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Saying goodbye to Daniel Theis, Boston’s gentle German giant

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The War on Theis will now be fought in Chicago.

Indiana Pacers v Boston Celtics Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images

Daniel Theis, the Celtics’ center who played on four Eastern Conference Finals-appearing teams while believing that he had Kevin Durant’s midrange game, could often be found fraternizing with the families of both Gordon Hayward and Aron Baynes prior to their respective trades, and masqueraded as 6-foot-10 while likely being closer to 6-foot-5, was traded to the Chicago Bulls Thursday as a part of a three-team deal. Mo Wagner and Luke Kornet will head to Boston; Javonte Green will also go to Chicago.

By all accounts, this is a sad day. To accept it as truth feels unjust. Until the Celtics official Twitter account tweets out a “Thanks, Daniel” graphic or a “Welcome, Mo!” gif, an XL Theis-27 jersey will remain in my NBA Store cart. Update: They did. Tears.

Though he was born in Salzgitter, Germany, his life in the NBA began on Washington’s summer league team back in 2014. Following his brief turn in the nation’s capital, he throve as a member of the Brose Baskets – a real team, not a subsidiary branch of Edible Arrangements – and won his first of three German League titles. The other two came as a member of Brose Bamberg, where he signed his first major deal as a pro.

Once he officially arrived in the NBA, he spent four years in Celtic-green, somewhat of a record for an international product under Danny Ainge’s watch. Unlike Guerschon Yabusele, Ante Žižić, Rade Zagorac, Lucas Nogueira, and plenty others before him, Theis went undrafted at his American career’s onset, and still made an impact in Boston that all-but forced Ainge to keep him on staff. During that time, he climbed the franchise all-time lists in major stats like points (he ranks 98th) and rebounds (72nd). I imagine he’s somewhere in the top-three in fouls.

Amongst his other notable accomplishments:

  • Ranks second only to Chris “Birdman” Andersen on the NBA’s all-time “white guy with an abundance of arm tattoos” list.
  • Logged career-highs in points (25) and rebounds (16) against the Minnesota Timberwolves, which places him on an exclusive list alongside every other NBA player to ever record a career-high.
  • Was placed in the “Not a Chance” Tier by CelticsBlog’s Daniel Poarch back in 2018 when Poarch, then of Celtics Hub, ranked the Celtics roster based on their likelihood to appear in the All-Star Skills Challenge. In retrospect, that he was ranked behind non-dribbler Semi Ojeleye is egregious.
  • Had his name used in a glorious play on words for CelticsBlog’s all-time best headline back in January of this year: “The Theis is right.”

Best of all, Theis was highlighted in a CelticsBlog staff overreaction column – Celtics? Overreacting? – following the team’s preseason win over Charlotte back in 2017. Note: the following passage, written by Simon Pollock, was written in a post-victory fog. He couldn’t have known what he was saying.

Can I get an amen for our new german big man, Daniel Theis? At first blush, it looks like the C’s found themselves a major upgrade over the Olynyk/Jerebko combination. Deep in the third quarter of tonight’s game, the 6’9” forward came into a lineup that was three parts rookie, two parts second-year vet. And boy did he impress. He led the team with 12 points and seven rebounds, diving to the rim off of a great pass from Shane Larkin, draining a three just a shade faster than Amir Johnson could, and cleaning up against some of Charlotte’s starters on the boards. Best of all, Theis took it to the hole off the dribble, smoother than just about any Kelly Olynyk drive I’ve ever seen. I’m all in.

Nevertheless, here’s my advice, everyone: Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened. That applies to the Shane Larkin era, too.

By the end of this article, I realize that I’ve changed my tone close to 42 times, which is not quite as many times as Mo Wagner was traded yesterday, but is certainly more than the number of minutes he’ll spend in a Celtics uniform. Allow it; I think I’m grieving. I’m not sure when I’ll get over this loss. I suppose it could be tomorrow. It could also be never.

In the end, I’ll deliver a proper send-off by speaking directly to Theis. Thank you, Daniel – again, for everything you brought to Boston. Your appearances in Robyn Hayward’s Instagram stories and ferocious two-hand slams shan’t soon be forgotten. Go forth and prosper as you fight the War on Theis in your new city. I’ve been; it’s fine. Check out The Bean if you get a chance. Befriend Andy Dalton, too. He could use some emotional support, and perhaps you can persuade him to bleach his hair.

Your Chicago Bulls got better yesterday. Well, yes, it was because they traded for Nikola Vucevic, but you count, too!

Go get ‘em, buddy. Prost.