For the first two months of the season, it didn’t seem like there was anything Kris Humphries could do to stay on the floor.
In his first season with the Boston Celtics, Humphries received seven DNPs in November and December, never cracking the 20-point barrier until Dec. 3. When he did play, he delivered. But it was never enough.
There was the nine points and five rebounds in the sixth game of the season. Back-to-back games with a total of 17 points and 10 rebounds in 34 productive minutes two weeks later. An 18-point, seven-rebound coming-out party as a Celtic in a victory over the Denver Nuggets on Dec. 6. He even got to play meaningful minutes in the next two games, but then he bruised his knee and was sidelined again.
Gradually, though, Humphries worked his way into Celtics coach Brad Stevens’ good graces. By early January, Humphries was in the starting lineup, where he stayed until knee tendinitis effectively ended his season.
In some ways, Humphries was Boston’s most productive big man this season, although that might be faint praise given the state of a roster in transition. He averaged 15.1 points and 10.7 rebounds per 36 minutes, showing just what sort of production he might have provided had he received consistent playing time. TD Garden crowds, which vehemently booed him in the past when he visited as a Net, came to embrace him by the end of his first season in Boston.
For all of Humphries’ underrated performance and admirable hustle, however, there always was the legitimate factor of the price.
The Celtics paid $12 million to Humphries last season in the last year of a two-year, $24-million deal he signed with Brooklyn in 2012. He was the highest-paid player on the Boston roster, edging point guard Rajon Rondo by less than $50,000. Stevens raved about Humphries’ motor. Teammate lauded his professionalism. But paying $12 million to a player who does the dirty work isn’t a sustainable business model for Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge.
Now comes the interesting part. Humphries and the Celtics have said nice things about wanting to continue their relationship, but that’s easy to say before dollar figures enter the discussion. Presumably, Humphries understands he will not receive a contract anywhere near that value this time. If he does — and he and the Celtics can agree on a number that satisfies both — don’t be surprised to see Humphries back in green.