BROOKLYN — The Boston Celtics’ lineup down the stretch of Monday’s 109-102 loss to the Brooklyn Nets was a weird one: Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum were the headliners, but contributing positively alongside them were Brad Wanamaker, Guerschon Yabusele and a combination of Daniel Theis and Robert Williams.
Tatum and Brown were little surprise. With Kyrie Irving out, both had an opportunity to step into last year’s role as two rising stars and scorers. Tatum’s shot-making was at a high level (34 points, 12-for-19 shooting) while Brown flashed his ability to get to the rim.
But Wanamaker in particular stood out as a contributor for lengthy stretches. He played within himself — taking and making open threes and applying pressure as an on-ball defender. Stevens noted Wanamaker’s pressure in particular, before directing questions about the fourth-quarter comeback onto the struggles that necessitated it.
“I don’t want to take away from what Brooklyn did,” Stevens said. “The story shouldn’t be the comeback. The story should be how well they played.”
Certainly fair, but Wanamaker’s success deserves mention. On a night when guard production was needed from the bench, Wanamaker finished with 13 points on 4-for-11 shooting, with two steals, four rebounds and three assists in 26 minutes. Wanamaker doesn’t often get that much playing time, but he has made the most of his minutes on multiple occasions this season.
“It’s just all about me wanting to play,” Wanamaker said. “If I go out there (in practice) and just play around and not take the game serious, I won’t be rewarded. Obviously staying ready helped me tonight.”
Wanamaker also admitted the loss was bittersweet, given his role in closing the gap.
“It feels good to go out there and play, but I’m all about winning,” he said. “I’m all about the team. It’s great for me to get out there and get some minutes and show what I could do, but it would have been better if we could have got the win.”
Wanamaker can probably be excused for feeling good, even in a loss. After a four-year college career at Pitt, he spent years bouncing back and forth between leagues overseas and the G-League. Another stint in European basketball likely would have paid him more than the Celtics this season, but Wanamaker jumped at the opportunity to make a name for himself in the NBA.
On a Celtics team with a ton of guard depth, opportunities have been scarce. So for a journeyman guard finally getting his first opportunities, the chance to prove himself is important.
“Just a way to stay ready,” Wanamaker said. “Way to be professional. That’s my job to stay ready and get ready for my opportunity.”
Is he hoping for more time? Wanamaker smiled.
“Just have to keep showing it,” he said. “Everything else will take its place.”