Down Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart, the Boston Celtics were forced to make tweaks to their starting lineup on Monday night against the Detroit Pistons. And while Derrick White was inserted in place of Smart, the head coach Joe Mazzulla made a somewhat off-the-rails choice for the other spot.
He went with Sam Hauser.
After a hot start to the season, Hauser cooled off. His playing time wavered, he recorded his first DNPs of the season on January 19 and January 21, and the Celtics tried out some different lineup combinations. But with Brown and Smart out, Hauser got the start, and it paid off in a big way.
“Kind of took me by surprise,” Hauser said post-game via NBC Sports Boston. “I think I kind of found out about JB late, so I didn’t really know anything. I thought they’d maybe plug someone else in to start, but [they] called my number. I was ready for it. I think it’s, you know, that was my first start ever in NBA, which is a pretty cool moment for me. I feel like you’re able to get in a rhythm real quick when you’re in there to start the game and get your feel and get your legs underneath you a little bit. So. it was definitely a cool experience. And yeah, I don’t know if it’ll happen again or not, but I’m glad that happened.”
"Kind of took me by surprise... it was a pretty cool moment for me"— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) February 7, 2023
Sam Hauser on his first NBA start pic.twitter.com/NlfuJwUhpE
The start allowed Hauser to get into a rhythm early, and that momentum kept on flowing throughout the rest of the half. He nailed his first three three-balls of the contest, finishing 5-of-9 from behind the arc and dropping 15 points to go along with six boards.
It marked Hauser’s third-highest scoring total of the season, and his best game of the season also came against the Pistons. He scored a career-high 24 points in Boston’s November 9 win over Detroit.
Shooters go through slumps, and Hauser is no exception to that rule, but the Celtics haven’t lost confidence in him.
“I thought he was great in the first half,” Mazzulla told NBC Sports Boston. “Just, [the same with him and] with all our guys, I just trust his work ethic, and I trust his mindset. And so I thought it was a good opportunity for him to play. For us to kind of just get into a different flow on the offensive end. When he’s in, our off-ball creativity is there, our after-action is there, and our early-offense spacing is there. And so, I thought he would help that. And I just watch him work every day. And all those guys, I know they’re always ready.”
Joe Mazzulla on Sam Hauser: "I trust his work ethic & I trust his mindset" pic.twitter.com/Twq6oHGJzE— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) February 7, 2023
When Hauser is at his best, he’s moving off the ball and shooting it as soon it touches his hands. Zero hesitancy, just buckets. Hauser displayed this exact mindset with nearly every shot he took against the Pistons, and some of them even followed some less-than-ideal passes.
Impressive shot here by Hauser, catching at his shin and bringing it up to his release point in one smooth motion.— Taylor Snow (@taylorcsnow) February 7, 2023
He's 5-6 from deep in the first half. pic.twitter.com/zf5ZUUxOd3
Sam Hauser knocks down his FIFTH 3PT of the first half pic.twitter.com/HbWy5YuuJZ— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) February 7, 2023
Unfortunately, Hauser’s red-hot first half failed to carry over into the second, as he shot 0-of-3 from distance. Regardless, Hauser was still able to begin the process of re-finding his confidence.
With the trade deadline coming up, there had been some speculation that the team could pursue potential upgrades amid Hauser’s slump. When his shooting isn’t in form, the Celtics lack depth at the wing position. But when he’s hitting shots at the level he’s capable of, Boston’s offense becomes an entirely new beast.
At just 25 years old and in his second year in the NBA, Hauser is just getting started, and it’s clear that Mazzulla and the Celtics have full faith in him.
“I’ve worked with young guys since I’ve been in the NBA, and I know our staff,” said Mazzulla via NBC Sports Boston. “And so, I know what they do with our guys, and I know just how young guys, in an NBA season, how you have to navigate it. And so, I love the, like I said, the work ethic and the mindset that they have.”