LAS VEGAS — The Celtics waived guard Phil Pressey Wednesday, one day before his contract for next season would have become guaranteed. President of basketball operations Danny Ainge spoke glowingly of Pressey and said the decision was not easy.
“Phil may be my favorite player I’ve ever been around in the NBA, as a player, a coach, or as an executive,” Ainge said by telephone. “It was a very difficult morning for me today. He’s a player I’d want on my team all the time. Unfortunately, we just have an abundance of small guards already. It’s unfortunate. He’s helped us a lot in the last two years, and he’s a classy and hardworking player.”
According to Pressey’s agent, Aaron Mintz, numerous teams already have expressed interest in signing the 5-foot-11-inch guard.
Pressey, who averaged 3.5 points and 2.3 assists per game last season, would have earned $947,246 next year. Instead, a little more clarity was provided for an already crowded roster.
When the re-signing of Jae Crowder and the trade for David Lee become official, the Celtics will have 15 players with guaranteed contracts for next season, including forward Perry Jones III, who was acquired from the Thunder Tuesday.
That number does not include second-round draft pick Jordan Mickey, who has thrived during summer league play. Mickey’s representatives have been negotiating the 6-8 forward’s deal with the Celtics for the past two days. But since the Celtics have salary cap space, there is little urgency to use some of that space to finalize the contract now. If the Celtics go over the cap they could simply use an exception to sign Mickey.
For Pressey, who joined the Celtics in 2013 as an undrafted free agent, it became clear that his future in Boston was in doubt after the team selected three guards in last month’s NBA Draft.
“Competition is every year, so it’s nothing new to me,” Pressey said July 3. “I really don’t see it as they’re bringing guys in to take your position. I just feel like you’ve got to prove yourself every year. You’ve got to get better every year, so in my mind, that’s what I’m doing.”
Pressey was a late addition to the Celtics’ summer league roster earlier this month, ostensibly to give him a chance to audition for the Celtics as well as other teams. Coach Brad Stevens said Pressey would play extensively in some games while sitting out others.
Although Pressey joined the team in Salt Lake City for the Utah Jazz summer league, he did not play or even suit up for any of the three games. He returned home when the Celtics continued on to the Las Vegas summer league.
“I was working with Phil and his agent on that whole process,” Ainge said Wednesday. “We certainly didn’t want to jeopardize Phil’s future. I didn’t want him getting hurt when he’s possibly going to be a free agent. We weren’t sure the best thing to do, so we were just trying to figure out a way to help him get the best opportunity in the free agent market.”
Ainge, who has known Pressey since his father, Paul, was an assistant coach for the Celtics from 2004-06, said he would be surprised if Pressey doesn’t land on another NBA team. He said he hopes Pressey can find a role as a backup point guard.
“He just goes about his job the right way,” Ainge said. “It’s not about him; it’s about the team. If he plays 25 minutes, he’s giving you the hardest 25 minutes. And if he plays five minutes, it’s the hardest five minutes. Guys like that are just hard to find.”