DENVER — Jerryd Bayless knew Sunday would probably be his last day to wear a Memphis uniform. He knew that before he put it on for the last time, before the Grizzlies played Detroit on the road, because by then he had heard he was likely being traded to Boston.
Bayless then went out and scored 10 points in 26 minutes off the bench against the Pistons. He also had 5 assists. The Grizzlies won by an impressive 28 points.
When he got on the team’s charter plane to head back to Memphis that night, he checked in with his agent, who told him the deal was going to happen, meaning the 25-year-old former lottery pick (2008) would soon be playing for his fifth team in six seasons.
And, with that news, the 6-foot-3-inch, 200-pound Bayless, who is averaging 8.1 points this season, slipped on his headphones, closed his eyes, leaned back in the seat, and tried to get some sleep. He knew he had a busy schedule ahead. And when the plane landed back in Memphis, he asked how quickly he had to join the Celtics, who are on a road trip out West.
Bayless then flew from Memphis to Denver, arriving here Monday morning, and he is expected to make his debut with the team Tuesday, when the Celtics face the Nuggets.
“The turnaround was so quick,” Bayless said before shootaround Tuesday morning. “That’s the tough part about it. It’s something that we all signed up for. I’ve been through this before. I think I’ll be OK.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Bayless, who was acquired in a three-team deal that involved the Celtics, Grizzlies, and Oklahoma City Thunder, will come off the bench. He’ll also wear No. 11, the same number of the player he’s replacing, reserve guard Courtney Lee, who was traded to Memphis.
To help balance the financial aspects of the swap, the Celtics also agreed to take forward Ryan Gomes from the Thunder in exchange for a 2016 second-round pick. The Celtics then waived Gomes Tuesday as soon as the deal became official.
In essence, the Celtics acquired a player they coveted in Bayless while also clearing some cap room by taking on his expiring $3.1 million contract and shipping out Lee’s deal, which has two years and about $11 million left on it.
But the Celtics also gained a player who had scored in torrents against them, including averaging 18.5 points in two meetings this season.
“We’ve always liked Jerryd,” said Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, who has watched Bayless play since he was in high school in Arizona.
Bayless laughed when asked if he remembers his big games against the team he now plays for.
“Yeah, I remember them,” he said. “It went well. Hopefully that can kind of correlate and translate to me being in Boston now. I’m excited. I can’t say that enough. I’m excited about this opportunity. I’m excited about moving to Boston and just being a part of the community and the organization.”
Stevens seemed relieved to have Bayless on his side.
“My impressions of his game are that he’s a guy that can go on some scoring streaks,” said Stevens. “Obviously he did that against us.
“He does give us more flexibility in ball-handling, with regard to playing some ‘1,’ which is good. And he’s been around, obviously, an organization that’s had some pretty good success getting to the Western Conference finals last year, and he played a big role in that.”
Bayless, who has also played for Toronto, New Orleans, and Portland, will likely play shooting guard for Boston, though he has also played point guard.
“Whatever I can help this team with is what I’m going to try to do,” said Bayless, “and obviously when [Rajon] Rondo gets back, it’s going to be more [shooting guard]. He’s the best point guard in the league.”
When asked how the lineups would change when Rondo does return from knee surgery, Stevens said, “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”
Bayless has to adjust to new teammates, new coaches, and a new system, but he has done that before, having been traded three times before this. He said he wasn’t surprised when this one happened, because he is in a contract year, and the NBA is a business, after all.
Still, it meant that he had to move on, again.
“I have bounced a lot,” he said. “I really am looking for a home where I can settle in.
“I don’t think it’s a negative thing, because at the end of the day, every time you bounce around, somebody else wants you. That’s the way I try to look at it. Here, hopefully this can be one of my last stops.”