CLEVELAND – Brad Wanamaker is only 10 days into his first NBA preseason, but it’s already clear that he doesn’t fit the mold of a typical rookie.
The 6-foot-4 combo guard has displayed high levels of maturity, leadership and basketball IQ during his short time with the Boston Celtics, which makes it seem as though he’s been going through this type of process for years.
Well, that’s because he has been. As a matter of fact, this rookie has more professional basketball experience under his belt than more than half of the players on the Celtics roster.
After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 2011, Wanamaker spent seven years playing in some of the top international leagues in the world, all while achieving monumental success. Now, at 29 years old, the Philadelphia native has finally reached his goal of making it to the NBA, and he’s more than ready to get to work for his new squad.
“At the beginning of the summer, when I first signed with Boston, it was a great moment for me,” Wanamaker told Celtics.com before Saturday morning’s shootaround in Cleveland. “But now that I’m here, it’s all about working hard to find my way onto the court.”
Wanamaker is aware of Boston’s tremendous depth, but he believes that the knowledge he gained overseas will help him to make an impact on this Celtics team.
“Going over there, you’ve gotta learn how to play the game,” Wanamaker said of his international experiences in Italy, France, Germany and Turkey. “It’s not all about just scoring and running up and down the court – you’ve gotta learn how to set your teammates up, how to run sets, how to be a leader on the team. It helped me tremendously and just helped my overall game in understanding how to move and how to lead a team.”
And lead, he did. Wanamaker was on three title-winning teams while playing overseas, for two of which he was named Finals MVP. He was also a two-time Turkish League All-Star, a two-time German Basketball Bundesliga All-Star, and he earned the 2016 German BBL MVP while playing alongside Daniel Theis on Brose Bamberg.
Experiencing success at the NBA level will be a whole new challenge for Wanamaker, but he says the transition has been a smooth one so far.
“It’s been going great,” he said as he laced up his sneakers for shootaround at Quicken Loans Arena ahead of Boston’s preseason finale against the Cavaliers. “I’m still adjusting a little bit, but I think it’s more so just me slowing the game down for myself. Everything else is pretty much going well – the physicality, the speed and everything – I just gotta slow it down to my pace.”
The Celtics’ coaching staff has seen promising signs from Wanamaker over the last 10 days. Brad Stevens has praised the newcomer’s playmaking abilities, his versatility, and most of all, his knowledge of the game.
“He’s a really bright guy,” Stevens said Saturday morning. “He’s played basketball for great coaches all over the world in a lot of different situations and you can tell that he reads situations really well. He’s going to adjust, as time goes on, to the NBA game and the different challenges that come along with that, but I’ve been really happy with him.”
Wanamaker has played in all three of Boston’s preseason games thus far, having compiled eight points, eight rebounds and three assists over 34 minutes of play. He could see a bit of extra action during Saturday night’s preseason finale, given that neither Gordon Hayward (lower back) nor Kyrie Irving (ribs) made the trip to Cleveland.
“Any time you step on that court, it’s an opportunity,” said Wanamaker. “And with Kyrie and Gordon out tonight, it’s an even bigger opportunity. Maybe I’ll get some more minutes out there just to show what I’m capable of doing.”
Wanamaker has already shown his teammates and coaches that he’s more capable than many rookies in this league, and that’s because his experience and knowledge of the game is beyond that of most first-year players. He still has to feel out the pace of the NBA in order to get fully comfortable, but once he does, he could wind up being an important piece to Boston’s puzzle.