Jordan Walsh grabbed the sport ball and held it tightly with two palms as he left the court docket and into the tunnel again to the locker room. He didn’t let it go. He continued to carry on to it as he walked by way of a scrum of reporters and did his postgame interview, the place he revealed the ball was nearly stolen from him twice.
The Celtics rookie wasn’t going to let that occur after scoring his first profession factors in Sunday’s win over the Grizzlies.
Walsh had seen what occurred in Milwaukee in December, when there was controversy over the sport ball following a sport between the Bucks and Pacers. The rookie knew he wanted to ensure his milestone ball was appropriately retrieved.
“I had to hawk it down,” Walsh stated. “Luckily, somebody caught it and was looking for me and found it. So I was just running around. He was running around looking for me. Then we found each other and I was like, ‘Is that it?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah this is it,’ and handed it to me.”
Sunday evening will lengthy be remembered for Marcus Smart’s emotional return to Boston, the place he was greeted again with an unforgettable and particular tribute. The sport provided little or no of curiosity because the Celtics blew out the severely shorthanded Grizzlies – who had simply eight gamers obtainable – by 40.
That is, no less than till Walsh checked into the sport with 8:33 remaining within the fourth quarter.
Walsh, who has already rapidly change into a fan favourite in Boston, entered his third profession sport and was nonetheless in search of his first profession factors. He rapidly obtained them. After contributing to a defensive cease in his first possession, Walsh broke free in transition, the place Oshae Brissett hit him with an ideal move. Walsh took it in stride, took one dribble towards the ring and took off for a two-handed slam and a second he’ll always remember.
“I’m taught to run to the corner. So I just sprinted out and nobody was in front of me,” Walsh stated. “So Oshae kicked it ahead, I caught it and I saw a lane to the rim and I was like, ‘This is the time.’ And I just jumped as high as I could and just dunked the ball. After that moment, I was like, ‘I’m getting that game ball.’”
The technique of his bucket was every thing he might have hoped for.
“Me and KP (Kristaps Porzingis) were talking about his first buckets,” Walsh stated. “He was like, ‘A dunk or a windmill would be crazy.’ I was like, ‘I’m going for a dunk, KP.’ So it was amazing for sure.”
Walsh’s dunk was in the end the ultimate factors he scored on Sunday. In truth, it was his solely shot try of the evening. That speaks extremely of the rookie, who spent the ultimate eight minutes of the sport simply seeking to make the suitable play. He handed up shot alternatives to maintain the ball transferring. And he stayed energetic on protection, the place he thrives, as he posted a plus-16 in his time on the ground.
“At the end of the day, you gotta play the right way,” Walsh stated. “You always gotta feed your dogs, I guess you could say. Just knowing that they trust me in that position to make the right plays is the most important thing.”
“It’s important to make the right play every time,” Walsh repeated.
It was considerably becoming that Smart was within the constructing for his return on the identical evening Walsh recorded his milestone. The two are each from the Dallas space, they usually each take nice satisfaction on the defensive finish.
Smart, clearly, has earned the status as one of many league’s finest defenders over the past decade. He was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2022. Walsh watched from the bench on Sunday as Smart was showered with love by Boston followers and noticed all of his outdated highlights from his time with the Celtics, and couldn’t assist however be impressed.
“It definitely inspires you because the Celtics fans know that basketball is more than just getting 30 a night,” Walsh stated. “It’s about the hustle plays, it’s about diving on the floor. Even like his clips that were on the Jumbotron, like most of them were him diving on the floor and blocking shots. I feel like for that to be the highlight of what he was while he was here and the fans know that and love that about him, I feel like that speaks a lot to the tradition and the culture of the Celtics.”
One that Walsh needs to change into part of, similar to Smart was. Obviously, Walsh has a protracted option to go to have a profession like Smart’s. But at 19 years outdated, he’s totally conscious that his finest likelihood to maintain a protracted NBA profession begins on the defensive finish. That’s the place he made a reputation for himself popping out of the draft final 12 months, and the way he hopes to take action within the league, too.
“I feel like that’s my personality, that’s my role, that’s how I play,” Walsh stated. “And so to be able to kind of like merge into that role and become a guy, a guy like that, I feel like it means the most. I feel like that could separate me from other guys.”