Boston Celtics: Mario West
October, 21, 2010
The Celtics officially announced the release of Stephane Lasme, Mario West, and Tiny Gallon Thursday afternoon.
The moves trims Boston's roster to the 15-player maximum well in advance of Tuesday's season-opener against the Miami Heat.
Read on for the team's full press release, or hop HERE to read more on Lasme's expected signing with the Maine Red Claws (where Gallon could land as well).
October, 20, 2010
BOSTON -- Celtics guard Von Wafer remained uncertain about his future after Boston's 107-92 triumph over the New Jersey Nets in Wednesday's preseason finale, but the fact that two others in the room had been apprised of theirs meant the fifth-year guard appeared to have won the competition for a final roster spot.
Camp invitees Stephane Lasme and Mario West were informed that they had been waived following Wednesday's game, unofficially trimming Boston's roster to the 15-man maximum. Rookie Tiny Gallon, who joined the team earlier this week, had not been informed of his official release and is likely to stick around a couple of more days before he will be waived with potential to be allocated to the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Development League.
Wafer played the entire fourth quarter Wednesday, connecting on 3 of 6 shots, including a pair of 3-pointers, for eight points. Lasme and West played only the final three minutes.
While Wafer repeatedly stressed that he wanted not only to make the team but also be a contributor, his competitors for the final spot are facing far more uncertain futures.
"I'm going to go home and relax," said Lasme, the University of Massachusetts product who proved to be Wafer's stiffest competition, making a strong case to occupy Boston's final roster spot with inspired defensive play throughout the preseason.
"I'm sure somebody is going to call. I'll wait for the phone call and make my decision from there."
Lasme knows the Celtics have a strong interest in shuffling him to the D-League, something he discussed with the team at the onset of camp. That would keep him in the system should the team decide later (say, after Delonte West returns from a 10-game suspension to start the regular season) that they could use his type of player over an offense-first guard like Wafer.
But Lasme sounded optimistic that another NBA team might come calling based on the impression he made in Boston.
"Doc said he liked me a lot, it came down to the end," said Lasme. "He said I'm an NBA player, that I should be in the league, and not to worry about anything."
Click HERE to read the full story.
October, 11, 2010
BOSTON -- Stephane Lasme thought he had to sacrifice his NBA dream when he was informed he had to cut ties with Russian club Spartak Saint Petersburg and return to the United States to complete residency requirements.
But as it turned out, he might have unknowingly stumbled upon his best opportunity at a second chance in the league.
Lasme’s incredible basketball odyssey has taken him from his native Gabon in west Africa, to Amherst in Western Massachusetts, to Oakland and the West Coast for his first taste of professional hoops. That journey resumed in Miami before he went international with stops in Serbia, Tel-Aviv and Russia over the past three years.
It was in Italy this summer where Lasme received word that, if he didn’t return stateside and spend a year working in America, he might lose his residency here, preventing him from being with his wife and daughter, who live in Marlborough, Mass.
"Basically, I knew I had to make a choice between not seeing my family and taking [more] money [to play basketball overseas] or seeing my family and not taking that much [money],” said the 6-foot-8 power forward. “For me, the choice was obvious.”
Steve Babineau/NBAE/GettyStephane Lasme goes up for a big dunk in Boston's win over Toronto Sunday.
So, in September, Lasme informed Spartak Saint Petersburg that he could not honor the two-year contract he had signed in July and, after five days of training camp with the team, returned to the States to be with his wife (and college sweatheart), Anastasia, and 17-month-old daughter, Lily.
Lasme’s agent put in a call to the Celtics to inquire about a potential workout and, two weeks before Boston’s training camp opened, he was invited for a pickup game with other roster hopefuls, where he impressed Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge enough to earn one of four camp invites the team extended this season.
Two weeks into Boston's preseason, Lasme finds himself on the cusp of an NBA job, with Celtics coach Doc Rivers indicating after Sunday’s 91-87 triumph over the Toronto Raptors that Lasme has “a great shot of making our team.”
It’s the type of script Hollywood laughs at. Lasme essentially abandoned his dream and found an even better situation back in America. Now he's fighting to ensure this dream isn't dashed.
“I’m just going to go hard,” Lasme said of the competition for Boston's final roster spot. “That’s the only thing I know how to do.”
Lasme’s story was already wild enough before this latest chapter. He grew up playing soccer, his country's more familiar pastime. But after sprouting to his current 6 feet, 8 inches in high school, he soon gravitated to basketball, a sport he played for the first time at age 15.
Five years later, he landed in Boston with the goal of learning the English language and playing college hoops. In fact, the unassuming Lasme walked onto the campus of Boston University one day and told then-coach Dennis Wolff that he wanted to play for him.
“[Wolff] said, ‘It doesn’t work like that,’ and explained to me that... I had to actually take the SAT test, the English test, and go to basketball camps,” recalled Lasme. “Between February [of 2003] and the following school year, I had to take all the tests. So I studied English for six months, took the SAT, the English course, and went to a [basketball] camp in New Jersey. The UMass coach [Steve Lappas] was there, saw me play, and offered me a scholarship.”
At UMass, Lasme starred for four seasons, earning Atlantic 10 Player of the Year honors for the 2006-07 campaign, a season in which he registered four triple-doubles, reaching double-digits in blocks in each of those games (he ultimately passed Marcus Camby as the school’s all-time and single-season leader in rejections).
The Golden State Warriors drafted Lasme in the second round (46th overall) of the 2007 draft, but he appeared in only one game, playing a mere four seconds, before being waived on Nov. 17. The Miami Heat signed him to a pair of 10-day contracts before employing him for the rest of that 2007-08 season. He appeared in 15 contests, averaging 5.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game.
Lasme was waived by Miami that offseason and signed with Euroleague squad Partizan Belgrade in Serbia before moving on to Maccabi Tel Aviv of the Israeli League the following year. Russia was next, but fate intervened.
“Since I left college, I’ve spent more time out of the country [than in it],” explained Lasme, who will turn 28 in December. “My wife and baby are Americans, so in order to have the chance to see them, I had to get a job here.”
Little did he know he’d get a chance at the NBA job he’d quietly been dreaming about since his first go-around in the league fizzled.
Last Wednesday night in Manchester, N.H., Lasme forced the Celtics to take a deep look at him. He popped off the bench and scored 12 points over seven dizzying minutes to end the game, bringing Kevin Garnett to his feet more than once with a pair of big dunks in a lopsided triumph over the Philadelphia 76ers.
On Sunday, Lasme threw down an emphatic one-handed jam, racing past Toronto’s Andreas Bargnani, while producing the key play in Boston’s 91-87 triumph over the Raptors. As Boston weighs the possibility of keeping someone like Lasme for the 15th and final roster spot, he’s making quite an impression on those in charge.
“I like him a lot,” said Rivers. “He just does everything -- he has energy, he has a high basketball IQ, he’s athletic. He’s probably our most athletic player, him and [point guard Rajon] Rondo... He has a great shot of making our team. I think he’s terrific.”
Rivers had said earlier in camp that the Celtics desired a wing player who could shoot the ball for that final roster spot. Von Wafer, whose contract is not fully guaranteed, remains the guy to beat, especially with guard Delonte West scheduled to miss the first 10 games of the season due to a suspension.
But if Lasme continues to play like he has, it will be tough to keep him off the final roster. He’s using his athleticism to get to the rim, negating the need for a shooter by generating high-percentage scoring opportunities around the basket.
The trouble with Lasme’s situation is that the team knows he’s bound to the region due to the immigration issues. He admitted Sunday that he’d be open-minded to potentially latching on with the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Development League, especially given recent changes to allocation rules that could allow Boston to sneak him to its minor league affiliate as a final camp cut.
“It’s an option that I’ve thought about with the new rule [about allocation],” admitted Lasme. “Maine is not that far away from home. I’d rather be closer to my family than being away.”
Lasme knows that signing with Maine would also get his foot in the door of the Celtics organization, but he’d prefer to simply kick in that door at this point, especially as Wafer and Mario West do little to distinguish themselves in the battle for the final spot. The Celtics have also pledged to keep the best 15 players coming out of camp, and, right now, Lasme is one of the 15 best.
Landing an NBA job while getting to see his family would be serendipity for Lasme.
“I’ve always thought it was a dream of mine to play [professional basketball],” he said. “Even if I kept that secret for myself, I didn’t talk about it too much, it’s always been a dream of mine. After what I did overseas, I thought I set myself up pretty good for another shot.”
And that dream opportunity might have never come had he not chose family over his dreams.
October, 3, 2010
NEWPORT, R.I. -- The obvious question after the Celtics released rookie forward Tony Gaffney Saturday is whether the camp competition for the 15th roster spot is over. After all, it seemed like a two-horse race between Von Wafer and Gaffney at the start of the preseason, so that leaves only one man standing.
But the Celtics did carry an intriguing pair of young players out of camp in Mario West and Stephane Lasme. Both have reputations as being more defensive minded, and West in particular seems to be making a push to stick around thanks a scrappy work ethic that compensates for his lack of offensive skills.
Could either player truly push Wafer, whose contract is not fully guaranteed, for the final spot on the Boston roster?
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty ImagesVon Wafer poses on media day.
Lasme has an uphill battle. Celtics coach Doc Rivers admitted Saturday his skill set is almost identical to Gaffney's, his UMass brethren. But the Celtics like his ability to play both the 3 and the 4, so he's making the voyage back from Newport.
The trouble for West is going to be his lack of scoring punch. In assessing why it didn't work out for Gaffney in Boston, Rivers first pointed to numbers, but also admitted Gaffney's shooting simply wasn't strong enough and the team is looking for more shooting at the wing position.
Yet everyone on the team seems to love West. He's a hard worker with a reputation for kicking in doors after walking on at Georgia Tech. Undrafted, he played his way into a job in Atlanta, where he appeared in 156 games for the Hawks over the past three seasons.
But if shooting is what the Celtics covet at that spot, he's going to have to show great advances.
In his three seasons with Atlanta, West put up 104 shots. According to his shot chart at HoopData.com, only 20 of those shots came from beyond 10 feet. What's more, West only made two of those shots (10 percent). Both West and Wafer can attack the basket, but Wafer has the outside game to complement that skill.
"[West] just plays hard, he's a great energy guy, and he could be a defensive stopper," said Rivers. "He needs to improve his offense, but the guys love him because of the way he plays. He plays the right way every single time and he plays for his teammates. He's a great example of a guy that didn't have great offensive skills, but is still in the league because he does everything else right. And he's a low-maintenance guy.
"It's hard to cut guys like that. We lost a guy like that in [Brian Scalabrine]. Those guys make a difference on your team.
"You want a guy who can come in and play hard each day, compete in practice, make your starters better. That's part of the role. A guy who never complains and, if called upon, can come in and help you."
So essentially Boston's decision may come down to whether it's better to take a skilled offensive player, or a guy who might be a little more willing to put in the work but lacks the ability to offer much more than scrappy play off the bench. Then again, an end-of-the-bench player doesn't see much game action anyway, so it might be more beneficial to carry a guy who can push players in practice.
By carrying West out of camp, the Celtics clearly want to get more of a look at him, particularly in game situations. After being let go by the Hawks, he played 11 games for Boston's D-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws, last season, averaging 13.7 points, 4.1 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.
The team's choice also could be influenced the circumstances it faces at the start of the season. Delonte West is suspended the first 10 games, while Avery Bradley still hasn't been able to get on the floor after summer ankle surgery and likely will still be working his way back as the year opens.
That leaves a void at the guard spot and the Celtics are going to need someone who can hold the fort until West returns. Wafer seems the preferable choice based on past success in Houston, but he's going to have to prove he deserves that spot in the preseason.
After all, Rivers said he hasn't made his shots in scrimmages quite yet.
"All the new guys, the more they can play with the starters, the more beneficial it is for them," said Rivers. "They’re the guy not guarded, so they'll shoot wide-open shots. That’s what Von does. He hasn’t made a shot in camp yet, but he’s a great shooter, he is. I think he’s learning from us. Every time he misses, he looks over. I tell him, 'I don’t care, it was a good shot.' I want him to keep shooting."
Wafer will need to keep shooting, or West might kick down another door.