Baynes’ Playoff Experience a Valuable Resource for Young C’s
WALTHAM, Mass. – Celtics center Aron Baynes is proving to be more than just a veteran leader at this point of the season. He’s also turning out to be a valuable resource for his Boston teammates and coaches as they grind through their playoff run.
What makes Baynes different from the rest of the crew is that he is the only active player on the roster to have ever make it out of a Conference Finals series. And he’s also the only one who has won a championship.
The Australian big man accomplished that feat with the San Antonio Spurs in the Spring of 2014, and it just so happened to come against the very same superstar that his Celtics are currently trying to oust in the Eastern Finals. The Spurs beat LeBron James’ Miami Heat in five games during that 2014 championship run, and the experience is something that Baynes has engrained in his mind.
Being fully aware of that fact, C’s coach Brad Stevens sought out Baynes after practice Monday afternoon to pick the big man’s brain.
Stevens, whose Celtics lead the Cavs 1-0 in the series, understandably wouldn’t go into any detail about the conversation. However, the coach noted, “Any experience that those guys can bring for all of us has been beneficial.”
Baynes’ experience could be particularly beneficial to this youthful group considering the fact that he was in the same shoes as many of them during his first extensive postseason run. He was in his second season when he won the title with the Spurs and was still learning the ropes at that point, just like many of his young Celtics teammates are currently doing.
Fortunately for Baynes, he was surrounded by a plethora of former title winners and future Hall-of-Famers on that Spurs team, and those players all taught him how to compete at the playoff level.
“I was able to learn a lot from some great players -- Tim (Duncan), Tony (Parker), Manu (Ginobili) and Boris (Diaw). The list is quite long,” said Baynes. “I was able to learn a lot from them, and I've just tried to emulate certain things that they do in terms of their routine and staying consistent.”
Now, Baynes’ role has reversed from pupil to teacher since joining the C’s. He’s led by example all season long with a selfless, team-first attitude, and Stevens believes that mindset has rubbed off on Boston’s younger players.
“He’s been a great leader,” said Stevens. “He's been an anchor defensively. Whenever we've needed him to step up offensively, he's done that. The 3s he hit in the Philly series were huge because it spaced [Joel] Embiid. In our last regular season game, we didn't play a bunch of guys, and he had 28 points in 25 minutes. He's a really good player, and he's really tough and very team-oriented.”
While Baynes didn’t have nearly as big of a role during the Spurs’ title run, the experience and knowledge that he gained was monumental for him in understanding how to win during the postseason.
Now, he sees that his young Celtics teammates are beginning to grasp that knowledge as well.
“We're adjusting and finding our own way,” said Baynes. “We understand now what it is to play playoff basketball, but it keeps getting more intense every game. That's what these guys are seeing, and they've been able to adjust to it really well.”
The adjustment process wouldn’t have been so smooth had it not been for Baynes’ presence. He’s not only been a leader during this postseason run, but also a valuable resource from which his teammates and coaches have been able to learn.