The 1 Boston Celtics Player Who Deserves More Credit

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The 1 Boston Celtics Player Who Deserves More Credit
Chris Carlson/Associated Press
Humphries has done a lot of dirty work for the Celtics this year.

I couldn't count the number of times this NBA season that I have scanned the Boston Celtics' payroll list and shaken my head at Kris Humphries' $12 million.

Each time you look at it, Humphries' name is the first that pops up, with all the baggage that comes along with the Kim Kardashian marriage, the Rajon Rondo fight and the painful reminder that he was the priciest immediate piece they got for sacrificing Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

However, there is another reason Humphries has me shaking my head this season, and that is with his play. I'm shaking it because I am trying to wrap my head around the fact that I wouldn't mind it if Danny Ainge made a move to re-sign him this summer. My respect for Humphries has done nothing but steadily climb since the 2013-14 season began.

Obviously the money would have to be drastically slashed, and he doesn't fill the necessary hole at starting center, but there is a good chance if you've watched enough Celtics games this season, you've been impressed with him at a few different points.

It would likely have to be a choice between him and Brandon Bass. Jared Sullinger isn't going anywhere, and Boston will still want to see what it has in Kelly Olynyk, whom it moved up into the lottery to draft last summer. Clearing out that power forward logjam won't involve bringing back all four guys.

This appreciation started early in the season but didn't blossom into more until recently. It began simply because Humphries seemed to be keeping his mouth shut.

Deep down, nearly every Celtics watcher knew what was in store for this season. Sure, there was the hope of a Rondo return by New Year's Day and a second-half tear, but even that seemed like a pipe dream. What us Massachusetts residents didn't want piled on top of that was to be force-fed immature athletes complaining about the situation, in-fighting and in general, tarnishing the local franchise.

Humphries was pretty silent about the whole thing. The same could not be said about his fellow former Brooklyn Nets cohorts. Keith Bogans wasn't happy with his playing time or lack thereof, to the point of working out a deal with Boston where he no longer had to show up.

MarShon Brooks certainly thought he deserved a longer look, and there were murmurs of discontent, but he didn't have the requisite cache to make much trouble.

Gerald Wallace was the one who really got irritating at a certain point. I am sure most of his statements were directed from a true place, and it really meant something to him, but it grew a bit tiresome. It came in waves too, whether it was unhappiness with playing time, losing or general apathy with both.

Fans don't want to hear about that stuff when they know a losing season is likely in store, and the team is sometimes no fun to watch. Ask any sports fan who lived within the reaches of Boston sports radio during the short-lived Bobby Valentine era of the Boston Red Sox.

Humphries saw five DNPs during the early part of November. He was clearly the last big on the depth chart, being forced to watch Vitor Faverani get praise heaped on him from the bench. However, we never knew if that upset him.

It certainly didn't cause him to let his game go down the tubes. Come December, Humphries saw 20-plus minutes in four of Boston's first seven games. The Celtics won all four of those games, and Humphries missed two of the other three with a bruised knee.

Humphries' monthly minute distribution
November 12.4 mpg
December 20.5 mpg
January 24.9 mpg
February 17.7 mpg
March 25.1 mpg

Credit: NBA.com/stats

His minutes were jerked around by Brad Stevens after that. He earned a few starts here and there but was sporadically in and out of the lineup on a night-to-night basis. Stevens saw what Humphries was, both as a player, man and personality, and knew he could use him in this way without trouble.

Humphries was granted 24.9 minutes per game and played in all but one contest during the month of January. In February, he was slashed back down to 17.7 minutes per game. Since March has started, though, he is back up to a season-high average of 25.1 minutes.

This is a player who has been the butt of a lot of jokes in his career. Some came as a result of his ex-wife's reality show. Others mocked his game or appearance. Humphries doesn't get a ton of breaks. Not that a role player getting $12 million should catch breaks. However, the scorn of pop culture grew to out-weigh his on-court production and abilities.

Throughout all that, coupled with the roster turnover created by trades and Rondo's return and all the losing, Humphries has remained as prepared and ready as anyone on the roster.

Right before the trade deadline, Humphries talked with The Boston Herald's Mark Murphy.

It depends. Sometimes you get traded and it’s a money thing, sometimes it’s because a team wants you, or sometimes you get thrown into a deal because a team wants somebody else. It’s hard to draw into all that. You have to go prove yourself and take the emotion out of it. Fans don’t like to hear that it’s part of the business. But you have to keep it as pure as possible and play hard.

Nobody on the court appears to try harder, regardless of the score or time on the clock. Humphries is hustling, working for position and communicating with his teammates to the best of his ability. Some nights that ability is great, and others it definitely isn't enough, but his tenacity and effort can't really be questioned.

In that recent loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, Humphries had that memorable buzzer-beater but also had a handful of big moments throughout the game. He posted 16 points, three blocks, three assists and 12 rebounds, five offensive. Along with that game, he put together three consecutive double-digit rebound games and has four double-doubles in Boston's last 10 games.

From a summer of change to a season of win-loss turmoil, Humphries hasn't changed. With minutes, he produces. He has a double-double per 36 minutes with 15.1 points and 10.9 rebounds. Whether Boston wins or loses or the game is played at home or on the road, Humphries is remarkably consistent.

Now he is averaging 8.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game on 50.2 percent shooting in 20.2 minutes per game with a respectable 18.53 PER. That is actually a top-50 mark in the NBA right now and leads all Celtics.

Humphries is a brick house in the paint. He is tough to move, has soft hands and a nose for rebounding the ball. It is still his effort, though, that will occasionally catch your eye in the middle of a Celtics game.

Whether it is expertly boxing out a taller opponent or racing to fill a lane in the fast break, giving Rondo another option to target, you can start noticing his on-court play maybe a little more than that $12 million on the payroll.

Humphries may not be worth that money. In fact, he definitely isn't, especially to a 23-46 team. However, even those teams have people who watch their games. For those of us who have made a regular habit of it, Humphries deserves more credit for making it bearable and occasionally enjoyable.

 

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