DENVER — Jerryd Bayless’s agent delivered the news Sunday that a deal to the Celtics would happen, so Bayless slid on his headphones, leaned back, closed his eyes, and tried to get some sleep.
When the Memphis Grizzlies’ charter flight returned home from a game against Detroit, the guard exited the plane and it wasn’t long before he hopped on another, this one bound for Denver, where he arrived at 9 a.m. Monday to join his new team — and his fifth in six seasons.
“The turnaround was so quick,” Bayless said before shootaround Tuesday morning, hours before he played his first game with the Celtics, a 129-98 loss to the Nuggets, after the deal became official. “That’s the tough part about it. It’s something that we all signed up for. I’ve been through this before. I think I’ll be OK.”
Bayless scored 6 points on 3-for-11 shooting in his initial game with the Celtics.
The 25-year-old former lottery pick has indeed been through this before. The three-team deal that sent the guard to Boston marked the fourth trade in his young career. In return, the Grizzlies received Celtics guard Courtney Lee.
Oklahoma City became involved in the deal to help balance out the finances. It sent Ryan Gomes to the Celtics, who then immediately waived the former Celtic. The Thunder received a 2016 second-round pick from Boston.
In essence, the Celtics acquired a player they coveted in Bayless, who’s averaging 8.1 points per game, while also clearing some cap room by taking on his expiring $3.1 million contract and shipping out Lee, which has two years and about $11 million left on his deal.
But the Celtics also gained a player who had scored in torrents against them, including averaging 18.5 points in two meetings this season.
“We’ve always liked Jerryd,” said president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, who has watched Bayless play since he was in high school in Arizona. “We’re excited about him.”
Bayless laughed when asked if he remembers his big games against the team he now plays for.
“Yeah, I remember them,” he said. “It went well. Hopefully that can kind of correlate and translate to me being in Boston now. I’m excited. I can’t say that enough. I’m excited about this opportunity. I’m excited about moving to Boston and just being a part of the community and the organization.”
Coach Brad Stevens seemed relieved to have Bayless on his side. “My impressions of his game are that he’s a guy that can go on some scoring streaks,” said Stevens. “Obviously he did that against us.
“He does give us more flexibility in ballhandling, with regard to playing some [point guard], which is good. And he’s been around, obviously, an organization that’s had some pretty good success getting to the Western Conference finals last year, and he played a big role in that.”
Bayless, who also has played for Toronto, New Orleans, and Portland, likely will play shooting guard for Boston, though he has also played point guard.
“Whatever I can help this team with is what I’m going to try to do,” said Bayless, “and obviously when [Rajon] Rondo gets back, it’s going to be more [shooting guard]. He’s the best point guard in the league.”
When asked how the lineups would change when Rondo does return from knee surgery, Stevens said, “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”
Bayless has to adjust to new teammates, new coaches, and a new system, but he has done that before. He said he wasn’t surprised when the deal happened, because he is in a contract year, and the NBA is a business, after all.
Still, it meant that he had to move on, again.
“I have bounced a lot,” he said. “I really am looking for a home where I can settle in.
“I don’t think it’s a negative thing, because at the end of the day, every time you bounce around, somebody else wants you. That’s the way I try to look at it. Here, hopefully this can be one of my last stops.”
Best wishesLee wasn’t happy with his role with the Celtics, where he averaged 16.8 minutes in 30 games.
“Everybody wants to start, everybody wants to play more,” Stevens said. “That’s just part of it. If he was unhappy, for the most part he did a pretty good job of not showing that and handling that and being an efficient player when he came in.”
“I thought that he added value to our team,” Stevens said. “I wish him nothing but the best, and as I told him the other day, I’ll always talk about him well when asked about him.”
In his first three games with the Maine Red Claws, MarShon Brooks is averaging 29.0 points over 38 minutes per game. But Brooks may not be with the Celtics’ NBA D-League affiliate much longer.
Stevens said they’d like to have Brooks play in two more games with the Red Claws and then Brooks could rejoin the Celtics this weekend.
Brooks scored 27 points in his first game, 24 in the next and then 36 Sunday against Tulsa.