Thursday, June 3, 2010
Gaffney on Celtics-Lakers
By Chris Forsberg
LOS ANGELES -- Tony Gaffney lounged in a chair on the sideline at the Staples Center Wednesday like he had done many times before, which made the scene all the more surreal to him.
Gaffney's brief, yet whirlwind pro career has taken him from Amherst to Las Vegas to Los Angeles to Israel to Boston, and now he's back in the City of Angels watching the hometown team he grew up rooting -- and the team he plays for now -- square off against the team that gave him his first NBA opportunity.
"Just playing [for the Lakers in training camp], taking passes for layups or dunks from Kobe [Bryant], that's pretty cool, especially for an undrafted rookie," said Gaffney, the University of Massachusetts product who latched on with the Lakers' summer league team in Las Vegas and earned an invite to the team's training camp before being among the final cuts.
"My first year out, having the opportunity to play with some of those guys and now to be here, it's kind of a surreal story."
It's easy to see why Gaffney never stops smiling. But not even in the most optimistic of scenarios could he have envisioned this scene after being waived by the Lakers. Gaffney latched on with Altshuler Saham Galil Galboa in Israel, but broke his left foot in his first game there six months ago, and immediately returned home to rehab.
On the final day of the 2009-10 NBA regular season, the Celtics utilized two open roster spots to sign both Gaffney and NBA Development League standout Oliver Lafayette to contracts with eyes toward competing for a roster spot next year by participating in Boston's summer league activities.
One of the perks: Enjoying a magical postseason ride to the NBA Finals and etching their name among the Celtics-Lakers rivalry.
Gaffney, who resumed working out two months ago when he arrived in Boston and says he's nearing full health with his injured foot, clearly wants the Celtics to win this series, but he harbors nothing but great appreciation for the Lakers for giving him his first NBA opportunity.
In fact, he's still got some Lakers gear in his closet back home in Berkley, Mass.
"I didn't throw it all away," said Gaffney. "Anyone who believes in you, you're going to be a fan of. I appreciate [the Lakers], this was the first organization to believe in me. Who knows where I would be if not for them."
So given his experience in Los Angeles, no matter how limited, it's only reasonable to expect the Boston coaching staff picked his brain about the Lakers, right?
"No, not really," said Gaffney. "We have such a knowledgeable coaching staff, they know more than I'll ever know about this team. And that's a credit to the coaching staff and the job they've done throughout the entire playoffs. They don't need input from a rookie."
And all that Lakers gear in his closet, Gaffney says don't fret: "It's way behind all the Celtics gear."
(Bonus coverage: Gaffney appeared earlier this week on ESPN's First Take, check out that video HERE... The Worcester Telegram & Gazette's Bill Doyle has a great read on Gaffney surprising his cousins with an appearance at their graduation party last week on a Celtics' offday.)