Michael Finley arrived in Boston this week with no demands, no expectations and no pretenses about his own abilities. He came to town humble, flexible and ready to do whatever was asked of him.
And so far, he's answered the Celtics' call with aplomb. The Celtics are 0-2 this week in the two games he's played, but Finley has quietly gone about his role as a bench player and been a modest bright spot in the team’s two losses.
When he arrived on Sunday night, Finley had no clue what his role or his impact would be on the Celtics.
"I don't know," he said. "That's the big question. I just think that I will not hurt anything that they have. This was already a great team without me. I just come in, maybe just give a little veteran expertise, whether it be on the court or in the locker room. Just do whatever I can to make this team a better one. But like I said, this was already a great team before I got here, so I think my addition is not going to have that big an impact, if any. I'm just excited to be here.”
That's Finley — modest, unselfish, unassuming. But he's wrong — he has had an impact, and his arrival has meant more than we initially expected it would.
Finley has played a total of 22 minutes in his two games on the Celtics' active roster, eight in Milwaukee on Tuesday night and 14 at home Wednesday against the Grizzlies. He's shot a combined 6-for-9 in those games, piling up 15 points and four rebounds in two games despite very limited playing time.
You watch him on the floor, and you see that he fits perfectly into the Celtics' system. He's a natural. He's an older, more mature version of Eddie House — offensively, he thrives when the bigger stars around him draw all the attention and he's left with open looks. Defensively, he's a solid wing defender who knows how to help the team get stops. He's a smart, instinctive player.
And he's getting minutes. Doc Rivers can be unpredictable sometimes — he has such a deep roster at his disposal that you never know when he's giving you 15 minutes a night and when he's benching you. But Doc has stuck with Finley through these first two games, throwing him out there and letting him show what he can do.
"In Michael's case, it's forced right now," Rivers said Wednesday night. "We're forcing him in there because we need to find out what he can give us. We have 20 games with him and not a lot of practice. We have no choice in this. Right now, especially in the first half, I'll put him in and just see how it goes. In the second half, I'll go more on rhythm."
It might sound crazy, but the 37-year-old Spurs castoff is actually improving the rhythm of this Celtics team, not disrupting it. It's rare that you can add a player this late in the season and see him grasp the system so quickly. But in the case of Finley, it's working. He knows his place — he's a role player who's found a way to help the team on both ends of the floor.
The next step, of course, is finding a way to win with the new guy on the floor. That part hasn't happened yet, but it will in due time.
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