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A slick coast-to-coast

Gaffney travels unexpected path

By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / June 4, 2010

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LOS ANGELES — Tony Gaffney’s stint in the NBA hasn’t reached the year mark, yet he can tell stories to last a lifetime.

The Celtics rookie forward isn’t among the starters. In fact, he hasn’t played an NBA game. Yet he has pulled the jersey of two of the most respected teams in the NBA over his head.

The day before the Lakers’ 102-89 victory in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Gaffney soaked in the experience.

He sat on the bench and joked about the tips he could give the Celtics after his preseason stint with the Lakers.

His best bit of advice? “Just tell them that Kobe is really, really good,’’ said Gaffney with a laugh.

Gaffney grew up in Berkley and went to Somerset High.

After a year at Northfield Mount Hermon, he played two years at Boston University, two more at the University of Massachusetts, and then was the last player waived by the Lakers.

He played in seven preseason games, averaging 3 points, 1.7 rebounds, and 7.7 minutes.

In April, Gaffney signed with the Celtics and watched his new team climb to the NBA Finals to play against his former team. There hasn’t been much that Gaffney has been able to offer up in film sessions, he said. There are the occasional pointers, but nothing more than the basics.

“It’s tough because when you have such a knowledgeable coaching staff, they’ve been in this game a long time, they know everything there is to know, as does every other coaching staff in this league,’’ said Gaffney. “Any little pointers I can give, or anything like that, I’m more than happy to. I’m just blessed to be in this situation.’’

Gaffney was undrafted last year after ending his senior season as the Atlantic 10 defensive player of the year. He was invited to camp by the Lakers and made enough of an impression to get a preseason shot.

“They treated me very well,’’ Gaffney said. “The veteran group of guys that they have are similar to what we have on the Celtics. It’s an older group that’s been around this league for a long time that had to go through being rookies.

“They were very open to me. They told me how I was going to stay in this league. They showed me the ropes. I’m grateful for that.’’

Gaffney was around the Lakers long enough to get a couple of nicknames from Bryant, like “A-10’’ and “the Rook,’’ but he would soon part ways.

When it came time to move on, Gaffney said he met with Lakers coach Phil Jackson, general manager Mitch Kupchak, and assistant general manager Ronnie Lester.

“We talked for about half an hour and they explained the situation to me and how they wanted to keep me and finances just weren’t in my favor, which was understandable because this is one of the biggest businesses in the world,’’ he said. “As a rookie I got to see that first hand, which is kind of cool.’’

In the days after Gaffney signed with the Celtics, his former Lakers teammates, like forward Luke Walton, sent him messages of congratulations.

Gaffney is looking for a more permanent spot in the NBA, but he is enjoying his experience.

“It was pretty cool, especially being an undrafted rookie and it’s your first year out and having an opportunity to play with some of those guys, and now to be here is kind of a surreal story,’’ Gaffney said.

Monique Walker can be reached at mwalker@globe.com.

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