BOSTON – Shane Larkin enters every Celtics game night not knowing how much he’s going to play, or if he’s even going to play at all.
The 25-year-old backup point guard doesn’t let that uncertainty bother him. Instead, he uses it as motivation to prepare himself to the best of his ability, so that when he does get the opportunity to step onto the court, he will be ready.
Wednesday night’s game against the Dallas Mavericks was the perfect example, as Larkin came off the bench to score 11 points in 15 minutes, while sparking the Celtics to a 97-90 win.
Larkin hadn’t seen any action in five games, but with Jaylen Brown (eye) and Marcus Morris (knee) both out, Boston was in need of his services.
The C’s struggled out of the gate and found themselves locked in an 18-18 tie toward the end of the first quarter. Brad Stevens called Larkin’s name at that point, and he immediately got to work by hitting a baseline, reverse layup, before snagging a steal on the defensive end.
“When he goes in, he can change the tempo,” Stevens said after the game. “He can get into people on defense. He can drive. He can shoot. He missed a couple of threes, and then he had the moxie to make the next one.”
Larkin’s 3-point shooting was a major boost for Boston’s offense. At one point during the second quarter, he hit two treys over a 28-second span. He finished a season-best 3-of-5 from long range, while adding two assists, two rebounds and two steals.
“I know that if things aren’t going the way that we want them to go, I can provide the energy and change the pace of the game,” said Larkin. “That’s what [Stevens] has called my number to do on multiple occasions this year, and I take pride in going out there and being that guy that can change the game offensively and defensively.”
Larkin is a player who is thankful for every opportunity he gets on an NBA court. That sense of gratitude, however, has not always existed for the young, but well-traveled point guard.
Larkin was selected 18th overall in the 2013 NBA Draft, and he acknowledges that his high draft position got to his head early in his career.
“I thought things would just be handed to me because of where I was drafted,” Larkin admitted.
Instead, he received a hard taste of reality.
During his first three seasons, Larkin bounced from Dallas to New York, and then to Brooklyn. By his fourth season, he couldn’t find an NBA home at all, so he played a year of pro ball in Spain.
He learned, “If you’re a first round pick, you’re going to have opportunities; but if you don’t produce, if you don’t go out there and give the effort, if you don’t do the right things, it’s not guaranteed.”
Larkin wasn’t sure if he would get another opportunity to play in the NBA, but the Celtics took a chance on him this summer, and he accepted their offer without hesitation.
The 5-foot-11, University of Miami alumnus has returned to the league with a different mental approach. He’s thankful that he’s been given a second chance, and he’s making sure to make the most out of every opportunity he gets.
“I think going to Europe really changed that mindset,” said Larkin, “so that when I do step on the court, even if it’s not every single game, I’m going to give 100 percent effort and try to make it hell for whoever is standing across from me.”
Larkin has made it hell for a few opponents thus far. He logged 10 points and four assists during 20 minutes of action on Oct. 20, when the C’s ousted the 76ers for their first win of the year. He then dropped 16 points in 17 minutes on Nov. 10, when Boston beat the Hornets, despite the absences of Gordon Hayward, Al Horford and Kyrie Irving.
Wednesday was Larkin’s latest microwave-like performance, as he heated up quickly to help the injury-ridden C’s hold off the Mavericks. He hopes a performance like that will open the door for more opportunities in the near future, so that he can continue to make a similar type of impact.