The easiest way to describe J.R. Giddens last year was that he didn’t quite “get it.” After being a big shot for Kansas and then at New Mexico, everything seemingly came easy for Giddens… in college. Long, strong, and athletic, with an NBA-ready body far before he was drafted into the NBA, Giddens oozed physical talent, but his game was far from refined.
And that lack of polish hurt him when he reached the NBA. Whereas in college he got by on the basis of his physical traits, Giddens could no longer outrun or outmuscle everyone else. He was still athletic, but that no longer set him apart like it used to. Players get to the NBA and they need to develop other parts of their games that weren’t there. Giddens was physically dominant in college, but had never developed the basketball IQ it would take to succeed in a league where almost everyone was as tall, strong, and fast as he is.
If he’d been drafted onto a rebuilding team, maybe everything would have been different. With a rebuilding team, projects like Giddens are allowed time to blossom. But on a championship contender? Not so much.
Still, J.R. has shown flashes of brilliance. Not for the Celtics yet, but it’s tough to show flashes of brilliance when you only play 8 minutes in your entire rookie season. In summer league play, though, Giddens was perhaps the most impressive Celtic of all. He showed an impressive series of jab-step moves that made him very tough to guard one-on-one. On two separate plays, Giddens jabbed right, drove left and finished with a tomahawk slam at the rim. When he did that, it made you realize why the Celtics used a first-round pick to draft him. The power, explosiveness and agility he displayed with those two moves made me sit back and say, “wow”.
Now, Giddens seems like he’s finally “gotten it”. He knows his only way onto the floor is through his defensive abilities. He knows that he’ll never make his way onto the parquet through the basis of his offensive skills because, frankly, he’s not as skilled as a lot of other players. But he can rebound the basketball, and when Giddens gets after it he can be a formidable energy guy. He still can’t shoot the ball very well (didn’t he used to be a deadeye shooter for Kansas???), but when J.R. gets his motor running he can make plays to help his team win games. And in the last two games, Giddens has shown an energy level and a dedication to the little things that just wasn’t there last year. Giddens knows what Doc wants, and is trying to give it to him.
I’m not saying Giddens will be on the active roster. Or even that he deserves to be. After all, the Celtics are deep and they are talented. All I’m saying is that he’s making his case for being kept in Boston rather than being sent back to the NBDL.
And that’s more than he ever did last year.