Bird's Hard Work Pays Off, Earns Spot in C's Nest
BOSTON – Jabari Bird did everything in his power over the past year to prove his worth to the Boston Celtics. On Thursday, the second-year guard’s hard work finally paid off as the organization rewarded him with an NBA contract.
Bird, the 56th overall pick of the 2017 Draft, spent last season on a two-way deal with the Celtics, splitting his time between Boston and Portland, Maine – the home of the G League’s Red Claws.
In Boston, Bird’s role was limited, only appearing in 13 games while averaging 3.0 points and 1.5 rebounds per game. However, he was patient, diligent, and took advantage of every opportunity he was given.
For example, Bird was called up to the C’s at the tail-end of the regular season and was granted his first stretch of significant NBA playing time. He played 20-plus minutes during three of the last four games, averaging 10.3 PPG and 5.0 RPG during those contests while shooting 68.2 percent from the field and 60 percent from 3-point range.
Opportunities were much easier to come by in Portland, where Bird was a starter and a prolific contributor on both ends of the court.
Bird’s 19.3 PPG was the leading scoring mark among Red Claws players who played in at least 20 games, and he achieved that number while shooting 51.7 percent from the field. He also chipped in 5.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.4 steals per game.
Bird’s strong play carried over into Summer League in Las Vegas, where he led the Celtics in scoring with 16.8 PPG on 57 percent shooting.
While Bird soared on the offensive end, Summer League head coach Jay Larranaga said the 24-year-old Cal product still has room for improvement on the other side of the ball.
“He’s growing as a defender, which I think is going to be the next big step for him,” said Larranaga.
Bird showed flashes of potential on the defensive end at times last season, most notably during his NBA debut on Oct. 20, 2017.
C’s coach Brad Stevens called Bird’s name midway through the third quarter of that contest in hopes that the rookie could provide a spark to help Boston overcome a nine-point deficit. Bird’s task was to guard J.J. Redick, who had piled up 17 points up until the Celtics wing checked in for the first time.
Bird immediately glued himself to Redick and limited the elite shooter to just two points for the remainder of the game. The Celtics would wind up overtaking Philly for their first win of the season, which earned Bird some praiseful words from his coach.
"I think he's got a huge upside,” Stevens said the following day after practice. “His rebounding spoke for itself in the preseason practices and his ability to guard on the ball, especially shooters cutting off screens, is just really good. He's not afraid, and you knew he would step up.”
From that point forward, Bird showed no fear and always stepped up when his name was called upon. He worked meticulously to improve his craft, displayed a first-class attitude no matter the situation and remained ready to contribute at all times.
Now, the opportunity of a lifetime awaits Bird, and he’ll be ready to step up and seize it.