He grew up just outside of Boston, with a parquet floor in his bedroom and a pair of Hondo Havlicek’s shoes on his dresser. Can you imagine what Tony Gaffney felt when the Boston Celtics called and offered him a contract?
“Our whole lives,” Gaffney said in a June interview with Henry Abbott, speaking of both he and his brother, “we dreamt of walking on the floor of the Garden — where Bird played, where Parish, McHale, Danny Ainge, all the Celtics greats played.”
If he keeps playing like he did yesterday, Gaffney could very well get that chance. Despite possessing a very raw offensive game, Gaffney manages to affect games in a variety of ways. Yesterday, drawing the draft’s number two selection as his defensive assignment, Gaffney limited Evan Turner’s production while chipping in 10 points and 5 rebounds of his own.
While those may seem like paltry stats for an NBA player participating in summer league, stats have never done Gaffney’s game justice. There were the two charges he took on Turner, wiping away two potential buckets. There was the blocked shot, the two dunks. And the hustle, the always present hustle. There are holes in his game, sure, but Gaffney does his best to make up for them in other ways. He doesn’t run the floor in transition, he sprints. He doesn’t take plays off, he doesn’t hang his head if he misses a jumper, and he relishes playing the role of defensive stopper.
“They told me before we came here,” said Gaffney, who has defended Turner and James Harden in the Celtics’ two games, ”that I was going to be matched up with the best wing on every team. My eyes lit up when they said that.”
Gaffney’s length (“He’s like a spider out there,” described NBATV announcer Rick Kamla), athleticism (“He’s a gazelle,” proclaimed summer league coach Austin Ainge), and work ethic (“I love working hard,” said Gaffney) have all allowed him to come a long way very quickly. Two and a half years ago, Gaffney was a junior at UMass averaging 4.8 points per game. The next year, he was a double-double guy every night, playing center and blocking the third-most shots in the nation. Now, he’s a small forward with a contract (albeit non-guaranteed) to play basketball for his hometown Celtics. Is that even real life?
But Gaffney’s journey isn’t done. He still hasn’t fulfilled his childhood dream, still hasn’t stepped foot on the Garden floor to play a real game. If he ever does, if he gets the opportunity to share the parquet with childhood idol Paul Pierce, there won’t be many men in the world happier than Tony Gaffney.
“My entire life, my whole family has lived Celtics,” explained Gaffney in June, standing on his bedroom’s parquet floor. “To be able to wear a Celtics uniform right now and hopefully for years to come, it’s pretty special.”
It sure is.