There was a collective sigh of relief heard from all of Celtics Nation when the news of Kemba Walker was not as severe as it first seemed. Walker was ruled out for Monday’s night game which opened the door for Tremont Waters to get his first NBA action at home against the Sacramento.
Earlier in the day, Waters was just named G-League Player of the Week after he averaged 24 points and 8.5 assists over that week. Because of this, coach Brad Stevens came into the game saying he would have “no hesitation” playing Waters as much as he needed to with Walker out. It quickly turned into a huge opportunity from the young rookie from LSU.
However, no one was ready for his minute total and contribution in this one. No one except Waters. At the 9:05 mark of the second quarter, Waters checked in for the first time. He quickly got the nerves out by air-balling a three-point attempt on his first touch, but then he was able to settle in riding out the whole second quarter. During this stretch the Celtics fought back in this game during a 25-7 run to close out the first half.
Waters has always played as a true point guard. He has a great passing awareness and court vision at all times. Outside of the 20.2 points, he has also averaged 7.8 assists early in this G-League season. Waters was able to show a little bit of that off tonight on two very notable plays during that second quarter run.
That first assist just shows off his raw ability to see the floor. Semi Ojeleye finds himself going all the way around the court to the opposite corner before Waters leads him perfectly to nail the jumper. Then, we see Waters finding a crashing Enes Kanter but only after making Richaun Holmes bite on his move. Both passes show the pure passing skills he has.
Stevens credited Waters with his play tonight and being realistic with his future saying, “He will play a lot better when it is not his first time playing. We think he is really good and won’t hesitate to play him.”
The mistakes of course were there in his rookie debut to the league, too. Those will fix themselves over time and with experience, but even with the troubles, he had highlights worth mentioning.
This was the huge three in the fourth quarter that some other rookies would not want to take in their first game. Waters has the confidence to pull up when he has the shot in front of him. Marcus Smart commented about this shot and his shooting after the game saying, “the guy’s not afraid. He showed that. He comes out shooting the ball, hit a really big 3 for us down the stretch, and really controlled the game.”
All in all, there were many points in the game Tremont Waters can improve. He was still just 2-of-7 with 7 points, but he showed lots of promise in his role. Stevens knew he could trust him out there all the way down to the four minute mark in the fourth quarter. “It’s a surreal feeling. Kids dream of this moment,” Waters said. “To go from the G-League, obviously I’ve been working on my game to come to the NBA level and to help a team win definitely feels good. But I’m not satisfied with it. I just have to keep working and everything else will definitely work itself out.”
The road is still going to be unclear for Waters. He will most likely head back to Maine soon after Kemba Walker comes back, but it is promising to know that the Celtics may have a guard waiting in the wings ready to become that backup point guard.