Brendan Jackson of Celtics Hub did a nice job on a recent post detailing why Von Wafer could still be the best choice for 15th man. Jackson’s points are all valid: Wafer draws fouls at a high rate, shoots well from outside, and generally has far more tools than Lasme. Especially when Delonte West misses the season’s first 10 games, Wafer’s offensive skills would be valuable. West’s shooting and offensive presence would be missed, but Wafer is a backup capable of fireworks.
I’m not going to argue any of Jackson’s points. They’re all correct. At times, I’ve thought to myself that Wafer makes more sense to keep around – even if Lasme has been far more impressive during the preseason. Wafer’s skill set fits in with the Celtics’ needs better than Stephane Lasme’s does. The Celtics need a player who can shoot and play the two/three positions, not a three/four hybrid who couldn’t score 20 points to save his mother’s life. But no matter how well Wafer hypothetically fits, I just can’t get over his shoddy preseason performance and — more than anything else – his indifferent attitude.
While Lasme scraps and works for every inch he can take, Wafer quietly shows an unwillingness to compete with Lasme’s intensity. In Wednesday’s game, Wafer was yanked after two minutes of play — Doc Rivers was fed up with Wafer’s defensive effort. Being yanked from a game is bad enough, but being yanked from a preseason game? That’s almost impossible. Wafer could have missed every shot he’d taken, turned the ball over twenty times and worn his uniform inside out, and Doc Rivers probably still wouldn’t have pulled him so quickly. The only reason for being pulled from a preseason game after only two minutes is a lack of energy. For any player, such an overt lack of effort is inexcusable. For someone fighting to earn a roster spot like Wafer, it’s unfathomable.
Wafer should be diving on the floor after loose balls and taking charges at every opportunity: he has a coach-killing reputation to disprove. A player who was once kicked off the bench, in a playoff game, by his own coach, and who last year was released by the Greek team Olympiacos for clashing with another coach, should be desperate to earn his new boss’s trust. Yet Wafer continues to do all the things he’s known for – all the stupid, no-good things that remind you, despite all that talent, all that athleticism, Von Wafer still couldn’t find an NBA team to sign him for the second half of last season.
Before the Celtics-Knicks game, Wafer was quoted as saying, “I’m not just trying to make [the Celtics]; I’m trying to play, too. Just making it is not enough for me.” That quote initially seems harmless; every player wants to play minutes. But Doc Rivers doesn’t want his 15th man to be someone who believes that ”just making the team is not enough for me.” He wants his 15th man to be willing to play whatever role Rivers asks, whether that be playing a few games for the Red Claws in Maine or sitting on the end of the bench in a suit and tie. Should Wafer make the Celtics, he likely wouldn’t play many — or any – minutes most nights. And as he said, that’s not enough for him. That’s not what he wants. He wouldn’t be happy in that role. Especially when compared to Lasme, who seems like he’d be willing to rebuild the entire TD Garden if Doc Rivers wanted him to, Wafer’s poor attitude stands out.
And he’s not even playing well. It’d be one thing if Wafer was saying all the wrong things, giving half-assed effort, and then stepping on the court and immediately morphing into Mr. Buckets. But, well, he’s not. Actually, he reminds me of Tony Allen — as son as Wafer steps on the court, I immediately start counting the seconds until his first turnover, his first dumb play. He has a tendency to overdribble, hasn’t shown any confidence in his shot, and clearly doesn’t have an exquisite knowledge of what the Celtics are trying to do. His attitude gave Lasme a head start in the race for the 15th spot, and his play hasn’t made up the ground.
All of which sucks, because as I said earlier, Wafer’s skills are far more advanced than Lasme’s. If he was playing well, if his head was in the right place, Wafer would be a better fit.
But as Olympiacos coach Panagiotis Giannakis said when the team cut Wafer, “If somebody is not eager to try to change himself, then it is better for him and the club to part ways.”
Even if that somebody’s best is better than either Stephane Lasme’s or Mario West’s.