On the evening of Wednesday, April 14, as the Celtics walked into the TD Garden to gear up for their 82nd and final game of the NBA's regular season, they entered the locker room to find two new faces staring back at them.
The two new guys were Oliver Lafayette and Tony Gaffney, a pair of relatively unknown youngsters looking to get their big break in the NBA. Lafayette was a D-League castoff; Gaffney was a former UMass Minuteman returning from a brief stint in Israel. Neither had ever played a minute in the NBA.
Lafayette got his chance right away. The 25-year-old guard came off the bench for the Celtics in their short-handed season finale, scoring seven points on 3-of-6 shooting and grabbing four rebounds. His presence energized the Garden crowd on a night when little was at stake and the starters were resting. Who was this new guy? Who knew that he could play?
Then the kid sat on the bench for the entirety of the Celtics' two-month postseason run. Gaffney sat there right next to him, taking in the East playoffs and the NBA Finals from the best seats in the house.
It's been nearly five months since the two newcomers walked into that Garden locker room for the first time, and we're still wondering whether they'll ever get to have a real impact for the Celtics.
Ray Allen, Avery Bradley, Marquis Daniels, Semih Erden, Luke Harangody, Jermaine O'Neal, Shaquille O'Neal, Paul Pierce, Nate Robinson, Von Wafer and Delonte West. That's the full list of players Danny Ainge has signed this summer in the months since Lafayette and Gaffney arrived — 11 new contracts on the books, and 11 reasons the Celtics are stacked for next season, with or without the two rookies. The two used to be the new guys in town; now they're old news. They'll have to work hard in camp to reestablish themselves as part of the Celtics' future.
Both players have a little something to offer. Lafayette is a versatile combo guard — not only can he shoot from long range and defend both ones and twos, but he's also aggressive going after loose balls and rebounds. He's a poor man's Rajon Rondo — and maybe at some distant point in the future, he'd like to be Rondo's backup.
Gaffney's got what it takes to be a fan favorite in Boston — he's a homegrown talent straight out of UMass, and he's an energetic forward that can crash the boards and guard the best of the best. Undersized but full of heart, he's a defense-first Glen Davis.
Lafayette will get to camp and find himself pitted against a horde of other versatile guards — Rondo, Robinson, Bradley, West, Wafer. It'll be an uphill battle for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants alum to prove he belongs.
For Gaffney, it'll be a war out there with the Celtics' big, tough forwards — Kevin Garnett, Glen Davis and the rookie Luke Harangody. From the Israeli team Hapoel Gilboa Galil Elyon to the Celtics in one summer? That would be quite a success story.
The two newbies will get tested right away. They'll be tested in camp, tested in the Celtics' preseason schedule. And if they don't impress Doc Rivers in a big way, they'll be tested all year long in the D-League.
The Celtics are as deep as they've ever been, and no one ever said making the team would be easy. Oliver Lafayette and Tony Gaffney have their work cut out for them.
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