Vincent Poirier

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.”

Five takeaways from C's win over Magic>>>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

French import Vincent Poirier ready to get his hands dirty with Celtics

French import Vincent Poirier ready to get his hands dirty with Celtics

BOSTON — While some of Boston’s most recent draftees engaged in a spirited game of Knockout to close out Boston’s practice in front of season-ticket holders last week, fellow rookie Vincent Poirier amused his new teammates with his soccer skills at the other end of the floor.

Poirer, Tacko Fall, and Jaylen Brown were taking turns juggling a ball near the Boston bench when Poirier unleashed a series of “hop the worlds,” the 7-footer's long legs making the trick look that much slicker.

It was a decade ago that Poirier traded in his soccer cleats for hoopin' hightops, a teenage growth spurt pushing him from the pitch to the parquet. And it was in around that time that Poirier first gained an understanding of the team that would eventually make his NBA dream a reality.

“When I first played NBA 2K, the main game was Lakers vs. Boston. That’s how I knew that it was a big, big, big team,” said Poirier.

This helps explains why, in announcing his decision to come overseas this summer, Poirier glowingly referred to the green on social media as the, "mythical franchise of the Boston Celtics.” He became better versed in NBA hoops in recent seasons, especially after a summer stint with the Orlando Magic in 2016, but the video game Celtics near the end of the Big Three era were essentially his introduction to American basketball.

Poirier, who celebrates his 26th birthday later this month, signed a two-year, $5.1 million pact with Boston this summer. He arrives to a well-stocked frontcourt, but one that surely lacks the Kevin Garnett-like presence that made Boston a surefire contender at the start of this decade.

Poirier marvels at the variety of bigs Boston has in camp with a glass-crasher in Enes Kanter, a high-flyer in Robert Williams, a floor-stretcher in Daniel Theis, and a sheer giant in 7-foot-7 Tacko Fall. But there are clearly minutes to be won on this team after the departures of Al Horford and Aron Baynes. So how can Poirier separate himself from the pack?

"Doing what I did last year: Be active on both sides of the court, make the good decision, good screens. Make the guys shine,” said Poirier. "I think that, when the team is shining, you have to find somebody to say, ‘OK, it’s about doing the dirty jobs.’ I would like to be that guy.

“And to be active. Be as active as anybody on the court.”

Poirier distinguished himself overseas with his motor. He can run the floor and finish in transition, and he attacks the glass for available rebounds. Last season, he led the EuroLeague in rebounding, grabbing 8.3 boards per game while playing 25.6 minutes per night for Baskonia of the Spanish ACB League. Poirier also averaged 11.9 points per game and made the All-EuroLeague second team.

Poirier didn’t play in summer league, but competed in the World Cup, helping France earn a bronze medal in China. That included a win over Team USA (and four of his new Celtics teammates) though Poirier was a DNP that day. He had maybe his best game of the tournament against Australia (and former Celtics big man Baynes) while helping the French emerge in the third-place game.

Playing alongside countryman Rudy Gobert should only help Poirier’s defensive development. In Sunday’s exhibition opener, as Boston’s big men routinely got shredded by a mediocre Charlotte offense, Poirier was one of the lone bright spots. He was scoreless in six minutes of floor time but earned solid reviews.

"I think Vincent played as well as anybody the other night,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. "I thought he played hard, he was in the right spots defensively, he read our coverages well. I thought, when he was in, I felt good about our pick-and-roll defense, which is a big deal.”

Poirier speaks solid English and communicating is the least of his difficulties with a new team.

"He’s been a great guy, a great communicator,” said rookie Grant Williams. “He plays with a lot of energy, a lot of motor, plays with pace, and does a lot of good things. He’s talented, he’s able to make shots over both shoulders in the post. And he’s an aggressive rebounder, so he’s doing really well. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do during the season.”

The Celtics have started stretching Poirier out to the 3-point line in post-practice shooting drills and he has a solid stroke. Like many of Boston’s foreign imports, he seems to recognize that evolving his game will be crucial to earning floor time.

It might ultimately be Poirier’s ability to joust with the likes of Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo that determine just how much he plays this season, particularly if Boston’s other bigs struggle defensively.

Given the narrow window between the World Cup and the start of training camp, Poirier said his mother and girlfriend took care of finding him an apartment in Boston. He’s anxious to get a vehicle, a process delayed because he needed a credit check, which required a social security number. Moving to a new country is no easy endeavor, even for a pro athlete.

“It’s hard. I’ve got a lot of people helping me,” said Poirier. “So I just have to focus on basketball and practice.”

What does he miss most about home, beyond his family and friends?

"La baguette,” Poirier said with a laugh. "Yeah, la baguette. I don’t have my baguette every morning. It’s different when you live in Paris. That’s my home. My home city. I know everything, restaurants. Here, I need to find the good spots.”

Yes, there’s only so much a video game can prep you for a city. And the hunt for the mythical baguette continues.

Under-the-radar rookies to watch this season>>>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Nicolas Batum on Celtics center Vincent Poirier: "It's a good pick-up for Boston for sure"

Nicolas Batum on Celtics center Vincent Poirier: "It's a good pick-up for Boston for sure"

Team USA didn't finish the FIBA World Cup as expected, but there were plenty of positives to take away from the tournament if you're a Celtics fan. 

Not only did Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart contribute to Team USA and certainly took some lessons from playing under Gregg Popovich, but Daniel Theis (Germany) and newly signed Vincent Poirier (France) got invaluable experience they can carry into the 2019-20 NBA season. 

Poirier signed with the Celtics during free agency on a two-year contract and should have plenty of opportunities to earn playing time in a Celtics' frontcourt that hopes to replace Al Horford and Aron Baynes. 

Poirier's French teammate Nicolas Batum, who played with Walker in Charlotte over the last four years, dealt out some praise of the rookie center after France beat Australia for the FIBA bronze medal. 

"This guy, I think, just started basketball 5 years ago, so he's had a special career," Batum told John Schumann. "His energy was great. We can't count on Rudy (Gobert) every game... He was huge. He wasn't scared by Bogut & Baynes... He was amazing tonight."

France knocked the U.S. out of the knockout round by besting them in the quarterfinals. Poirier didn't play in that game, but has played a big role for France behind All-Star big man Rudy Gobert. 

"It's clear that he's a center that can block shots and control the paint," Batum said. "He's a terrific roller, can really catch a lob, and obviously has a lot of energy. It's a good pick-up for Boston, for sure."

The Celtics responded to Horford's departure and trading Baynes to Phoneix by signing Poirier and Enes Kanter to join Theis and Robert Williams at the center spot. Boston will probably have to solve their hole at that position by committee, but if Poirier can play consistent defense, rebound and protect the paint as Batum describes, he could earn himself backup minutes behind Kanter. 

Either way, it should be an interesting training camp to say the least for this new-look Celtics team. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.