PHOENIX — Kris Humphries did not leave Minnesota following his freshman year to become a journeyman, a carpetbagger who has to peek at his phone every few hours during NBA trade deadline time.
The Celtics did not acquire Humphries because of his skills. They accepted him from the Nets because he was simply a pawn in the Celtics’ quest to rebuild quickly. General manager Billy King said for Brooklyn to take Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, the contracts of Humphries and Gerald Wallace had to accompany the three first-round picks he would shuttle to Boston.
Since arriving in Boston, Humphries’s behavior has been exemplary. He has dealt with ever-changing roles, played hard in Brad Stevens’s system despite the Celtics being underdogs on most nights, and even expressed a desire to return next season.
He has an expiring $12 million deal that could be moved Thursday if a club feels Humphries can help down the stretch. If not, the Celtics will allow his contract to melt off their books this summer, which would help in their salary cap situation.
Either way, Humphries tries to ignore any trade rumors. He treated Wednesday as if it were another workday despite being unsure of his future. Will a team offer Humphries a multiyear deal this summer? Is he going to have to sign a one-year contract and prove himself after this transition season? Those answers are unknown but Humphries has no real concerns.
“I’m sure when you’re younger it’s a bigger deal,” he said. “I think sometimes too if you’ve never been traded it might be a bigger deal, but I’ve been traded a few times. If it happens, it happens and you have to pick up with another team.”
Humphries and Wallace are grizzled veterans who understand the coldness of the business. Wallace was so damaged by his trade from Brooklyn to Boston that he didn’t speak to Celtics officials for a few weeks following the deal. And moments following Brooklyn’s win in Boston Jan. 26, Wallace approached King and asked why he didn’t even receive a phone call. Wallace found out about the trade watching the NBA draft.
Wallace’s final two years and $20 million will be nearly impossible for the Celtics to move, especially for a player with declining skills. To his credit, Wallace has embraced his leadership role in Boston, often being the voice of reason. Wallace, in his 13th year, wanted to compete for a championship, but he has become resigned to helping the Celtics develop.
“The best thing I was told was to make the best of the situation that you’re in,” Wallace said. “What player wouldn’t want to be on an NBA championship-contending team? But you know, I’m here. It’s a start, once you get into it. I love my teammates. They’re great and it’s given me more of an opportunity to become a veteran, to talk, to kind of help these guys. It makes you feel happy.’’
Wallace said his perceived lack of desire to play in Boston was a misunderstanding.
“It was never about the city,” he said. “I think my whole perspective that people took out of place when I first came was me stating I didn’t want to be part of a rebuilding process this late in my career. It had nothing to do with the players, the organization, the city, the fans. None of that. It was just at my point, being 13, 14 years into the league, it’s not like I’m improving. I’m starting to decline as a player in this league and you want to be on a team that contends. You don’t want to be on a team in a rebuilding process. Everybody hates to lose, but it’s a growing pain that some teams have to go through.”
Wallace and Humphries have grown comfortable with their situations but understand the NBA is a fluid league. The trade deadline offers teams opportunities to improve by sometimes making short-term beneficial deals. Regardless of whether Wallace or Humphries remain in Boston past Thursday, they have remained professionals, which is commendable.
“Obviously, the more you play the more you come to understand how the cap works and people trying to clear space and get under luxury tax and that stuff,” Humphries said. “Your goal is to be as successful as possible for myself and my team . . . So, that’s my focus.”
When asked after 10 years whether he’s ever been content in this league, Humphries said: “I don’t know if I’ve ever found what I’m looking for.”