BOSTON – This time of year, it’s hard to put too much stock into what players are doing in games if they haven’t played much all year.
But there is no getting around the impact that Jabari Bird has made, a two-way contract player who is opening a lot of eyes with his overall play and athleticism.
It’s getting to the point where the Celtics have to give some thought to the possibility of having the rookie on their playoff roster, something that can only happen if they waive one of their current players with a guaranteed contract. Bird, who has averaged 11 points in Boston’s last two games, said he’s not thinking beyond the Celtics’ two games remaining in the regular season, knowing he’s got a pretty good shot at playing in both.
“I’m not too concerned with what’s going on as far as my future and things like that,” Bird told NBC Sports Boston after scoring nine points on 4-for-5 shooting Sunday afternoon. “I’m trying to control what I can control, and that’s going out and play hard every game."
Bird added, “I’m just trying to show everyone in this organization that I’m a good ball player.”
In a recent interview with NBC Sports Boston, Jaylen Brown, who played with Bird at Cal two years ago, talked about how all Bird needed was a chance – a real chance – to showcase his game.
“I’m telling you, he’s a really, really good player,” Brown told NBC Sports Boston. “When he gets his chance, and he’ll get it, he’ll show everyone. You’ll see.”
Indeed, Bird has been given opportunities to play meaningful minutes of late and to his credit, he has made the most of those times.
The 6-foot-6 wing has impressed many with his athleticism which allows him to get open along the baseline for easy baskets, above-the-rim skills and solid play defensively.
It has been a while, so it’s understandable if Celtics fans have forgotten how important Bird was in Boston’s first win of the season, at Philadelphia in October. It was Bird’s pestering defense against Sixers guard J.J. Redick that was pivotal in the Celtics getting the win that night.
While he reflects on that night from time to time, Bird knows it means little if he’s not able to build on that performance going forward.
Bird’s play both with the Celtics and with the Gatorade League’s Maine Red Claws (Boston’s G-League affiliate) has been limited due to injuries. But as we have seen lately, when healthy Bird can indeed be a contributor off the bench.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens is among those who have been impressed with the play of Bird who was selected by Boston with the 56th pick in last June’s NBA draft. As far as Bird’s future beyond the two remaining regular season games, Stevens is quick to acknowledge that decision won’t be his to make.
“Those aren’t my discussions or my job,” Stevens said before adding, “But at the end of the day, I think he is playing well. He’s doing some good things. I thought offensively he was pretty good, especially early. He’s done a good job in the last couple of games and will probably play some of the next two.”
Said Bird: “Like I said, it’s just a blessing. I had the (back) injury and was out for a long time. So to come back and make an impact on the court, it has been fun. Just have the opportunity to be an NBA player and get some extended minutes for the first time, it’s a true blessing. I’m just looking to get better every game.”
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