They say this is the slowest time of the year for sports, but don’t tell that to Celtics fans.
The NBA’s summer league is in full bloom, which means the Celtics get their first real look at the newest – and youngest – members of the team, as well as some of their promising youngsters a year or two into their respective NBA careers.
The results have been mixed, as are all summer league sessions, but it’s not just about wins and losses. It’s a time to gauge how these youngsters jell with one another as they share the court for the first time. It’s also a time to see how some have grown after a year in the league.
Here are three players who have stood out during summer league play.
Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge surprised a lot of people last year when he drafted Louisville’s Terry Rozier with the No. 16 pick in the NBA Draft. The Celtics were relatively guard heavy, and Rozier was seen as a reach at that point. He contributed sparingly in his rookie season. But after watching him this summer, he looks primed for a bigger role in Year 2. That’s good, because with Evan Turner signing with the Portland Trail Blazers, there’s an opening. Through six games Rozier been the team’s best player, averaging 20.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. He also hit a game-winning three-pointer against the Spurs to cap off a 23-point night. Shots like that have done wonders for his confidence. “It’s big . . . I wouldn’t sit here and lie to you and say it’s not big,” Rozier told reporters. “It means a lot that I can play and help our team get wins. But a lot of credit goes to my teammates.”
Have fans stopped booing the Jaylen Brown pick yet? Have they removed their hands from their faces and actually watched the kid play? Hopefully. Brown’s summer league didn’t start off great. He hyper-extended his knee in his first game, missed the next two, and returned to go 3-for-19 over the next two games after his return. But Brown’s summer league has taken a turn for the better. He got to the line 17 times against the Mavericks and finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds. And in Wednesday’s loss to the Cavs, Brown had his best game, going 8-for-16 from the field and 8-for-11 from the line for 25 points and nine rebounds. It’s clear that Brown is going to do damage slashing to the basket until that shot falls more consistently.
We can’t blame you if you were in bed by the time the Celtics chose Abdel Nader with the No. 58 pick in this year’s draft. And if you were awake, we can’t blame you if you hadn’t heard of him. Nader was drafted out of Iowa State after a solid, but not stellar, two years there (he transferred from Northern Illinois). But Nader has turned plenty of heads at summer league, often times looking like the most comfortable and NBA-ready player on the court. His stats won’t jump off the page – he averaged 10.7 points through seven games – but he does a lot of little things, and saw his role increase as the league went on. He was certainly a pleasant surprise.