WALTHAM — Roxbury’s own Shabazz Napier walked into the Celtics practice facility last night in preparation for his workout on Monday. As a lifelong Celtics fan though, it was hard for the point guard not to be in awe of his surroundings.
“I came in last night to shoot a little bit,” Napier said. “For about 5-10 minutes I looked around at the [championship] banners. It’s a warm feeling [looking at them]. It’s the Celtics. Growing up, when you are a Celtics fan you get those chills watching the game.”
Boston’s homegrown 22-year-old is one of the top backcourt prospects in this year’s draft after leading Connecticut to a national championship back in April. Today, after highlighting a six-player draft workout in Waltham for the Celtics brass, Napier sported a green shirt when he spoke with reporters about his performance.
The UConn product claimed the green color choice was a mere coincidence, but Napier couldn’t deny that he hears from friends and family regularly about having a chance to suit up in green.
“I hear about it a lot,” Napier admitted before reflecting on his own Boston fandom. “That’s all we know. I grew up in Boston…You will never understand it until you either play for Boston or live in Boston. We love our teams. There are no bandwagon fans in Boston. We are crazy fans that want the best for our teams. It’s just crazy to even be here. I think it’s kind of insane. It’s a blessing.”
So has Napier thought seriously about the possibility of being drafted by Boston?
“Not yet. I’ve been taking it day by day,” Napier said. “Whoever I have in front of me, I’m going to try my best. I haven’t really thought about that. It is crazy though actually working out for them. The last time I remember being here when I was younger was at the Antoine Walker camp. I was really young then. To come back here and work out for the Celtics is extraordinary.”
Napier is currently slated to be a late first round or early second round pick in most mock drafts. That’s a little bit out of Boston’s range for their 17th overall pick, but the possibility of the Celtics trading down in the round or into the second round is an option Boston’s front office has explored, so a homecoming for the point guard can’t be ruled out.
It’s also worth noting that Napier has several fans within the Celtics organization, including head coach Brad Stevens.
“I’ve always been a big fan of his,” Stevens continued. “[UConn] beat us in the national championship game when he was a freshman. And I was with him for 8 or 10 days in Colorado Springs that summer with USA Basketball. So I’ve spent a lot of time with him and watching him grow up. Obviously, he’s a big-time player who, no matter what, when the lights are the brightest, he’s at his best. Kudos to him for the career that he’s had and it’s pretty incredible when you think about a guy winning two national titles in his four years in college. Big fan of his.”
No matter what team Napier ends up with on draft night, he’s made clear his Celtics fandom won’t be ending once his NBA career begins, as long as his own team isn’t involved.
“Of course [I’ll still root for the Celtics],” Napier admitted. “I wouldn’t be able to say I bleed green if I didn’t say that. If the Celtics are in a championship game and my team isn’t playing, I’m going to root for them. That’s how I am. When people say Boston, I just say home of champions. Patriots, Bruins, Red Sox, Celtics. It’s just something we were brought up in at a young age. I wouldn’t be able to say I’m from Boston if I didn’t say I wouldn’t root for them.”