Just a night after seeing limited action in the Celtics preseason opener against the 76ers, Dalano Banton led the team in both minutes (30) and shot attempts (19), finishing with 20 points on 8-19 shooting.
“I’m just trying to find ways to impact the game, whether that’s on or off the ball,” said Banton, who typically plays point guard but could see some time at the wing this season. “If I do have the ball, I’m just playing with pace, and it’s the same thing when I don’t have the ball — running to the corner, sprinting up and down the floor.”
Last night, playing with all second-unit guys, Banton started out aggressive, attacking the rim with ease.
I remain interested in Dalano Banton, he has fun skill set. pic.twitter.com/nBy7R5mceG— Pull up shoot (@NElGHT_) October 9, 2023
Like many of the other summer acquisitions, the Toronto native has been practicing with the Celtics for several months now, having joined the team soon after he signed his two-year contract in mid-July. “It was straight out here, then into Summer League. It’s been a constant grind,” he said.
Banton stressed how valuable preseason reps like the Knicks game are, particularly for the guys who didn’t see the court in the first preseason game on Sunday, like Svi Mykhailiuk, JD Davison, Wenyen Gabriel, Neemias Queta, and Jordan Walsh. Banton himself only played 13 minutes in the preseason debut on Sunday.
“It’s good for all of us to get that confidence going into the season,” he said.
While Banton mostly shared the court with fellow bench-players-turned-preseason-game-starters, he made clear that making the game easier for the Celtics superstars was at the front of mind.
“I’m just trying to find the ins and outs of where I can get those guys going, and when they’re not in, trying to look for more and push the pace with the second unit,” Banton said. “If I am playing with guys who draw more attention, I’m just trying to find ways to make the game easier for them.”
Banton, who is 6 ‘7 with a 6’ 11 wingspan, is a versatile defensive player who could also emerge as a solid rebounder on a team that may end up needing the additional help.
“He does a great job getting deflections,” Mazzulla said. “He does a great job rebounding out of his area, does a good job crashing, and really understands the game. He’s a really smart player, so we’re fortunate to be able to work with him and try to develop him.”
Banton hasn’t been the most efficient shooter in his two-year NBA career, hitting just 41.6% of his field goals and 27.5% of his three-pointers. However, he is only 23, and certainly has time and tools to become a more reliable shooter.
“It’s a big thing for me, being able to make the open shot,” Banton said. “Guys are really collapsing on our main guys.”
It’s not quite clear what his minutes will look like this year; he could be battling Payton Pritchard for back-up point guard minutes, or competing with Sam Hauser, Oshae Brissett, Lamar Stevens and Svi Mykhailiuk for a spot in the wing rotation.
Regardless, he understands that for the Celtics championship hopes to be fulfilled, each and every member of the team will have to be at their best, working to complement Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and the rest of the team’s stars.
“We need everyone down the line in order to accomplish what we’re trying to accomplish,” Banton said. “That’s day in and day out, just trying to find ways to get these guys easier shots, easier touches in the right spots where they need to be.”
So far, Joe Mazzulla likes what he’s seen with the new signings. “The best way to build trust is by playing hard, by paying attention, and knowing what you’re doing. Everybody top to bottom has done that thus far; they’ve played hard, they’ve paid attention,” Mazzulla said after the loss.
“Being a Celtic is not something that’s given to you,” Banton said. “You should feel honored to be a Celtic. When you walk into that gym, you feel the history, you see the banners… you know there’s a lot of work that’s been put in before you.”
Like the rest of the bench guys, Banton will keep putting in that work. Last night, their collective effort was almost enough to pull out a win against a Knicks team that featured more veteran players like Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle, and RJ Barrett, albeit for limited minutes.
“We think we have a special group with us,” Banton said.