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Aaron Nesmith hasn’t seen much game action for the Boston Celtics over the past few weeks after spending some time in the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocols and then registering a couple of DNPs upon his return. So to keep him fresh, the C's front office sent the second-year wing up to Portland, Maine on Sunday where he could get some extended run with their G League affiliate – the Maine Celtics.
Nesmith shook off the rust with a G League debut performance of 21 points on 9-of-16 shooting from the field, nine rebounds, and five assists during 31 minutes of action, while helping to lead Maine to a 117-89 win over the Wisconsin Herd.
The 21-year-old was then recalled Monday morning to Boston to be on hand for the Celtics’ 7:30 p.m. matchup against the Indiana Pacers at TD Garden.
“It’s just fun to be able to play the game of basketball no matter where it is,” Nesmith said of his brief trip to Maine after returning to the Auerbach Center for Monday morning’s shootaround with the Boston squad. “Just being able to go out there and play freely and just kind of get back into a rhythm a little bit, it's always fun and always a good experience.”
Nesmith has seen inconsistent minutes this season with the Celtics and has struggled to maintain a consistent rhythm as a result. In 28 appearances in a Boston uniform, he’s averaged 3.1 points per game while shooting 34.4 percent from the field, including 23.4 percent from 3-point range.
Those shooting splits have taken a dip from his rookie season when he shot 43.8 percent from the field, including 37.0 percent from beyond the arc.
“It's frustrating,” he admitted of the sophomore slump he’s experienced throughout the first half of the season. “My shot is not where it's supposed to be or where I want it to be. And I need to find my consistency with that, and I need to get back to doing what I've been doing regarding that. But, besides that, just continue to make the most of opportunities on the defensive side of the floor; even if my shot’s not falling, make sure I can still make an impact without making jumpers.”
Despite not shooting the ball as well as he’d like to be, Nesmith says his confidence is still high. Celtics head coach Ime Udoka has continued to push him during practice and is constantly instilling faith in the young wing, referencing how well Nesmith was shooting prior to the season and how it’s only a matter of time before he returns to that level.
Nesmith relayed that Udoka tells him, “Just make the most of my opportunities, play with confidence, go out there and do what I've always done in preseason and Summer League. He's always just trying to instill confidence in the younger guys who don't get as much minutes so that when we do get opportunities, we play like we didn't miss a beat.”
The fact that Udoka was once in the same position as Nesmith, having served as a role player throughout his NBA playing career, makes their conversations even more relatable.
“Having the backing of a coach who's done it himself and been through it himself, always helps,” Nesmith said. “And it helps to know that he believes in you and whenever he puts you out there, he expects you to go make an impact.”
Nesmith shares the same expectation as Udoka, knowing that he can make an impact whenever his number is called. The results may not be immediate, since he’s only played five minutes since Dec. 22, but he hopes that his strong performance up Maine can help get him back into a rhythm.
“I’ll definitely get better with that as the season goes on," Nesmith said of his shooting. "And, like I said, I'll just continue to make impacts in other ways around the game.”