Hard Work Paying Off for Rookie Abdel Nader
TORONTO –Abdel Nader has been yearning to prove his on-court value to his Celtics coaches and teammates throughout his rookie campaign. Over the past week, the 24-year-old wing has finally gotten the opportunity he has been seeking, and he has taken full advantage of it.
Dealing with a plethora of injuries to key rotation players, Boston coach Brad Stevens has been forced to dig deep into his second unit over the last three games. Many role players have seen a substantial increase of minutes as a result, and Nader has been one of the beneficiaries.
The 58th overall pick from the 2016 Draft has played 20-plus minutes during each of the last three games ¬– a feat that he had achieved only once prior during his career. He has averaged 7.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists during the three-game stretch, while shooting 36.4 percent from 3-point range. And his confidence has been steadily rising all the while.
“I can feel every game I’m getting a little bit more and more comfortable out there,” Nader said Tuesday morning ahead of Celtics shootaround at Air Canada Centre in Toronto. “I’m just trying to do everything I can to help this team win.”
So far, he’s been doing a great job of that.
The Celtics have won three straight games despite not having Gordon Hayward, Kyrie Irving, Shane Larkin, Marcus Morris (missed last two games) and Marcus Smart on the floor. Nader has played a significant role during each contest.
Starting off Wednesday night, Nader saw 28 minutes against the Knicks and logged career highs in points (10), assists (three) and plus/minus rating (plus-22), all while helping the C’s to a 103-73 win.
He followed that up by playing 46 combined minutes against the Hawks and Trail Blazers, respectively, producing 12 points and 11 boards during the two wins.
Nader’s recent efforts have impressed his teammates, most notably Irving, who has seen great growth from the Alexandria, Egypt native.
“When I first came [to Boston], I didn’t really know much about Nader,” admitted Irving, “so I had to really gain experience from playing with him (during practice). But man, that guy has unbelievable length. He just comes in and plays extremely hard and he’s gaining a lot more confidence the more he plays.
Added the All-Star point guard, “We have a great offensive scheme, a great defensive scheme, and he always seems to be in the right place, ready to shoot. We just want him to have that confidence going in when he’s playing with us.”
Stevens has been delighted to see that type of confidence from Nader, considering the tireless effort he puts into honing his skills.
“He prepares for his time and he’s worked really hard,” said Stevens. “The other day we were giving him a hard time because, the day after he played 28 minutes, he didn’t have as much energy to get all those shots up as he had before. But it’s been fun to see him and all those [rookies] have a chance over the last week to have success.”
Nader knows that his playing time isn’t guaranteed to remain in the 20-minute range, especially since Irving and Morris may return to action tonight when the C’s face the Raptors. But, if anything, his recent play could help his cause for a heightened role with the team, so he will remain consistent with his daily approach.
“I’ve just got to stay ready,” said Nader. “Brad preaches that all the time – to just stay ready. And I’m trying to do that.”