Phil Pressey couldn’t have landed on a better team than the Celtics.
Yes, the rookie point guard and former Missouri standout would have preferred to be drafted by an NBA team last summer, but that didn’t happen.
However, he quickly was picked up by the Celtics, a team he grew up around as his father, Paul, was a former Celtics assistant coach.
Pressey also practiced at the Celtics’ practice facility in Waltham and played basketball at Waltham High School.
So Pressey was at least familiar with the team that asked him to join its summer league team and then, after he played well there, signed him to a three-year deal.
Yet this season, Pressey has been fortunate enough to not only play for a team he knows (and that knows him), but to be in a situation in which the starting point guard has been absent for much of the time, allowing Pressey a chance to play.
That was the case again Wednesday night against the New York Knicks, as Pressey made his seventh start in place of Rajon Rondo, who sat out on the second night of a back-to-back set, as Rondo has done since returning to action in January.
Pressey had 9 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists in 35 minutes in Boston’s 116-92 loss.
“That’s a big critical part, especially for guys that are undrafted, guys that are not guaranteed with that first-round pick status — it’s really important to land in the right spot and he did,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said of Pressey.
“To get great opportunities . . . I think he’s really played well in these moments when he’s started for us, for the most part, the whole time.”
Pressey is averaging 2.4 points and 2.6 assists, numbers that won’t draw headlines. But he has thrown passes that have been compared with Rondo’s, and he’s also often sparked the team’s transition play.
If anything, Pressey has been a more-than-suitable fill-in.
“I’m good for this type of team,” he said. “My rookie year, it’s going well so far. I wish we won a lot more, but I feel like, for me personally, it’s gone up and down, but overall it’s going pretty good.”
And if there were any doubts that the 5-foot-11-inch Pressey could play in the NBA, they have by now faded. But before the draft, he said he spoke to his father about playing at this level.
“My dad had the utmost confidence in me since Day 1,” Pressey said. “When I said I was leaving school early, he knew I could play at this level, there were no questions asked.
“Me having him, knowing that he played and coached at this level, and him knowing that I could play here, that gave me all the confidence I needed. Anything anybody else said didn’t matter. My dad, just being there, that helped me out.”
After the Celtics grabbed an impressive 20 offensive rebounds against the much taller Indiana Pacers Tuesday night, Stevens proudly said that his team is one of the better teams in the league in that area — 13th best statistically, he noted.
A day later, he expounded on his philosophy on crashing the offensive glass.
“My biggest thing personally is, you’ve got to balance that well with transition defense,” Stevens said. “Transition defense, you can’t give up on that. That’s got to be a huge part of what you do. Right now, our transition defense has gotten significantly better in the last two months, and overall has been pretty good really since Rondo’s been back.
“And offensively, there’s going to be games where you’re not making shots and if you can get a putback or two to stem the tide, it’s important. We do have guys in [Kris] Humphries and [Jared] Sullinger that are really good offensive rebounders; you certainly don’t want to take that away from those guys. Anything we can do to get a basket, I think we need to try to do it.”
Bradley eyes return
Guard Avery Bradley, who has missed 18 of the last 21 games with a right ankle injury, is still eyeing a potential return Friday against the Phoenix Suns, but Stevens said the trainers have yet to give their final input . . . In its latest issue, Sports Illustrated features Creighton star Doug McDermott in a remake of a famous 1977 cover of then-Indiana State star Larry Bird. That ’77 cover featured Bird, the future Celtics legend, with the headline “College Basketball’s Secret Weapon,” which is the same headline it used with McDermott. Both covers also featured a red background and a pair of cheerleaders in front of the player . . . The Celtics will debut their St. Patrick’s Day sleeved jerseys against the Suns.