We should begin by establishing this: It would have been very easy for a man in Kris Humphries' position not to care.
Let's quickly recap Humphries' lifetime achievements leading up to his arrival in Boston via trade last summer. By age 28, he had to his name:
- Nationwide celebrity, 900,000 Twitter followers and 72 days of marriage to a Kardashian
- Nine productive seasons in the NBA, with respectable career totals hovering around 4,000 points and 2,000 rebounds
- $36.9 million in career earnings - and that's just from the basketball, not including the reality show earnings resulting from the aforementioned marriage to a Kardashian
That's a pretty nice lifetime for most people, and Hump had it all sewn up at 28. So it would have been quite simple indeed for him, upon being traded from a guaranteed East playoff team in Brooklyn to an organization in Boston that very clearly wanted to rebuild without him, to say "eff it." He's got his money and his fame, and whatever happens from here is gravy. So why invest anything in playing out the string through the Celtics' bridge year?
That was the sentiment of most fans when Humphries showed up in Boston - they expected very little from him, for the most part. And Hump only reinforced that expectation on July 15, when he showed up for an introductory news conference alongside fellow trade pieces Keith Bogans and Marshon Brooks and looked like a dental patient waiting for a root canal. One of his first few quotes to the Boston media was - verbatim, I embellish not, I swear - "Yeah, basically, all those cliched comments." After a first day like that, nobody wanted to imagine a Day 250.
Gradually, though, Humphries surprised us.
It was hard to see it at first. He was playing very little at the start of the season, and talking to us media types even less. But he was in the background, working, pushing himself really hard to become a relevant basketball player again. By season's end, he'd done a lot more than that.
Humphries became a very productive player for the Celtics this season, especially in the second half. No one knew what to expect from the guy after last year, when he could hardly stay in the rotation for P.J. Carlesimo in Brooklyn, but Humphries put in the work to earn Brad Stevens' respect in Boston, and Stevens repaid him with playing time. He finished the year averaging 19.9 minutes per game, far more than anyone would have guessed in November, and he was second on the team with 5.9 rebounds.
On a team full of "role player" types, Humphries was an admirable one. The Celtics had a lot of needs this season, and Hump worked to fill every void that he could. When Vitor Faverani became injured this winter, the Celtics basically had zero useable centers, so the natural power forward Humphries pushed himself to embrace the five-spot. He was decent in the role, holding his own against guys who dwarfed him in size. Humphries could also step outside a little bit, giving the team a mid-range shooting element that, at times, it desperately needed.
He was a great locker room guy, too. It helps that Humphries has been through a miserable losing year before - he was a key member of that 2009-10 Nets team that went 12-70, one of the worst seasons in league history. He's worked through the on-court issues, endured the emotional trauma and even put up with the condescending media questions. His veteran leadership helped the Celtics deal with all three of those issues this season, which wasn't always easy. This season was a pain for the C's, but it might have been a lot worse without Humphries around.
No one knew what to expect from the guy who warmed the Nets' bench a year ago and fought with Rajon Rondo at the Garden. He was a potential bust in Boston - everyone sensed it. But Humphries worked hard to shed that label, and he became a very good player in Stevens' rotation.
Will that continue? It's hard to say. Humphries' contract - a two-year, $24 million deal that he originally signed with the Nets in the summer of 2012 - is coming to a close. He's a free agent again, he's still only 29, and he's earned the right to get himself paid. Not $12 million a year paid like last time, but paid nonetheless.
I'm not sure if Humphries fits in Boston. The team is in for a long-term rebuild, and it's well-positioned to go full speed ahead with Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk as the primary two power forwards. That might leave Humphries as the odd man out - it wouldn't shock me if Danny Ainge made him a lowball offer that at least gave him the chance to stay, but Humphries will likely have better suitors elsewhere.
Should we expect to see Kris Humphries in green for years to come? Probably not, but if this year has proven anything, it's that the veteran big man still has plenty of NBA career left in him. Wherever that career continues, I wish him well.