When Jordan Mickey checked in for his most substantial minutes to date as a Celtic, Boston was down 11 to Utah. It's not exactly the most ideal situation for a rookie to get playing time, but according to Brad Stevens, he texted Mickey earlier in the day to tell him to "be ready." Sounds like Commissioner Gordon lighting up the Bat-Signal for Swatman. (I apologize.)
In over 7 minutes of play, Mickey finished the game a plus-7 and helped cut a 13-point lead down to 2. The 3 point, 3 rebound, and 2 block stat line doesn't look impressive, but the rookie rarely made mistakes, especially on the defensive end. The kid has a reputation of blocking shots, so let's lead with that:
But he's also a pretty good face-up defender. Here, he doubles briefly down on Derrick Favors, quickly recovers on Trey Lyles, moves his feet and stays in front of Lyle's drive, and contests the shot. With all the switching that the Celtics do on defense, he's going to have to be able to defend bigger 4s and, more importantly, quicker 3s, so this is a promising sign:
Mickey's only bucket came on a hustle play where he helped generate a turnover when Marcus Smart tied up Rudy Gobert, there's a scrum for the loose ball, and Crowder found Mickey for the loud flush:
Brad Stevens wants the C's to out-hustle their opponents night-in, night-out. Seems like they got the message: pic.twitter.com/RcFb5LvmjB— Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 1, 2016
We didn't get a chance to see everything that Kevin outlined on Mickey's development down in the D-League, but this is the normal progression for late first- and second-round picks. Rookies have to take advantage of these small opportunities to prove that they can make a difference in a game. Last night, Stevens remarked, "I just thought we needed a boost, and I thought that every time we've put him in he's blocked a shot." He blocked two against the Jazz, helping to spark the first-half comeback.
Mickey will get a chance next season to show that he can be effective for longer stretches, but tonight might have earned him more playing time in the team's final 20+ games. Kelly Olynyk's separated shoulder coupled with David Lee's buyout should afford him some game time, but it will be interesting to see is how Stevens chooses to use Mickey going forward. Tyler Zeller has backed up Amir Johnson since returning to the rotation, and Jonas Jerebko has served as the team's versatile big off the bench all year, but neither are rim protectors. At 6'8", Mickey doesn't look like your prototypical defensive anchor, but he's mobile enough to ICE picks and help on the weak side.
And if you didn't catch it, here's a nice piece from CSNNE.com on how Mickey embraced his time with the Red Claws but is ready to contribute with the big club:
Is it just me or does Mickey remind anybody of Ed Pinckney?