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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