After a quiet start to his rookie year last season Aaron Nesmith found a rhythm after the All-Star break, when he connected on 46.1 percent of his shots and 38.3 percent of his 3-pointers and made a significant impact with his hustle and defense.
He carried the momentum from his solid finish into the Las Vegas summer league last August and was brimming with confidence as he entered his second NBA season last fall. But opportunities have been fleeting, and when Nesmith has received chances, he has rarely taken advantage.
He entered Monday’s game against the Pacers shooting 34.4 percent from the field and 24.4 percent from the 3-point line while averaging 3.1 points and 1.7 rebounds over 28 games.
“Yeah, it’s frustrating,” Nesmith said. “My shot is not where it’s supposed to be or where I want it to be. And I need to find my consistency with that and I need to get back to doing what I’ve been doing regarding that. But besides that, just continuing to make the most of opportunities on the defensive side of the floor, even if my shot’s not falling, make sure I can still make an impact without making jumpers.”
The Celtics know it is difficult for a player to improve while just watching, so on Sunday they sent Nesmith to their G League affiliate, the Maine Celtics, for an extended run. Nesmith registered 21 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists in Maine’s 117-89 win over the Wisconsin Herd before being recalled on Monday.
“Just being able to go out there and play freely and just kind of get back into a rhythm a little bit, it’s always fun and always a good experience,” said Nesmith, who recently returned from a bout with COVID-19.
Celtics coach Ime Udoka said he had hoped to utilize the Maine Celtics more often this season, particularly to give younger players a chance at extended playing time. But Boston’s roster has been ravaged by injuries and COVID-19-related absences, so the team has most often needed all available hands on deck. Even two-way contract players Sam Hauser and Brodric Thomas have mostly remained with the Celtics.
Udoka said he is hopeful that the team will be healthier over the second half of this season so end-of-bench players can take advantage of longer looks in Maine.
“I think any opportunity we can get for guys to go down there, whether it’s practices or a block of games, is needed,” Udoka said. “Obviously with the situation with us this year, guys in and out, we haven’t been able to map out that time. But looked at it as a good opportunity with [Nesmith] coming back to get some minutes there and get some live action, nothing like he can do at practice three-on-three to emulate that. So it was good to see him get down there, play a good amount of minutes and play well.”
A Garden party
The Celtics will play a rare 8:30 p.m. home game against the Bulls on Saturday night, and the timing is certainly not ideal for Boston sports fans.
The tipoff was moved back because the Bruins face the Predators at 1 p.m. at TD Garden, and extra time is needed to switch the rink to a court.
But now the Patriots will face the Bills in a Wild Card playoff game on Saturday at 8:15 p.m., giving Boston fans some difficult choices, or at least placing added importance on remote control navigation.
Pritchard out again
Celtics guard Payton Pritchard on Monday missed his fourth consecutive game because of COVID-19 health and safety protocols . . . The Cavaliers on Sunday waived 7-foot-5 center Tacko Fall, who spent the previous two seasons on a two-way contract with the Celtics.