BOSTON (CBS) – The 2013-14 Boston Celtics have been a team of opportunity. Undrafted players like Phil Pressey and Chris Johnson have already made the most of their chance, earning a guaranteed contract for the season. Others like Vander Blue have fallen short in sticking with the Celtics.
Some players will get a variety of opportunities throughout their NBA careers, others get just one shot. Starting tonight, Chris Babb is the next man up for the Boston Celtics, joining a depleted roster with the opportunity to earn some major minutes over the next 10 days of his short contract.
Babb, a 6’5’’ rookie swingman out of Iowa State, has spent his entire season suiting up for the Maine Red Claws, where he averaged 12.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.18 steals and 37.5 minutes in 33 games.
Despite his solid numbers, Babb wasn’t expecting a call from Boston, which arrived in a memorable fashion on Thursday night.
“We had a game [Thursday] night,” Babb explained. “I was out doing my normal pregame shooting routine, coach called me into his office, so I was kind of confused at the time, and he told me that he just got off the phone with Mr. Ainge and that they were going to give me a 10-day contract. He told me not to say anything to any of the guys, so I had to play the whole game with that on my mind, and not being able to tell anybody. It was a great feeling.”
The call from Ainge was caused in large part due to the torn meniscus injury suffered by Gerald Wallace earlier this week that will sideline him for the remainder of the season. With Avery Bradley already sidelined indefinitely and Rajon Rondo limited on back-to-backs, the focus for Brad Stevens was to bring in someone to help right away.
“My first thought was, in short term, what are we going to do?” Stevens wondered after discovering the Wallace injury. “That’s a large reason why Chris Babb is here. Chris earned it, don’t get me wrong. I knew last night and we talked about it.”
Babb’s contract is only a 10-day deal, but he already has a leg up on other free agents that have joined the Celtics in the past, since he played with the Celtics during training camp. Babb was the team’s final cut before the regular season and he knows his familiarity with Stevens’ system will be a plus for him.
“I know a lot of the guys, I know the coaches really well. I know a lot of their plays; I’m sure they’ve got some new stuff. I’m pretty good at picking up ideas, so I think I’ll be fine,” Babb said.
Stevens recognizes that Babb will be able to handle more than other potential additions.
“He’s catching up on what he’s missed in the past few months, which is quite a bit,” Stevens said. “I at least can start with a small menu with him. That he probably knows without us ever going through anything, which is a positive.”
Babb’s work with the Celtics’ D-League affiliate in Portland will also prove to be a bonus.
“Lots of the same ideas and principles,” Babb explained. “We don’t really run the same offense. It’s a basic motion offense, but we have the same basic principles — get out, fill the lanes, spread the floor. A lot of the same defensive principles. Just be able to correlate that to the D-League, it makes it an easier step.”
Babb will only have 10 days to prove his worth to the Celtics. Boston can sign him for the remainder of the season and remain under the luxury tax threshold, if they choose to. Still, Babb realizes his opportunity could be brief and knows what he needs to do in order to succeed.
“I think the biggest thing in the NBA is to find your niche,” Babb said. “Find what your good at. Find where you are comfortable and just stick with that and perfect it. I think a lot of guys try to do too much when they get this opportunity, I just want to continue to do what I’ve been doing.”
Tonight, against the league’s best team, he gets his chance.