WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT
“He’s more ready than anybody. He can guard at a high level. He can play, and he will outplay a lot of people.”
Jaylen Brown said this about Jabari Bird, his former Cal teammate, after Bird’s first minutes as one of Brown’s newest NBA teammates. In the past, Brown has called Bird his mentor from when he first arrived at Cal. The script has flipped. Brown now tries to hype up his mentor-turned-protege, but there is some validity to the statement. Brad Stevens echoed Brown’s comments, speaking positively of Bird’s chances in the NBA.
“Defensively, I think he has a chance to be really good. Through preseason, I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders. I feel like he has huge upside.”
When the coach says this after going to you late in the game, and keeps you in for half of the 4th quarter, it carries some weight. Stevens preaches defense first for every player. The development of scoring weapon Jabari Bird will be approached the same way. During the game, announcer Brian Scalabrine said, “It’s defense that will get you on the court, but offense that will keep you there.” He was talking about Terry Rozier, but the same can be said for Bird. If he can continue to show his defensive prowess in practice, we could see him getting more time.
Jabari Bird has a two-way contract, something new to the NBA this season. It allows teams to sign up to two additional players who can spend up to 45 days with the team. The rest of their time is spent in the G-league. This allows teams to keep a specific player in their system. Two-way contracts can be converted to one-year minimum deals at the discretion of the NBA team. If Bird has more performances like he did against the 76ers, this could be an option for the Celtics. They are already suffering from the injury bug, and looking internally for answers might be the best option.
As Coach Stevens tries to find lineups that work, Bird has found himself thrown into the fire. This is important for Bird. Using him this early in the season is interesting because of the limit placed on these players. If the Celtics continue to use him now, they will have to make a decision sooner than later. Bird will become a restricted free agent when he completes his 45-day limit with the team. We should expect the Celtics to use all of his days and get to this point. The high praise from his teammates and coaches proves they will want to take a harder look at him.
It is possible the Celtics let the contract play out before making a decision on Bird. Don’t be surprised if they convert it to a minimum deal before then. They need another player to fill a roster spot right now, and Bird checks out. Several options have surfaced which would be solid choices for the final roster slot. But if Bird continues to prove his worth on the court, he might be the best choice. Signing him now would free up the ability to sign another player to a two-way contract. The deadline to use this slot is January 15th.
Bird has always played with high energy on both ends of the floor, and his NBA career has started no differently. If he continues to see minutes, he will start to show his scoring ability. He shot 37% from three-territory last season at Cal, and 44% in Summer League. Athleticism and quickness are a big part of Bird’s game. He uses these skills to get into the paint with cuts and drives. He made 64% of his looks around the rim last season at Cal.
A former McDonald’s All-American Five-star recruit, his college career improved considerably while at Cal. Four-year college players like Bird are rare. Very skilled offensively, he shows he can guard at a high level. Scouts tend to shy away from four-year guys. They think that group doesn’t have as much upside as younger guys. If he can continue to trend in the right direction, we should bank on seeing more of Jabari Bird.
“I know I can play with anybody, and I’m ready.” – Jabari Bird