|Stephane Lasme’s added motivation||10.12.10 at 3:10 pm ET|
BOSTON — Surely, Von Wafer and Mario West are motivated to make the Celtics roster, but Stephane Lasme is playing for something more.
Training in Italy this summer for Russia’s Spartak Saint Petersburg squad, Lasme — a citizen of Gabon — was informed that if he didn’t return to the United States and land a year-long job, he could lose his residency.
“My wife and my baby are American,” the 27-year-old Lasme said after Sunday’s 91-87 win over the Raptors. “To get a chance to see them, I basically have to get a job here.”
Playing for teams in Serbia and Tel Aviv ever since he failed to make the Golden State Warriors and Miami Heat in 2007-08, Lasme decided to return to the U.S., even if that meant a “big, big, big” pay cut.
“I had to make a choice between seeing my family or not seeing my family and taking that much money,” said the 6-foot-8, 220-pound former UMass forward. “For me, the choice is obvious. I’m gonna see my family.”
Even if Lasme fails to make the Celtics roster, he could stay relatively close to his wife Anastasia and 17-month-old Lily in Marlborough, Mass. A new NBA rule would allow the C’s to sign him — along with two other players — to their Developmental League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws.
“Even if I don’t make the team, I’m going to stay around,” said Lasme. “(Signing with the Red Claws) is an option that I’ve thought about with the new rule. Maine is not that far away from home.”
It’s appearing more and more likely that Lasme won’t have to worry about that. Wafer’s minutes have declined in each preseason game, and West has contributed little in two brief stints. Meanwhile, Lasme has made his presence felt, significantly.
After totaling 12 points and four boards in just seven minutes in the opener, he threw down a highlight-reel dunk over Andrea Bargnani in a key moment of Sunday night’s victory over the Raptors. He’s looked downright Leon Powe-esque, and that’s a good thing (remember 2008?).
“I like him a lot,” C’s head coach Doc Rivers said after the game. “I do. He just does everything. He has energy. He has a high basketball IQ. He’s athletic. He’s probably our most athletic player. … He has a great shot at making our team. He’s terrific.”
Capturing Atlantic 10 Player of the Year honors after averaging 13.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 5.1 blocks as a senior, Lasme concluded his college career as UMass’ all-time shot-blocking leader, over Marcus Camby. Since then, he’s added to his game, and if the Celtics keep him around, he’ll get to show off the skills he learned in Europe over the last two years.
“I’ve had a couple of good coaches who have tried to develop my game in the summer, and I think it’s worked out pretty good,” said Lasme. “I’ve worked a lot on my ball-handling and shooting. I know I haven’t shot the ball (from the outside) yet, but I’ve worked a lot on those two aspects. The more I play, the more I’m going to get a chance to show that.”
In all likelihood, he’ll get that chance.
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