There’s a new No. 11 wearing green and white.
Courtney Lee was officially traded to the Memphis Grizzlies for Jerryd Bayless on Tuesday, and Bayless made his debut for the Celtics that night in Denver.
The move was made for one reason and one reason only: to free up cap space for the future, allowing the Celtics to go after big-name free agents with max contract offers.
This won’t be the only move the Celtics make before the trade deadline either. Boston will continue to look to shed future salary. A player like Brandon Bass, who is owed roughly $7 million next season, could be next.
Lee was owed a little more than $11 million through the 2015-16 season. As a role player, that’s the kind of contract the rebuilding C’s don’t want. With Bayless, they get a player whose contract expires at the end of this season.
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Make no mistake about it: Lee is a better player than Bayless. But that doesn’t mean Bayless can’t play.
In fact, the 25-year-old guard has killed the Celtics on numerous occasions. Last season he scored a season-high 30 points against Boston in a 110-106 Memphis win. This season, in a 95-88 Grizzlies win in early November, Bayless scored all 15 of his points in the fourth quarter. Later that month, he scored a season-high 22 points as the Griz won again, 100-93.
Like Lee, this is Bayless’ fifth team, with stops in Portland, New Orleans, and Toronto before joining the Grizzlies for the 2012-13 season.
This season, he’s averaging 8.0 points, 2.2 assists, and 1.8 rebounds per game while shooting 37.7 percent from the field.
So where does Bayless fit in? Or, does he fit in? It’s too soon to say, but as another shoot-first guard, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of room. Jordan Crawford has had that role down pat. Avery Bradley has earned his stay as the shooting guard. And MarShon Brooks is lighting it up in the D-League because he couldn’t get playing time on the C’s.
And oh yeah, Rajon Rondo should be returning in the coming weeks.
While it might not be the most desirable situation for Bayless – being traded from a contender to a rebuilding team with plenty of guards already on the roster – he’s keeping the right attitude.
“I’m just really exited to be a part of this organization, the tradition that’s behind it, and everything that comes with being a Celtic,” Bayless told CSNNE. “So I’m really looking forward to getting out there and trying to help this team continue to get better.”