to work on improving his mechanics.

Prior to Summer League, Ojeleye said he spent time working with Los Angeles-based NBA basketball skills coach Drew Hanlen, who has worked on improving the shooting of some of the league’s top players.

Among his lengthy list of NBA clients are Washington’s Bradley Beal, Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, Zach LaVine of the Chicago Bulls and Cleveland’s Jordan Clarkson.

Ojeleye's biggest problem last season was that he shot the ball rather flat, so getting more lift on his shot has been a point of emphasis.

In addition to working with Hanlen (something Ojeleye said he did before Summer League and will reunite with Hanlen afterwards), Ojeleye said he has also spent time working with Celtics assistant coach Scott Morrison.

Morrison said a key emphasis when it comes to Ojeleye’s improved shooting has been him making sure he gets his elbow under the ball more.

“He’s better, but he needs to keep working on it,” Morrison said. “I was happy with his shooting when he came back (for Summer League).”

In addition to better mechanics on his shot, Ojeleye has also looked to beat players off the dribble more and finish at the rim.

“He’s trying to push himself, do some things that he didn’t necessarily do in the regular season,” Morrison said. “Doing more stuff out of pick and rolls and making reads off his drive is something he’s worked on.”

And that work, Ojeleye believes, will pay off in having an even better season than he had as a rookie.

“It’s all about staying ready,” he said. “All season, you never really knew when your opportunity would come but you still had to stay ready, and that’s what I tried to do. I try to approach every day to get better, do what I have to do from sun-up to sun-down to be better. So, when the opportunity came (last season) I tried to maximize it. Same thing this offseason; just try to maximize opportunities from sun-up to sun-down.”

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