Earlier this week, CelticsBlog caught up with the Boston Celtics' latest two-way player, Sam Hauser, for an exclusive interview. After an active summer of going undrafted, getting picked up by the Celtics, and then being thrown into summer league competition, Hauser has had a whirlwind few months.
As displayed by his decision to switch colleges for his senior year, the former Marquette stretch-four is no stranger to taking the hard road. After transferring to the Virginia Cavaliers, Hauser was forced to red-shirt a season due to collegiate rules but flourished in his role there last season, ending the year with a free-throw percentage that fell just 0.4% short of a 50/40/90 season.
"Ha! I've been pinching myself after I saw the numbers at the end of the year. If I could have made two more free throws, I would have had it, but overall it was a great year, and I couldn't complain."
Unfortunately, Hauser found himself going undrafted in the following months, despite his elite-level scoring numbers. It didn't take long for the Celtics to show their interest, though. "Sometimes, not getting drafted, you can end up in a better situation, as opposed to being drafted to a team that maybe doesn't have the right situation for your circumstance. I do think I landed in a great spot in Boston, and think I have a great opportunity here." Hauser continued, "Luckily, the Celtics called right as the draft was ending to offer me a two-way contract."
Shortly after signing his contract with the Celtics, Hauser found himself in Las Vegas for Summer League. Joe Mazzulla had a team that boasted large amounts of NBA experience. The entire Celtics starting five tasted competitive game time the previous season - most of which came in the playoffs.
"I think our whole starting five had years of experience in the NBA. So, I think those guys wanted to prove themselves and why they belonged in the NBA, and I think they did a great job of showing what they had to offer. For me, I just tried to fit in initially, just try to play my role. As the games went along, I just tried to do a little more to show what I had to offer as well." Hauser continued, "overall, adding on to guys with experience in the NBA, the spacing in the NBA is different; ways to get your shot are different. So, I think all that together is what makes it more difficult to maybe find your rhythm, find your spots, get to your spots."
There's was little reprieve for the Celtics latest sharpshooter, as it was a short break between the final game and the start of training camp. We've heard multiple reports about the competitive spirit in recent days and even some rumblings of altercations between players when things get heated.
"It's been at a high level. Everyone in the NBA is making X amount of money; different guys have family, others don't, everyone is from different situations. So they're all fighting for something, and it shows every day in practice. Guys are just going at each other's heads, honestly. Showing why they belong and why they should play more than another guy. Overall, having that high level of competitive spirit only makes us better and the team better."
Hauser is embracing the competitiveness in training camp as he looks to make use of the NBA's new two-way rules where players can compete in up to 52 regularbseason games for the Celtics.
"Overall, I'm just trying to perfect my shooting in different ways, coming off the screens. Maybe taking one dribble and shooting, spot shooting, I think just trying to take my shooting to another level is something I've worked on. Overall, with my defense, I think in Summer League I did pretty solid, but now going against NBA All-Stars that are on our team like Jayson and Jaylen, it's really testing me in a good way as well."
With the future in mind, Hauser is taking note of some other shooters around the league who have found success working their way into a full NBA deal via a two-way contract and hopes to follow a similar trajectory.
"I've seen some of those guys like Duncan Robinson and a few others that have gone through a situation like I have and made the best of it and earn their way into roles on a team and things like that. But I know everyone's path is different. As much as I would love to have the same happen to me, I know there's something that will be a little bit different. But right now, I'm just focused on putting good days together."
With preseason still underway and the Celtics still due to play another three games before we get to the regular season, Hauser could yet feature in the Celtics rotation. One thing's for sure: when you can shoot the ball as well as Hauser, there's usually going to be available playing time throughout the season.
You can listen to the full interview on the CelticsPod podcast or watch it in its entirety on YouTube.