Talented Celtics Summer League players determined to embrace their roles


SALT LAKE CITY – As you look at the Summer League roster of the Boston Celtics or any other Summer League squad for that matter, you’ll find a collection of talented players.

For most of their lives, they have been the best player on their team, the alpha male who things got tough on the floor, they were the ones more often than not who got things going.

Fast forward to today, a time when past success does not necessarily serve as a prelude for production in the present.

Indeed, there is very much a sense that the reset button has been hit on the basketball careers for most of the players here participating in the Salt Lake City Summer League with the Boston Celtics’ games slated to begin on Monday evening.

Celtics assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry will be coaching Boston’s team in Salt Lake City. He has indicated that while finding minutes will be difficult, everyone on the roster will get an opportunity to showcase their skills.

Among those players will be Jaylen Brown, the 6-foot-7 forward selected by Boston with the third overall pick in last month’s NBA draft. The 19-year-old spent one season at Cal before turning pro, just enough time to have earned First Team All Pac-12 honors in addition to being the conference’s rookie of the year.

His departure from Cal after just one season did not come as a surprise to anyone, not after he came in as one of the most sought-after prep stars in the country who at one point had just one player rated ahead of him – LSU’s Ben Simmons, who was the No. 1 overall pick in June’s NBA draft by Philadelphia.

Even with all the praise and accomplishments, Brown knows his role in the NBA – for now at least – will be significantly different than what it has been for most of his basketball career.

“I went through some of that at college as well,” Brown said. “We had a senior point guard (Tyrone Wallace who was the 60th and final pick in last month’s draft) who was the majority ball-handler on the team so I had to find my fit in the organization. So it’s the same process here on a bigger scale. It’s about staying patient, waiting for your opportunity and staying ready.”

Celtics rookie Demetrius Jackson was selected with the 45th overall pick, a surprising dip for a player that many projected to be drafted somewhere in the first round or at worst, the early stages of the second.

Among his strengths while at Notre Dame was his ability to hit clutch shots in big games or come up with key plays defensively.

As a second round pick, Jackson knows first and foremost he has to do enough to make the 15-man roster which is far from a given when you consider the logjam Boston has even without including him, in the backcourt.

That’s why his approach to summer league is pretty simple.

“You have to embrace your role, whatever is required of you,” he said. “And just attack it.”

That kind of mindset has done wonders for Ben Bentil, a lightly regarded player NBA prospect at Providence College who emerged as one of the nation’s top scorers while playing with point guard Kris Dunn who was the fifth overall pick in last month’s draft.

Like Jackson, Bentil was a second-round pick (51st overall) last month who needs a strong showing this summer in order to secure a guaranteed contract and with it, a roster spot for this season.

And as far as going from being a go-to guy to a role player, Bentil said he doesn’t believe the transition will be all that challenging.

“I came in as a freshman and I wasn’t the go-to guy,” said Bentil who left Providence College following his sophomore season. “I was a role player. I worked my way up. It’s starting (over) again. Hopefully when it’s all said and done I’ll be one of the go-to players.”

The transition from being a star player to having a more limited role is a subject the Celtics were quick to address with their rookies.

“That was one of the first things coach (Brad) Stevens told them,” said Shrewsberry, adding, “that there are 10 guys in the NBA that are superstars. They can go to whatever team and do what they want to. And you fit around them. Then there are 400 role players and you have to find your role, you have to do what you do well within that role on that certain team. So, and for these guys they have to find that spot; they have to find what that role is. We have to help define it for them.”

Finding requires walking a fine line between what they do best while doing so within the confines of what’s best for the team and do so without being selfish.

And Shrewsberry knows it’s easier – a lot easier – said than done.

“When we play together, everybody is going to look good,” Shrewsberry said. “When you try and overdue it and try to do too much, that’s when you start to look bad. Just make simple plays. Everybody will feed off that success; everybody will share the ball and we’ll all have fun.”

A. Sherrod Blakely can be followed on Twitter: @SherrodbCSN

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