Wanamaker Makes Most of Opportunity in Celts' Win over Dallas
BOSTON – Most of Brad Wanamaker’s playing time this season has come near the tail end of games, of which the Boston Celtics are either up big or down big. So, the rookie combo guard was admittedly shocked Friday night, when Brad Stevens called his name less than nine minutes into the first quarter in a closely contested battle against the Dallas Mavericks.
“Honestly, I was like, ‘What? What?! WHAT?!’” Wanamaker recalled after the game with a chuckle. “But I just tried to go out there and do the right things, make the right plays and keep the guys going.”
He couldn’t have made much greater of an impact right off the bat.
The Celtics were leading the Mavs, 26-23, with less than a minute remaining in the first frame, when Wanamaker suddenly caught fire. He personally helped to create eight points during the final 54 seconds of the quarter, feeding Gordon Hayward with an assist on a jumper and then knocking down back-to-back 3s of his own to give the C’s a 34-23 lead heading into the second.
“Just making that first shot calms you down and keeps you on your toes a little bit,” said Wanamaker. “You’re just hoping for more.”
So, Stevens gave him more – more playing time, that is – and plenty of it.
Wanamaker ended up logging eight points, four assists and three steals in 22 minutes of action. All of those were season highs. He shot 3-of-6 from the field, 2-of-2 from long range, corralled a pair of rebounds and turned the ball over just once, all of which helped to propel an injury-ridden Celtics team to a 114-93 win.
On top of his offensive production, Wanamaker also played solid defense. He primarily took on the responsibility of guarding J.J. Barea, who logged 20 points and eight assists during the last meeting between these teams on Thanksgiving weekend.
This time, Barea was held to just six points and two assists, largely because of Wanamaker’s strong, tenacious effort to keep him in check.
All of this was new to Celtics fans, when, in reality, Wanamaker has been playing like this for several years. He spent the last seven seasons playing overseas, where he collected piles of accolades.
Wanamaker was on three championship-winning teams while playing overseas, for two of which he was named Finals MVP. He was also a two-time Turkish League All-Star, a two-time German Basketball Bundesliga All-Star, and he earned the 2016 German BBL MVP while playing alongside Celtic teammate Daniel Theis on Brose Bamberg.
The 29-year-old gave up all of that international glory this past summer by signing his first NBA contract with the Celtics. He knew he would likely see his role reduced quite a bit in doing so, but that didn’t stop him from pursuing his lifelong dream.
Taking such a path has earned Wanamaker great admiration from C’s coach Brad Stevens.
“This is a guy that probably turned down a ton of money playing overseas to get a chance to play in the NBA for the first time, and doesn’t get to play and has never been through that in his life where he doesn’t get to play,” said Stevens. “So, you’re really, really happy for him.”
Stevens wasn’t the only one.
“I was ecstatic for him,” said fellow guard Marcus Smart. “To see him get in there… that guy, he comes into practice every day. He works not knowing if he’s going to play or not. But he comes in with a great, positive attitude every day. So, to see him finally get in there and get some minutes, get a great sweat going and knock down shots, it’s something that this team enjoys watching.”
Wanamaker hopes that Friday night's breakout performance leads to more playing time in the near future.
“I’m just trying to stay mentally prepared,” he said. “I’m getting a lot of feedback from my family and friends, they’re saying, ‘Just stay ready.’ They’ve seen the story many times where guys don’t play, and then the second half of the season the coach finally starts calling your number.
“Tonight was my time. He called me and I just tried to do the best I could do.”