Honestly, I‘ve always had a soft spot for the Swedish Larry Bird. Sure, Jonas Jerebko’s overall production is rarely a big factor. But Jerebko’s always been the type of player who can come in and do a little bit of everything, and every so often he steps up and changes the game.
It’s been a difficult season for the Swedish-born Celtics forward. After a strong showing in the Celtics’ first round exit from the 2016 playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks many expected Jerebko to receive additional minutes during this season. Yet the Celtics’ continually crowded roster as well as Jerebko’s own injury issues meant his role and playing time remained relatively unchanged.
After a strong start to the 2016-2017 season Jerebko’s production dropped off while he was forced to wear a face mask due to a broken nose. After taking a forearm to the face from James Harden in January followed by a subsequent collision with fellow Celtic Jaylen Brown in February Jonas Jerebko was forced to wear a face mask for over two weeks of the season.
Jerebko did not like the face mask and he made no bones, broken or otherwise, about it.
“It was horrible, you seen it, trying to play with that mask. They wanted me to play with it for two months. But I just couldn’t do it.” – Jerebko speaking to the Boston Globe
While wearing the mask Jerebko’s numbers dropped significantly with the Celtics’ stretch forward shooting just 37.5% from the field and sinking just 25% of his shots from behind the arc. This came right after Jerebko had been playing at a high level – starting a few games for the Celtics and making a strong impact.
Going against the advice of Celtics’ medical staff Jerebko ditched the mask and came back as a fairly consistent contributor for the Celtics during the latter half of the season. Even in limited minutes he was a big part of the Celtics’ playoff push, helping to clinch victories and generally acting as a reliable role player.
Yet when the playoffs came Jerebko still struggled to find a place in the regular rotation, instead being relegated to the bench for younger more athletic players like Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier. Yet after a lacklustre first two rounds Jerebko came alive in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Cavaliers and put in an unbelievable performance.
In the Celtics’ sole 2017 Eastern Conference Finals victory the Swedish swingman not only helped hold LeBron to one of the King James’ worst ever playoffs performances but Jerebko also managed to shoot 4 of 4 from the floor, pull down 5 rebounds and got a block and a steal for good measure, all in just under 13 minutes of play. Jerebko’s impassioned play helped light a fire under the rest of the roster and fuelled the Celtics surprise comeback victory against the stacked Cavs roster.
Not bad for a guy that spent most of the preceding series against the Washington Wizards watching from the bench.
Ultimately Jerebko’s performance this season was relatively similar to last season. He was generally pretty solid acting as a regular bench contributor and despite limited minutes showed up for a key game in the playoffs. Even with all the ups and downs it was essentially more of the same from Jonas, which really leaves Jerebko’s future at Boston a little uncertain.
Realistically anything less than a breakout year was always going to mean it was questionable whether we would see Jerebko suit up for the Celitcs next season. While there are reasons Jerebko’s numbers stagnated and even dipped a little in some areas – this season saw Jerebko post a career low 3.8 PPG – the reality of the roster crunch and Jerebko’s expiring contract could mean the Swedish swish will be finding a new home this summer.
Before the playoffs began JJ was asked about his looming free agency and spoke positively about his time in Boston but seemed aware that change is a distinct possibility saying,
“Being a free agent is always interesting. I love my time in Boston and I’m not closing any doors. I’m just excited for the summer and to see what happens.” from Hoopshype.com
With a future frontcourt likely to feature younger talents like Ante Zizic and any number of potential candidates from free agency it seems more likely than not that Jonas Jerebko will find his roster spot on the Celtics filled. Yet the still young and clearly talented forward will likely have a fair few options available to him as he hits free agency, and hey if the option exists for him to come back to Celtics at the right price in the right role then maybe we will see him back in Boston.
If not then Game 3 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals will forever serve as the Swedish Swish’s Celtic swansong.