Abdel Nader prepares for multiple roles with Celtics
LAS VEGAS — Walter McCarty is very much about who is on the floor.
So don’t ask the coach about the disappointment Abdel Nader felt about missing three straight summer league games due to a strained calf muscle.
“Right now I think it’s pretty easy — he’s just getting ice and massages every day,” said the Celtics assistant and head of the summer league team in Las Vegas, cracking wise for a moment. “Not tough at all compared to the guys who are playing, who have to learn the plays and know the plays we’re calling. They don’t get as many reps as Abdel and (Jaylen Brown) and (Jayson Tatum) did. Those guys are fine, and the more we can rest them for the season is most important.”
As with Brown and Tatum, the C’s have been cautious with Nader. Unlike his two high-profile teammates, Nader has been caught in the untenable position of not knowing whether he faces another year in the NBAGL, or catching on to the end of the roster.
The Celtics, though, have decided to make this high-scoring small forward a part of the regular roster, having reached agreement with Nader on a four-year, partially guaranteed contract on Friday.
Nader no longer has to worry about whether the parent club offers him one of the team’s two available two-way contracts. He will be part of the official roster, albeit with a serious logjam in the making at the small forward spot.
But prior to agreeing to terms, Nader tried not to linger too much on his roster security.
“To be honest I’m not really thinking about it, just seeing what happens from what I can do here,” he said. “I think I’ve developed my offensive game and defensive game to another level. It’s NBA-ready.”
The Celtics obviously agree, and probably knew as much heading into the summer, based on Nader’s exceptional work for the Maine Red Claws.
Nader was named the NBADL’s rookie of the year, and began summer league as one of the most senior members of the Celtics delegation.
“We asked him to do a lot,” said Celtics assistant Jerome Allen, who coached the summer Celtics for their three games in Utah. “We asked him to guard (Jazz guard Dante) Exum. We asked him to be the quarterback in terms of communication on switches. We asked him to be the point guard and set the kitchen table. We asked him to rebound the ball. He’s probably a little fatigued.”
But Nader also meets the primary requirement of any new player coming into Brad Stevens’ system. He can guard at least three positions, and perhaps four once he adds more bulk.
“He’s big, physical, athletic, fast, he attacks the basket, hits the 3,” said Allen. “You can tell the game has slowed down in his head as well. When the game’s fast but mentally slow, it allows you to be effective. He kept grinding, attacking the basket, and I’m glad to see he used his first year to get better at understanding the game.”
Nader also developed his playmaking ability, often handling the ball as a D-League rookie. He is, in short, the ideal developmental player to add under a Stevens system that places a premium on position-less basketball.
“I handled the ball in the D-League, so I got pretty comfortable with it,” said Nader. “I would have to say yes. I don’t have a true position. I play 1 through 4 out there, I’m just a basketball player.”
“I spent a bunch of time training with Chris Johnson out in LA, spent a bunch of time refining my jump shot, working on my reads, watched a bunch of film from my D-League season, just learning the game more.”