With Paul Pierce and Marquis Daniels both out of the lineup with injuries, the second-year swingman knew it was time to prove he’s worthy of a spot in the Celtics rotation — and worthy of another contract from the Boston brass, with his due to expire at the end of this season.
“All year, all summer, my whole life I’ve been waiting for this moment to just capitalize on this opportunity,” he said Saturday before the Toronto tilt, a game the Celts won 103-96, despite playing without Pierce, Daniels, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo.
“I’m going to go out there tonight and try to play my heart out. It’s what I’ve been dreaming about my whole life and it’s just a moment for me to step up and show people what I’m capable of doing.”
Giddens, though, went in fully aware of a fine line in that mission, a line between trying to do too much and still proving he’s talented enough to contribute consistently on a roster full of All-Stars.
It showed. He was timid, finishing with just two points on three attempts, two rebounds and an assist.
This from a guy who scored with ease at New Mexico, averaging 16 points a game in each of his two seasons there, then 17 points a game last year with the D-League's Utah Flash — no doubt part of the reason Danny Ainge and Co. took the Oklahoma City native 30th in the 2008 draft.
But as an NBA baller, Giddens has now posted just 22 points in 89 minutes.
Said Doc Rivers after Giddens’ performance Saturday: “J.R.’s going to be more aggressive the next game. … I thought he had some shots. He got to the point, ‘Am I making a mistake?’ I told him, ‘The mistake is not shooting.’ Because he’s a good shooter and I thought he had a couple of them.”
The 24-year-old guard admitted Doc’s right: He’s still a bit green.
“I’m out here trying to get more minutes and show Doc and my teammates they can trust me,” Giddens said after the Raptors game. “So I think I’m probably over-thinking at times, but I’m going to settle down and get that under wraps."
Still, to be sure, Giddens’ major contribution to the Celtics at this time won’t be points. With Pierce and Daniels both out of the lineup, Doc and the C’s are in desperate need of size at the guard and small forward positions. J.R., at 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, fills that void and provides Boston’s bench (or starting) unit with a second gear in transition.
“We wanted size and quickness at all three positions — 1, 2, 3 — and that’s what Tony [Allen] and J.R. can give us,” Doc said after announcing Giddens would start Saturday. “They can make sure we have a defensive presence to start the game.”
Pierce is due back in the starting lineup Wednesday against Miami, but Giddens will no doubt still be needed to fill that void, especially with Pierce likely to see reduced minutes and Daniels riding the bench.
“Next time I hit the court, I’ll be more mature and get better with time,” Giddens said after his effort Saturday.
With Boston wracked again by injuries and only getting older, Celtics Nation better hope he’s right.