LAS VEGAS — The reports were generally favorable as Aron Baynes went through an individual workout before several NBA teams Friday morning. And the Celtics certainly have to be paying attention as they seek to add depth to their rotation of bigs.
But even the most guarded of opinions on the 35-year-old center’s performance must be considered remarkable considering what he’s been through in the last year. Baynes sustained a spinal cord injury in an off-court fall while in Tokyo playing for the Australian Olympic team last July.
The former Celtic, Spur, Raptor, Piston and Sun fell and became unconscious during a trip to the lavatory late in a pool play game. He spent the rest of the summer in hospitals in Tokyo and Brisbane. He suffered internal bleeding and was unable to walk due to pressure on his spine.
Months of therapy followed as Baynes regained his strength and, around the start of this year, engaged in some rudimentary basketball activities.
The word from Friday’s session at IMPACT Basketball was of a veteran player well down the recovery road.
Baynes Showed Good Stamina in Workout
According to one scout, Baynes worked out for some 40 minutes straight.
“That part was good, but it was 1-on-0, so there were some things you couldn’t really tell for sure,” he said. “I’m not sure he’s going to be quite the banger he was before, but he can really shoot from the outside. He was drilling 3’s.”
The 6-foot-10 Baynes had attempted just seven 3-pointers over the first five years of his career, with stops in San Antonio and Detroit. He made 3 of 21 in 2017-18, his first season with the Celtics, and hit 21 of 61 from the distance (.344) in his second and final year with the C’s. He was traded to Phoenix in 2019 and made 59 of 168 treys (.351) before signing with Toronto as a free and bagging 27 of 103 (.262) there.
“He can play now,” said another team exec at Friday’s exercise. “I’m not sure he’s all the way back — or all the way to where he’s going to be with more time — but from what I saw today, he can help a team.”
Are the Celtics a Fit?
Said another source, “I can see a fit in Boston. They’ve already got (Rob) Williams and Al (Horford) and the other Williams (Grant) when they want to go smaller. They wouldn’t be asking a lot from (Baynes). He played for Brad (Stevens), so it’d be a bit different with (Ime) Udoka, but I wouldn’t see that as any problem.
“It’s just a matter of what direction Boston wants to go. I can see them waiting a bit, too. There are some bigs that could become available as other moves get made.”
Regarding the Baynes-Udoka connection, the two are actually quite familiar with each other. Baynes’ first three NBA seasons were in San Antonio and coincided with Udoka’s first three years as an assistant coach with the Spurs.
Baynes averaged 5.8 points and 5.1 rebounds in 17.5 minutes with the Celtics.