Ryan L. Fox
The Boston Celtics are one of the NBAs proudest and most historic franchise in the league’s history. From banners to championship trophies, the Celtics are revered, respected, and envied by many. There is also the number of great and Hall-of-Fame players who have laced it up and played on the hardwood floor of the old Boston Garden (now TD Garden). You can just rattle off so many Celtics greats. Bill Russell, K.C. and Sam Jones, Bob Cousy, Larry Bird, Robert Parish, and Paul Pierce just to name a few and that’s only scratching the surface.
But for every Celtic great, there is a player who turns out to be a complete and utter dud. Whether it is due to injuries, poor play, off-court issues, or other variables, things just did not turn out so well for these players and their time with the green and white was something to forget. Just bringing up their can cause some fans to wince and others to bristle.
Today, we’ll be looking back on some of the worst Celtics players to ever grace the court during the past 20 years in the 21st century. Just be thankful Celtics those players won't be walking through those doors any time soon.
Honorable Mention: PF/C Vitor Faverani (2013-14)
You’re probably asking yourself ‘Who the bleep is this guy?’ Well Vitor was a Brazilian basketball player that the Celtics signed to a 3-year, $6.18 million contract back in the 2013 NBA offseason. He was a starter for the first few games of the 2013-2014 NBA season before being relegated to the bench. While on the bench, Faverani spent a majority of the season bouncing between the Celtics and their NBA D-League (now G-League) affiliate Maine Red Claws (now Maine Celtics) before suffering a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee that ended his season. In 37 games, Faverani averaged just 4.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, 0.4 assists, and 0.7 blocks in 13.2 minutes per game. He didn’t play again in the NBA as he was waived by the team on December 28, 2014.
5. SF Gerald Wallace (2013-2015)
If you’re not familiar with the name, Gerald Wallace was one of five players and four 1st-round picks that the Celtics got back from the Nets during the 2013 Nets-Celtics trade that sent SF Paul Pierce and PF Kevin Garnett (along with SG Jason Terry and a couple of drafts). But instead of getting a player that averaged over 15 points and 7 rebounds per game with the then Charlotte Bobcats (16.4 ppg and 7.5 ppg in 7 seasons with the team), they got an injury-riddled player instead. Wallace just averaged 5.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in 24.4 minutes per game in his first year with the Celtics coming off the bench. He also suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee on Feburary 28, 2014 that forced him to miss the remainder of the season.
Then in the 2014-15 campaign, Wallace just only played in 32 games while averaging career lows in points (1.1) and assists (0.3) per game while tallying the second lowest minutes per game (8.9) of his career while coming off the bench. He was then unceremoniously traded to the Golden State Warriors (along with teammate SG Chris Babb) in exchance for PF/C David Lee.
4. SF Gordon Hayward (2017-2020)
Ah yes, Glass Gordon. Once considered to be one of the new foundation pieces of the new ‘Big Three’ era in Boston along with PF/C Al Horford and PG Kyrie Irving, Hayward’s time with the Celtics was more known for his injuries rather than his play on the court. After signing a 4-year, $128-million deal during the 2017 NBA Offseason, Heyward’s season abruptly ended before it began as he fractured his left tibia and dislocated his left ankle within the first five minutes of the season opener against the Cavaliers.
Since that injury, Hayward’s time with the Celtics was highlighted by more injuries (ankle sprains, fractured fingers, concussions) as well being relegated to coming off the bench but getting extra minutes which aggravated some of his teammates (*cough* Marcus Morris *cough* Jaylen Brown *cough*). After his Celtics contract expired, Heyward was part of a sign-and-trade deal with the Charlotte Hornets on November 29, 2020, along with a 2023 and 2024 second-round pick in exchange for a conditional 2022 second-round pick.
3. C Jermaine O'Neal (2010-2012)
There have been a bunch of big men that the Celtics gotten (either by draft or by free agency) that didn’t pan out as planned. Raef LaFrentz, Rasheed Wallace, Tyler Zeller, and Gerald Wallace just to name a few but the biggest disappointing big man belongs to C Jermaine O’Neal. The former 6-time NBA All-Star was coming off a respectable 2009-10 campaign with the Miami Heat where he played in 70 games (starting in all of them) and posted up respectable numbers, averaging 13.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 1.4 blocks in 28.4 minutes per game. A far cry from his playing days with the Indiana Pacers (nearly averaged a career double-double with them 18.6 ppg and 9.6 rpg) but still good enough to attract the attention of the Celtics. They signed O’Neal to 2-year, $11.991-million deal in the 2010 NBA offseason.
In his first season with the Celtics, O’Neal missed 58 regular season games (nearly ¾ of the season) due to left knee and left wrist injuries. When he wasn’t injured, O’Neal put up stats that resembled more of when he first broke into the league in the late 90s with the Portland Trailblazers. He ended up playing in just 24 games averaging 5.4 points, 3.7 rebounds, 0.5 assists, and 1.3 blocks in 18.0 minutes per game.
The following season, O’Neal ended up starting in more games than his first season (24 games compared to 10) but he only played in 25 out of a possible 32 games to start the year before going on the shelf with another wrist injury in late February of 2012. O’Neal finished the season with 5.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, 0.4 assists, and 1.7 blocks in 22.8 minutes per game before being waived/released by the team in April that season.
2. PF/C Vin Baker (2002-2004)
Vin Baker, a name that will make some of the older Celtic fan base wince and grimace.
Originally selected 8th overall in the 1993 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks, Baker enjoyed some early success in his basketball career. He averaged 18.3 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.3 blocks in 38.3 minutes per game during his 4-year tenure with Bucks from 1993-1997 and made 3 NBA All-Star Teams (1995-1997), was named All-NBA Third Team (1997) and NBA All-Rookie First Team (1994).
Following the 1997 season, Baker was traded to the Seattle SuperSonics where he enjoyed some relative success with his new team. He made an NBA All-Star appearance and was named All-NBA Second Team in 1998, won a gold medal during the 1999 FIBA Americas Championship for Team USA, and helped the USA Men’s basketball team get gold during the 2000 Olympics in Sydney Australia.
But during his time with the SuperSonics, Baker dealt with weight issues that affected his in-game performance (when he reported back to the team after the 98-99 NBA Lockout, he weighed over 300lbs). His numbers declined immensely after heading into the 21st century (his points per game average dropped from 16.6 during the 1999-2000 NBA season to 12.2 during the 2000-01 NBA season as did his rebounds per game average from 7.7 to 5.7). Following the end of the 2001-02 NBA season, Baker was traded to the Boston Celtics, along with teammate PG/SG Shammond Williams, for PG Kenny Anderson, C Vitaly Potapenko, and SG Joseph Forte.
In his first season with the Celtics for the 2002-03 NBA season, Baker posted arguably his worst stat line of his NBA career. In 52 games, Baker only averaged 5.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.2 assists, and 0.6 blocks in 18.3 minutes per game. Not to mention that weight issues popped up yet again as it then it finally came out why Baker was having problems maintaining his physique.
It turned out that Baker was dealing with alcoholism, stemming from bouts with depression. The team found out (and later confirmed by Baker later on) that after poor game performances, Baker would binge drink at home during home games and in his hotel room while the team was on the road to help him ease through the feeling of disappointment. In fact during the 2002-03 season, there were a few times in practice that season (and more likely the previous one as well) that then Celtics head coach Jim O’Brien could smell alcohol coming off Baker and suspended him from the team.
Although his numbers improved slightly during the 2003-2004 NBA season (9.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.5 assists in 27.0 minutes per game), Baker’s bouts with alcohol didn’t. The Celtics ultimately released Baker that season.
It’s sad to hear how a once talented NBA player got his career derailed due to mental health issues and seeing him turn to the bottle. Although his Celtics career ended abruptly and miserably, Baker was able to get help for his depression and alcoholism later post-NBA and has been pretty much clean ever since.
1. PG Kyrie Irving (2017-2019)
Oh boy. If there was a poster boy for the entitled, ‘I think I’m the smartest guy in the room’, ‘My s**t don’t stink’ model that is today’s NBA player, it is Kyrie Irving.
The former Duke (that’s really stretching it since he pretty much played like 10 games and then bounced for the NBA) and Cleveland Cavaliers point guard was coming off a 2016-2017 NBA season where the team lost again to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA finals and was tired of playing Robin to LeBron James’ Batman. So on August 22, 2017, Irving was shipped to the Boston Celtics in exchange for PG Isaiah Thomas, SF Jae Crowder, C Ante Zizic, the rights to the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round pick, and then later a 2020 second-round pick via the Miami Heat for compensation of a failed physical by Thomas.
It seemed like the perfect trade. The Celtics finally got the NBA super star that they desired to lead their team and Kyrie got his chance to be the Alpha Dog on his own team and not have to share the limelight with anybody.
In his first season with the Celtics during the 2017-2018 NBA season, Kyrie averaged 24.4 points, 5.1 assists, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.1 steals in 32.2 minutes per game and was named an NBA All-Star in 60 games with the team. Unfortunately for him, he ended up missing the remainder of the season and the team’s postseason run as he had to go through medical procedures to first remove a tension wire in his left knee and then remove two screws from his left patella from 2015 that repaired a fracture he suffered during the NBA Finals that year.
The team ended up making it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals without him, losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in seven games. In the pivotal Game 7, Kyrie was a no-show for the Celtics, not even to cheer his teammates on and be there to support them. It was then later found out that he was getting a nose job for his upcoming Uncle Drew movie.
That’s when things started to go sour between the Celtics and Kyrie.
Going into the final year of his current deal, Kyrie opened up the 2018-2019 season with his now infamous ‘If you like to have me back, I’ll be back’ speech with the season-ticketholders as the Celtics green teamers blindly cheered and hollered.
That ended up being far from the truth as throughout the entirety of that season, it came out that Kyrie and the Celtics nearly clashed at every turn. He was cantankerous and cold to arguably one of the more team-friendly media in Boston to the point and showed little interest to one of the NBA’s most loyal fanbase. Reports then trickled out that he was butting heads with his younger teammates like PG Terry Rozier, SG Jaylen Brown, and SF/PF Jayson Tatum to the point where he loathed being with them and wasn’t hesitant to call them out in the media.
Then came the infamous ‘All-Star Hallway’ fiasco down in Charlotte, NC during the NBA All-Star game. Kyrie was caught on camera talking with then Golden State Warriors SF Kevin Durant about forming a ‘super team’ down in New York (most presumed it was the Knicks at the time) with him mouthing out ‘two max deals.’ When asked about it by Celtics media regarding his future with the team, Kyrie flipped out like somebody in a relationship that had been caught cheating, saying that ‘he doesn’t owe anybody s**t’.
Charming fellow that Kyrie guy is. Ironically enough though, he averaged career highs in assists per game (6.9) and, at the time, rebounds per game (3.9) while tying a career high in steals per game (1.5) to along with his other stats (23.8 points per game).
Finally came the postseason. After brushing off the Indiana Pacers in the first round, the Celtics took on the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. But by then the whole world could see that Kyrie Irving was done being a Celtic. After winning Game 1 of the series 112-90 where he tied a playoff career high of 11 assists, Kyrie essentially turtled on the team. He just kept chucking the ball up whenever he got the chance to and turtled on defense as the Celtics ended up losing the series 4-1 and were knocked out of the playoffs.
To add insult to injury, Irving ended up going to none other than the Brooklyn Nets where he continues to this day to do everything he can to essentially get back at the Celtics and their fan base (i.e. avoid playing the team by creating phantom injuries, accusing the fans of being racist if they boo him, stomping on the logo).
Kyrie is like an ex trying to screw you over even though they were at fault as to why the relationship failed. Hopefully for Celtics fans, he doesn't come back and if he does, I doubt management would take him back.
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