For the most part, NBA players say the right things. They just want to win. They’re willing to sacrifice playing time. They’re in it for more than the money. For some players, that talk rings hollow. But that’s not the case for Tony Gaffney.
“Honestly, I just wake up every morning saying no one in the world is going to work harder than me,” Gaffney told ESPN Boston, and anyone who has seen Gaffney play should believe him. He’s a lunch pail type of player, an overachiever who succeeds with athleticism and the strength of a certain, blood-pumping organ. His skills are raw, but Gaffney makes up for it with an Energizer Bunny motor. It keeps going and going and going.
“I kinda live by that motto in whatever I do, just be the hardest worker,” he says. And if you’ve ever seen him fiercely chase down a rebound or loose ball, you know it isn’t just lip service.
Gaffney spent his summer in Tampa, Florida, working out in preparation for training camp. “It hasn’t really been much of a summer,” he explained. Then again, who has time for summer when his odds of making the Celtics are so small? Gaffney knows he has a lot to prove, but is confident there will be a spot open for him if makes a great impression.
“I’m up against some great players for very few spots,” Gaffney remarked. Very few spots? Try none. If Gaffney is to make the team, he’s going to have to steal someone else’s spot from right underneath his nose. He’s going to have to show that the Celtics could use his talents, that it would be worth it to cut someone with a guaranteed contract. Gaffney would have to prove that someone, probably Semih Erden, should get paid just to get cut. (Note: Delonte West’s contract is not guaranteed, but I’m assuming he’ll make the team because the Celtics could use him. Same with Von Wafer, whose contract isn’t fully guaranteed.)If you can’t tell, Gaffney’s got a lot of proving to do. But he still holds hope. The Celtics could use a player like him, a tall, long wing who likes to get his hands dirty.
“Every team in the league needs defense,” Gaffney said. “That’s something I love to do. I really don’t know why — and a lot of people tell me I’m weird because I do — but I look at guarding the opposing team’s best player and my eyes light up. I strongly believe there’s no one I can’t guard. Am I going to get beat every once in a while? Who doesn’t? But I believe that there are four positions I can guard in this league and guard well.”
Yes, defense is where Gaffney makes his mark. But if he does make the Celtics, it will likely be due to offensive improvement. His jumper, when we last saw it in summer league, was somewhere between broke and non-existent. But he’s been working on it, just like he’s been working on every other weakness. Danny Ainge told Gaffney and fellow non-guaranteed contract Oliver Lafayette that the best 15 would make the team, regardless of their contract situations.
“That’s all I needed to hear,” said Gaffney. “As long as there’s a spot for me to earn, I’m going to do everything in my power [to earn it], or die trying.”
Or die trying? Okay, maybe some of his talk rings hollow. But you can believe the rest. On a scale of one to hard work, Gaffney’s always been off the charts.
P.S – I would write about Oliver Lafayette’s chances to make the team, too. You know, if they existed. Even though Lafayette said, “My focus is just on making this team,” he’s screwed. With Rajon Rondo, Nate Robinson, Avery Bradley and West, Lafayette would have to impress the hell out of Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers just to be able to sniff making the roster. Which is too bad for Lafayette, whose game I actually really like. He doesn’t blow you away, but he’s smart, can handle the ball, and has a nice stroke. He’s just got far too much competition in front of him.