When asked Tuesday how he and fellow rookie Payton Pritchard could potentially contribute on the wing with Gordon Hayward gone, Aaron Nesmith had a concise and reasonable response.
“We don’t really know,” Nesmith said. “We’ve never played in the NBA before.”
Typically, rookies get acclimated with summer league training camp, summer league, and training for two months with a coach. In this most unusual year, Celtics newcomers Nesmith (the 14th pick, from Vanderbilt) and Pritchard (the 26th pick, from Oregon) will have less than a week to adjust to a new lifestyle and figure out their roles.
Training camp is set to open next week, and the NBA regular season is slated to begin Dec. 22. Nesmith and Pritchard have a daunting challenge ahead, but it’s one they’re clearly excited to meet. The Celtics officially signed both players to contracts Tuesday, and they noted in their introductory press conference how being a sponge and trusting what’s gotten them here will go a long way.
“It’s like great expectations,” Nesmith said. “It’s nothing different that Payton or I have gone through. It’s just continuing to come in and work as hard as we can.”
Time to Work🍀 https://t.co/HJ2RA77cmr
— aaron nesmith (@aaronnesmith24) November 24, 2020
Nesmith, a 6-foot-6 small forward who led the NCAA in 3-point shooting at 52 percent last season, said it’s been fun so far to “learn from the greats” and people who have been in the league for a long time. He said his foot is currently 100 percent after having surgery during his sophomore season, adding that he “won’t miss a beat” for training camp.
He also discussed the importance of playing for NBA veteran Jerry Stackhouse at Vanderbilt, calling it “monumental” to his development.
“He’s done everything at this level that a lot of young guys coming into the league want to achieve,” Nesmith said. “Being able to have that blueprint, and being able to learn from a guy like that for a year, and learn his tendencies and how he approached the game, was definitely big time.”
As for the transition, Nesmith – who will wear No. 26 – said the goal now is to “get ahead of the curve” and maximize the opportunity in front of them as much as possible so they can get on the court and contribute. His brother, Eddie, has been at Harvard for the last four years, so Nesmith was quick to ask him for restaurant recommendations to help facilitate a smooth transition.
His main focus is on basketball, though, and he’s confident his habits will translate to the next level.
Pritchard – who will wear No. 11 – acknowledged it’s a quick turnaround, but he said the relationships he already has, and is currently building, with his teammates will go a long way.
— Taylor Snow (@taylorcsnow) November 24, 2020
He was on a U-19 team with Romeo Langford and Carsen Edwards, played with Jayson Tatum at the 2016 Nike Hoop Summit, and faced Jaylen Brown in high school and AAU games.
Pritchard said he’s spent the past few days playing board games with Edwards and Grant Williams, and he made it clear how those battles have gone.
“(Williams) acts like he’s been winning,” Pritchard said. “He has not. For the media aspect of all that, he has not won much.”
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