Notebook: Wally’s World Turned Upside Down by Deal
All indications before Friday night's game pointed to Wally Szczerbiak riding the bench for his first night in Boston. Doc Rivers had all but assured the assembled media during his pregame address that his new guys wouldn't play Friday night against the Sacramento Kings. But just before halftime, Wally Szczerbiak made his Celtics debut to a thunderous ovation.
"Okay, I lied...Actually, I did not lie. I had no intentions of playing him," said Rivers. "Honest to goodness, the only reason I played him, he stared at me every freaking timeout. And I told one of our coaches 'We've got to put this guy in or he's going to drive me nuts'."
That stare is one that all coaches know. It's the "when the heck am I getting in the game" stare. So Rivers cracked and put Wally Szczerbiak for the first time with just a few minutes remaining in the first half.
Szczerbiak himself didn't know what to expect, as it's been a whirlwind since he even found out about the trade when he was having dinner with Fred Hoiberg in downtown Houston.
Fast forward to Friday's game, and Szczerbiak was out there to start the third quarter after missing his first few shots at the end of the second quarter. But Szczerbiak found his groove in the third, quickly scoring eight points on a two and a pair of three pointers that instantly endeared him to the Boston crowd. Before you knew it, a "Wally" chant broke out.
Is it love at first sight?
"That was great, man. I'd have to score 35 or 37 to get those chants in Minnesota. I'm an East Coast guy and I'm looking forward to getting settled," said Szczerbiak, who finished with 10 points in 24 minutes.
If Wally continues to score at the rapid clip he did in the fourth quarter, the love fest will be more than just a one-night stand.
"I just hope they see that I love playing the game," said Szczerbiak. "We've got guys on the team who enjoy playing and enjoy each other."
Rivers would certainly agree. He said that he saw more high fives out on the court than he's ever seen, and he felt that was something that Szczerbiak brought to the table Friday night. Apparently, Szczerbiak's head cold and ear infection -- he's been battling illness this week, and an early morning flight from Houston didn't help -- isn't the only thing that's contagious about him.
"Oh, man, it seemed like the ball was bouncing around, and everyone was getting touches. He just brings a great attitude to the floor. You can see it, and it's contagious," said point guard Delonte West. "We were having fun out there."
After just one game, Al Jefferson thinks the Celtics have something good going.
"Oh, it's going to work," said Jefferson. "Paul is our number one leader, and for him to be here and back up Paul, that's big."
Since he played in the Western Conference for six and half seasons, Celtics fans probably don't know much about him. Heck, they probably can't even spell his name. No worries; his teammates and the front office staff were busy getting that down as well on Friday afternoon.
That old shampoo commercial said that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Looks like Wally doesn't need a second one.
Dealing with Trades
There's more to an NBA trade than just wheeling and dealing. The process of teams coming to an agreement on swapping players is only the beginning, and signing the deal is just the beginning of the end.
For the players themselves, there's a lot more to the logistics than you'd imagine. And most players, Szczerbiak included, aren't up to speed on all of the rules unless they've been dealt before. For starters, you've got to pass a physical before the trade is complete. All day Friday, it was up in the air whether or not Olowokandi and Szczerbiak would even be eligible to play, because all seven players in the swap had to pass physicals (or have them waived by their new teams) in order to officially complete the deal. And depending on the status of the players' contracts, additional legal concerns can complicate and prolong the process of getting final approval from the NBA.
"I don't know the rules with trades. I thought it took a day for a trade to go through with the league," said Szczerbiak, who had played his whole career in Minnesota. He also added that the only time he got to relax in the last 24 hours or so was the two hours he spent in the MRI bed at the physical.
It wasn't much easier for Michael Olowokandi.
"I just got over here, making it from my physicals, but Szczerbiak is still over at the hospitals going through his," said Olowokandi at his "welcome to Boston" press conference about an hour before tip-off, where he met members of the Boston media, not to mention members of the Celtics PR staff who will be dealing with him on a daily basis at practices and games.
That's a lot to deal with before you've even put on a uniform. Oh yeah, uniforms! Players can't play if they don't have uniforms and sneakers. Easy, right?
Getting a uniform is usually a pretty basic task: pick a number and the equipment manager sews it up. Well, that's the process in most NBA cities. But when you have as many retired numbers as the Boston Celtics, finding numbers for the new guys isn't always easy, because most of the good ones are hanging in the rafters.
Case in point: Szczerbiak wore #10 in Minnesota. In Boston, #10 belongs to Jo Jo White. So that one's off the board. Szczerbiak finally settled on #55, since 5 and 5 equals 10. Meanwhile, the Kandi Man wore #34 for the Timberwolves, but it's not really up for discussion with the Celtics these days.
Did we forget sneakers?
Celtics stats guru Mike Zarren curriered a pair of game sneakers from the stash at the Celtics' training facility in Waltham back to the Garden to have them ready for Olowokandi and Szczerbiak to play in. And even though Doc didn't plan on playing them, he said wanted them in uniform on the sideline for a pretty good reason: they probably didn't travel in suits and would have been subjected to fines for not wearing appropriate attire on the bench in accordance with the NBA's dress code.
And plane flights are fun right? Szczerbiak had to catch a 7:55 a.m. flight and managed to make it to Boston around 1 p.m. From there, Celtics Director of Player Development Michael Crotty spent the day shuttling Szczerbiak from the Logan to his physical and then to the Garden, getting him to the locker room just minutes before tip-off.
- West was at Big Mama's House 2 when he got a text message from his brother about the deal. In case you were wondering, he gave it thumbs up.
- Rivers praised Jefferson for his defense down the stretch, to which Jefferson replied, joking: "It's about time!" He then got serious and added that "it's one thing when a guy has a problem and doesn't know what it is, but I know it and I'm working on it."
- One game after being activated, Ryan Gomes finally saw the parquet at the end of the first quarter but had his first shot attempt blocked just before the buzzer.
- Olowokandi said that Doc Rivers told him that his rotation is set and that he'd have to prove himself to earn PT. "I wouldn't really want it any other way. I think I perform a lot better in those situations," said Olowokandi.
- Ainge touched on the point guard situation and suggested that they may have to add a player to their roster, but for now, he's ruling out a return to the NBA for Gerald Green because he likes the amount of playing time Green is getting with Fayetteville, something he wouldn't get here with the Celtics.