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Jaden Springer Gives 1st Interview Since Celtics Trade and Daryl Morey Slight

MIAMI — Jaden Springer’s first day with the Celtics last Friday involved moving into his new locker between Sam Hauser and Jaylen Brown in the middle of Boston’s locker room. He wore a green sweatsuit and stared at the computer with Tyler Lashbrook, his former player development coach in Philadelphia who now works with the Celtics. They’ve reunited to get the guard up to speed in what marked one of the stranger deals of the deadline.

“I found out right before they announced (the trade),” Springer told reporters in Miami on Sunday. “Got a phone call from my agent, told me everything, talked to the staff over here, talked to everybody and got it set up. I thought it was pretty good. Coming to a team like this, you can’t go wrong, especially probably the best team in the league. A bunch of great guys. Great organization and so far, I’m loving it here.”

The Celtics pivoted toward looking for prospects on rookie contracts after filling their main need, big man depth, by adding Xavier Tillman Sr. last Wednesday. Springer, a player Brad Stevens admitted Boston liked and has monitored since the 2021 draft, became available in part for luxury tax reasons. The Celtics struck and acquired him for a second-round pick in the third season of his deal.

The pick-up irritated some Philadelphia fans, even as the Sixers moved to add Buddy Hield and eventually Kyle Lowry in win-now moves. Springer’s availability also slightly surprised Boston. Daryl Morey went on to say Springer didn’t fit the Sixers’ winning timeline, a sound bite that someone sent to Springer, who grinned but declined to comment on the topic.

“I’m not really worried about that too much,” he said. “I’m here now. I can’t focus on that.”

Springer, out again on Tuesday with a right ankle impingement that’s considered minor, lands in a similar position on the Celtics in a crowded back court. At 21, Stevens didn’t stress about either Tillman, who’s also likely out through the all-star break with lingering left knee soreness, or Springer finding roles immediately. He called Springer a puppy at 21, younger than many of the players that the Celtics have scouted in the 2024 draft and impressionable offensively.

That side of the ball challenged Springer to the degree that Philadelphia moved on, shooting 39% from the field and 21.6% from three with 3.3 assists per 36 minutes. His defensive splits, 2.4 steals and 1.1 block per 36, intrigued Nick Nurse enough to trust him guarding Steph Curry for 45 possessions across two recent games, limiting him to seven points on 1-for-3 shooting. He also held Trae Young to 4-for-12 from the field in two games.

“It’s definitely a little different (in Boston),” Springer said. “We’ve been watching film. I’ve been watching shootaround, practice a little bit. So I feel like everything’s gonna come along pretty easily. I feel like I can definitely help bring energy. Defensively, I can definitely help the team. Offensively, I can fit into the system, watch the way they play, it’s just really free-playing, really understand what they’re trying to get to. I feel like I can help wherever they need me to do. I’m pretty excited for that.”

Joe Mazzulla said on Friday that the Celtics would weigh the pair of new player’s progression in terms of catching up physically and with the team’s system in deciding when to integrate them. With Springer, the preseason games agains Boston stood out as well as his recent stints guarding Curry and Luka Dončić. The Celtics wanted to acquire specialists, who could do one thing at a high level, Mazzulla said, while trying to improve the players long-term.

Boston tried to do the same to begin the season with Dalano Banton, who effectively went out the door in the Springer trade. Banton played with the Celtics’ Summer League team, arrived early for training camp and received a spot start and bench appearance early in Boston’s schedule while trying to transition from a lead guard into a more complementary screening, rolling and shooting role. He struggled, shooting 37.3% from the field, 12.5% from three and appearing more often in the G-League before his trade to Portland on Thursday.

It wouldn’t be stunning to see Springer begin fitting into that same mold on a team that prioritizes the ability to make a play, read and space the floor offensively. That means limited opportunities for Springer for now, but Boston’s 5.5 game lead in the east approaching the break leaves some room for experimentation in the second half.

“The first part is getting up to speed on our language, our system and how we do things,” Mazzulla said. “To make sure whoever’s playing, we don’t skip a beat. I think that’s something that we’ve really grown into. Kind of like how we treat everything else, it’ll just be matchup-based and situational. If there’s a time we feel that’s the best matchup, both those guys have shown, in matchup data, that they can guard certain guys very, very well. I think that’s the weapon we have and we’ll build it from there and see how they develop within our system.”

Bobby Manning

Boston Celtics beat reporter for CLNS Media and host of the Garden Report Celtics Post Game Show. NBA national columnist for Boston Sports Journal. Contributor to SB Nation's CelticsBlog. Host of the Dome Theory Sports and Culture Podcast on CLNS. Syracuse University 2020.

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