Friends and (roster) foes
September, 14, 2012
By Greg Payne | ESPNBoston.com
DORCHESTER -- Various members of the Celtics, including Jason Terry, Jeff Green, Dionte Christmas, Jamar Smith, and Kris Joseph, have been engaging in informal offseason workouts for the past several weeks at the team's practice facility in Waltham.
And while the likes of Terry and Green have their spots on this coming season's roster solidified, the futures of Christmas, Smith, and Joseph aren't necessarily so secure. All three of the young guards, with either non-guaranteed or partially guaranteed contracts, can easily be classified as being "on the bubble" in terms of making the final roster.
As players, such a scenario makes each one the others' biggest competition. But as people, that competition has been replaced by sincere friendships. It's a balancing act that will only grow more intense with training camp just about two weeks away.
"We're definitely friends off the court," Christmas said at a community event at the Holland School on Friday, put together by the Celtics, the Harvard Pilgrim HealthCare Foundation, and City Year volunteers. "We have a great friendship, we go out, we hang out when we're in the hotel together, just chilling. But when we're on the court, we're competing. Me and Jamar might not say two words to each other, or Kris, on the court. We're going at each other's necks. I mean, I'm wishing those guys the best, they're wishing me the best, but on the court, it's a battle."
It doesn't have to be strictly animosity between them, though. All three went through something similar this past summer, as they fought throughout summer league in Orlando and Las Vegas to earn camp invites. And while a game of 1-on-1 might breed a more ruthless battle, these three can actually bring out the best in one another when they're all on the same squad.
Joseph alluded to their personal bonds transferring over to the floor when they've stood on the same side of the ball -- something that, according to Christmas, helped the rookies get a jump on the older veterans when they first showed up in Waltham.
"We've been competing for our whole lives, whether it's been high school, whether it's been college, competing for spots, so we know the nature for that. At the end of the day, we're here together for now and we have to bond," Joseph said. "We have to build a brotherhood, we have to build a friendship, because we're on the court at the same time. We're trying to win games, even if it's a pickup game. We understand what's at stake, we understand what's going on, but at the same time, we're here and we're just enjoying ourselves."