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Shabazz Napier says he has ‘heart’ to lead an NBA team

06.16.14 at 3:55 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Before stepping on the court for a workout Monday morning at the Celtics training facility, Shabazz Napier wanted to make sure he took it all in.

So, the former University of Connecticut star point guard — born in Roxbury and schooled at Charlestown High — came in Sunday night and took some time before an informal shootaround to just be the fan of the Celtics he was growing up.

“I came in [Sunday] to shoot a little bit,” Napier said. “For about a good 5-10 minutes, I looked around at the banners. Just a warm feeling. [Watching] the Celtics growing up, being a Boston fan and you get those chills you every time you watch those films. It took me about five to 10 minutes to realize I was here.”

Monday, Napier was all business. He took part in an NBA pre-draft workout Monday morning for the Celtics. The two-time NCAA champion guard says he may not have all the physical tools like size and length but his heart makes him an NBA leader. Napier grew up in the Boston area before leaving for UConn but says he still cheers for Boston teams like the Celtics.

One thing he wanted to get across in his meeting with reporters was his confidence that he can do in the NBA what he did at UConn — lead a team to a championship.

“I don’t have the crazy wingspan,” said Napier, whose wingspan at the combine was measured at 6-foot-3.25 inches. “I just have the heart that a lot of guys with those attributes don’t have. You put me in front of anybody I’m going to compete. That’s the biggest thing that I have gotten since I was younger. I was always the littlest guy. Those are the things I can’t worry about. Just be myself. There are a lot of guys with those attributes that can’t lead a team like I can. There’s always a reason for something. I’m definitely happy I can lead a team.

“I’ve been to six [NBA] teams so far and basketball has taken me there. It’s been a blessing.”

Napier said that he plans to work out for at least two more teams, including the Rockets this week, before sitting back and watching where his name is called on June 26.

“The last time I can remember being here was when I was young, at the Antoine Walker camp. I was really, really young then,” Napier said. “So to come back and actually work out for the Celtics is definitely extraordinary.”

Napier visited and worked out Monday with a group that included fellow guards Markel Starks (Georgetown), Keith Appling (Michigan State) and Jermaine Marshall (Arizona State). Also in the workout group were forwards Dave Dudzinski from nearby Holy Cross and Tyler Stone of Southeast Missouri. Napier was — by far — the one with the most appreciation of his surroundings.

“I was watching one of the films in [the locker room] that they put up and one of the guys was like, ‘€˜Why were folks crying when Paul Pierce injured himself in the playoffs and got taken off the court?’€™’€ Napier recalled. “I said, ‘Man, that’s Boston. You won’€™t ever understand it until you either play in Boston or you’ve lived in Boston. That’s just how we are. We love our teams and there’€™s no bandwagon fans in Boston. Whether we have a great year or not, we’€™re going to support like it’€™s the best team we’ve got.”

Napier provided a lesson in Boston sports to the other five in attendance Monday.

“[One of the players] was just like, ‘€˜Man, Boston’€™s crazy,” Napier relayed. “And I said, ‘€˜That’€™s who we are. We’€™re just some crazy fans that want nothing but the best for our teams.

“I wouldn’t be able to say I bleed green if I didn’t say that. In the back of your mind, if the Celtics are in the championship game and I’€™m not playing, of course I’€™m rooting for them. That’€™s just how I am.”

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