addByline("Taylor C. Snow", "Celtics.com", "taylorcsnow");
ANDOVER, Mass. – Aron Baynes had the opportunity this summer to explore NBA free agency and possibly seek out an expanded role. However, there was no doubt in his mind that he wanted to return to Boston for another season with the Celtics.
The 6-foot-10 Aussie center has fallen in love with every aspect of Boston over the past year, from its culture to its competitive sports environment. The latter is what enticed Baynes to join the Celtics last summer, and his appetite for winning is why he was set on sticking around for another go.
“I wanted to come to a contender,” Baynes said Tuesday afternoon during an Arbella Home Court Makeover unveiling in Andover, Massachusetts. “I always knew that Boston was going to be able to contend and it was definitely a big part of my decision coming here and trying to fit into the system, trying to help as much as I could.”
Baynes ended up having a larger role than anyone expected last season due to a number of significant injuries to his teammates. He started 67 regular season games and averaged 6.0 points and 5.4 rebounds per game over 18.3 minutes per contest. The 31-year-old big man also owned the best defensive rating in the league (97.0) among players who played at least half of the season.
Baynes’ role will likely decline somewhat this season now that everyone is back and healthy, but he’s completely content with any responsibility the Celtics put on his plate. He may have a smaller serving of playing time in Boston than he would have elsewhere, but he knows that the organization cherishes the unique contributions he brings to the team.
“It’s one of those things where I enjoy and want to be in a place where they want me as well,” said Baynes, who spent the entire summer in Boston. “And that’s definitely something that I’ve felt from the front office and everyone involved.”
Baynes has especially felt the love from Brad Stevens and the Celtics coaching staff. The faith that Stevens had in Baynes from Day 1 last season helped build the big man’s confidence, which allowed him to expand his game as both a shooter and a defender.
Baynes says that suiting up for a coach who trusts him and utilizes his strengths was also a major factor in his decision to return.
“It’s great playing for a guy like Brad,” said Baynes. “He really puts the onus on us to become better shooters of the game … You've seen the development of the young guys and also the more veteran guys are still learning. He’s such a great teacher.”
Stevens had a lot of teaching to do last season with 11 new faces on the roster, but this season should be more about fine-tuning. There was hardly any roster turnover this summer, so the continuity should be in Boston’s favor.
“Last year at this time we were learning peoples’ names; this year we can get into the finer points of the systems that we’re learning,” said Baynes. “We’ve still got a bit to learn and a way to go in incorporating the healthy guys back into it, but it’s definitely exciting that we’re starting at this base level compared to where we were last season.”
Even with last season's injuries and lack of familiarity, the Celtics were still able to advance all the way to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Being so close to making it to the championship round, with still much room for team improvement, left Baynes yearning for more.
“It’s always nice to be able to come back and be with a team where you’ve left something that you feel is unfinished,” said Baynes. “There is an opportunity to do a lot. It could be a special one, so that’s what we’re working toward right now.”