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Stauskas Says Signing with Celtics Kept Basketball Career Alive

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BOSTON – Just five days ago, Nik Stauskas was contemplating walking away from professional basketball. The 29-year-old journeyman had been out of the NBA for nearly three years – aside from a 10-day stint with the Miami Heat at the beginning of January – and he felt he had given everything he could to the game he loves.

However, that thought went out the door as soon as the Boston Celtics came calling toward the end of last week, as Celtics President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens plucked Stauskas away from the G League and inked the guard to a multiyear deal.

“Just playing in the G League all year, I had told myself that if it didn’t work out this year, that I’d be OK with walking away from the game,” Stauskas reflected Tuesday afternoon following Celtics practice. “It’s just crazy that in the last 72-to-96 hours that everything kind of transpired the way it did.”

Stevens had been hoping to fill one of his remaining roster spots with a shooter. Stauskas, who in his previous two games with the Grand Rapids Gold had combined for 100 points while shooting an otherworldly 20-of-28 from 3-point range, would be a perfect fit.

The Ontario native entered the NBA in the summer of 2014 after being selected by the Sacramento Kings with the eighth overall pick in the draft. However, his stint with the Kings lasted only one season, as he began bouncing from team to team.

Over the last eight years, Stauskas says he’s “played on so many teams that I've lost count.”

To be exact, he’s been a member of 10 different teams during that span, including seven NBA squads, two G League teams, and one international club.

“That movement and the uncertainty of what the next day brings kind of pushed me to that point where I was like, man, I love this game but, especially having a wife and having a kid on the way, I was just like, man, it's not about just me anymore,” said Stauskas, who has averaged 6.8 points per game in 337 NBA appearances. “There's stresses outside of basketball put on my family. That kind of forced me to get to that point where I was like, damn, I don't know if I want to keep doing this.”

However, the opportunity to be back in the NBA, where he could continue to live out his dream, was one that Stauskas and his family couldn’t pass up.

“I'm really glad and I'm really grateful that I have a good group of people around me,” he said. “My family and friends who have continued to push me and continue to believe in me when I didn't really believe in myself. I feel really grateful to have them."

During his first few days in Boston, Stauskas has attempted to cram as much info into his head as possible so that he can be ready to help his new team. It’s not an easy process, especially since he doesn’t have any prior connections with this group – aside from playing college ball at Michigan with Al Horford’s younger brother, Jon – but it’s a process that he enjoys.

“I’m just trying to make the most of it here,” Stauskas said. “Trying to learn this system, trying to become friends with all these guys and the coaching staff. And, so far, I’ve only been here for a couple of days, but have had nothing but good experiences. Got a good group of guys, everyone’s been very welcoming, and obviously this team is playing some great basketball. So, I’m trying to learn what I can and involve myself as much as possible and work my way into this team.”

It's amazing to think how much Stauskas’ outlook has changed over the past week, realizing how one call may have breathed extra life into his career. The past few years have been difficult for him in working his way back to the NBA, but it’s all been worth it to have this opportunity to finally return.

“At the end of the day, it’s been my love for the game that’s kept me going through the highs and the lows, through injuries and the doubts, not knowing what the next day brings,” Stauskas said. “So I’m definitely glad I stuck with it on those days just to kind of get back to this point. But I’ve got a lot of work to do to get to where I want to be personally, so I’m just trying to keep my head up and keep working the same way I have the past couple of years.”