The hits keep on coming for the Boston Celtics. After losing back-to-back games (and six of its last nine overall) Brad Stevens’ crew has gone from eyeing a top-four playoff seed in the Eastern Conference to staring a play-in scenario dead in the face.
All the while, COVID-19 and the injury bug’s ceaseless sting have continued to be the Celtics’ bane. And the latest development has been the worst one yet for the club.
On Monday, All-Star wing Jaylen Brown was ruled out for the remainder of the 2020-21 campaign. He had been diagnosed with a torn scapholunate ligament in his left wrist over the weekend.
Clearly, Brown’s injury came at the worst possible time for Boston, which is suddenly fighting for what had once seemed a surefire postseason berth.
However, his absence could provide a golden opportunity for a certain Celtics rookie to continue to prove himself as a key cog to the team’s future success.
The latest Celtics news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Celtics newsletter here!
Join Heavy on Celtics!
Aaron Nesmith’s Time Has Arrived
Before April 28, rookie guard Aaron Nesmith’s first foray into the pro game had largely been a ho-hum affair. Throughout the year, the DNPs and garbage-time minutes have mounted for the former No. 14 overall pick, who had been an electrifying scorer as a sophomore at Vanderbilt.
Consequently, some of the more impatient segments of Celtics Nation were ready to lump him into the bust category with Romeo Langford.
On that night, though, with Marcus Smart becoming a late scratch from the team’s big bout with the Charlotte Hornets, Nesmith stepped in and finally made his presence known at the NBA level.
In 31 minutes of play, the 21-year-old scored 15 points on 6-of-12 shooting (with two triples) and added nine boards, three steals and three blocks.
Since that game, he has continued to play well for the Beantowners. Over his last six contests, Nesmith is averaging 12.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per contest while shooting 64.3% from the field and 57.9% from distance.
It’s exactly the kind of production fans expect from a lottery pick; all Nesmith needed was an opportunity to show that he had that ability.
With Brown suddenly down for the count, that opportunity has become an extended audition for Nesmith. If he can continue to use the extra minutes to his advantage, it could be a major development for him as well as his team.
Brown Speaks Out on Nesmith
After Nesmith’s coming-out party against the Hornets, Brown was effusive in his praise of Nesmith. The All-Star forward was particularly impressed by his work ethic and ability to overcome the trials and tribulations of his rookie campaign.
“His energy is always good whether he’s playing or not,” Smart said, via Celtics Wire. “He works his ass off.”
“He’s stepping into his opportunities and playing well — he plays hard. I love having him on the floor. I know he makes mistakes sometimes, but he makes mistakes going 100%, and I’ll take that. I like having Aaron out there. He plays extremely hard, and he can shoot the ball when he gets going too.”
While shooting was Nesmith’s calling card coming out of Vandy, Brown has been particularly impressed by all the other things he has to offer.
“And he guards!” exclaimed Brown. “He gets into guys, rebounds, blocks, throws his body.”
The Celtics will need more of the same from him if they hope to remain in the playoff picture.