Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Worth the wait
By Chris Forsberg
BOSTON -- In mid-December, with Rajon Rondo set to be sidelined for two weeks after spraining his ankle in a win over the New York Knicks, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers made a renewed plea for his bench players to fill the void as injuries mounted.
Elsa/Getty ImagesVon Wafer is starting to find his stride coming off the Celtics' bench, as Monday's 10-point, six-rebound effort will attest.
The next night against the Atlanta Hawks, reserve guard Von Wafer logged two rather forgettable second-quarter minutes, finishing minus-5 in plus/minus while doing little more than committing a shooting foul. He didn't get back on the court that evening.
Three nights later in Indiana wasn't much better. In 93 seconds of court time, Wafer finished minus-6, watching Mike Dunleavy splash a pair of 3-pointers to start the second quarter before getting another quick hook.
On Christmas Day in Orlando, Wafer drew a DNP-CD.
Many players would have lost their confidence. Wafer, who had kicked, clawed and scratched just to secure the 15th spot on Boston's roster out of training camp, never did.
"The day I lose my confidence in myself is the day I'll stop playing," Wafer said.
His tenacity has paid off. After aiding Boston's bench in providing a spark during a post-Christmas win in Indiana, Wafer's playing time has increased. The 51 minutes he's logged over the past four games accounts for more than 30 percent of his total playing time this season.
On Monday, he put together his finest effort in a Celtics uniform, connecting on 4-of-8 shots for 10 points -- his first double-digit output since April 13, 2009 with the Houston Rockets -- and added a team-high six rebounds over 15 minutes, 37 seconds of inspired play in Boston's 96-93 triumph over the Minnesota Timberwolves at TD Garden.
Wafer finished a team-best plus-15 (on a night Ray Allen was minus-15) and earned lofty praise from Rivers.
"Well, we give him a lot of [grief] about it because -- and we still give him [grief] -- I think on media day he said, 'You know, I'm an offensive player,'" Rivers said with a smile, knowing full well that being an offensive player doesn't mean a thing on his squads.
"That was his quote. But he's proven to us that he's more than that. I think a lot of players have that in them, they just don't know it sometimes. We're getting it out of him, and he's actually enjoying it. It's funny to watch him -- he gets excited about defensive stops now. And that's great, because I get excited about that as well."
Wafer appears to be carving out a role in that defense-first mentality, aided by an almost frenzied approach to defense as he often hounds the opposing ball-handler. At one point Monday, Wafer's inspired defense on an in-bound play led to a five-second violation early in the fourth quarter.
The 10 points he contributed Monday were nice, but forcing that type of turnover is what will keep him on the floor.