After a disappointing 25-win campaign, few Celtics changed uniforms, but the only outgoing veteran to play all of last season in Boston gave coach Brad Stevens high marks, and that should sit well with the organization.
In a conference call introducing the new Wizards forward to the media in Washington, D.C., Kris Humphries lauded the first-year Celtics coach for helping him improve his game 10 years into his NBA career.
“I talked to Brad all the time, and it’s just one of those things where, ‘Man, you got me a lot better,'” Humphries told reporters Wednesday. “Handling the ball, making plays, things like that. Shooting. I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful for the opportunity to keep playing in a lot of situations like the one I was in.”
Arriving early to training camp last summer, Humphries won over skeptics inside the Celtics organization and out by taking younger players under his wing, keeping quiet early in the season despite limited minutes and eventually earning a spot in the starting lineup through continued effort. Ultimately, his numbers per 36 minutes (15.1 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.6 bpg, 55.2 TS%, 18.2 PER) ranked among the best of his career.
His patience during a trying year was commendable, and while another former Celtic will receive much of the applause when the Wizards make their only trip to Boston this season on Dec. 7, a tip of the cap should be reserved for Humphries, too. The 29-year-old publicly remained open to returning to the Celtics this summer, but ultimately chose a chance to contend for an Eastern Conference crown with the Wizards, and who can blame him?
“When you’re on a team like [Washington], which I feel blessed to be in this situation, everything you do is important and you feel important,” Humphries added in the conference call. “Whatever you do on a winning team is magnified. You feel better doing stuff when you’re working towards something. It’s a little tougher when you’re playing the right way, making sacrifices, and your team doesn’t have a chance to make the playoffs.”
His sign-and-trade with the Wizards also gave the Celtics a $4.3 million trade exception, so a Humphries era that began in Boston with one inopportune photo wasn’t so bad after all. As for the Keith Bogans experience …