By Gethin Coolbaugh, Boston Sports Today
Never in a million years did Phil Pressey think he'd be playing for his beloved Boston Celtics.
Sure, he grew up loving the Celtics -- how could he not? His dad, Paul Pressey, was an assistant coach for the Celtics from 2004 to 2006 -- but he never thought his dream would become a reality.
As fate would have it, it did this summer.
"It's a surreal feeling," said Pressey, who signed with the Celtics this offseason as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Missouri. "Growing up watching them when I was younger, of course my dad coached there. Paul Pierce is one of my like all-time favorites ... it's a surreal feeling."
Pressey was originally invited to join the Celtics' summer league team down in Orlando this July, and after averaging 9.4 points and 6.6 assists over five games, he was presented with a contract.
"My first impression was I was just excited," Pressey said. "I never thought that Boston would be a team that I would be playing for. ... Like I said, I grew up watching them and my dad coached for them. I just [didn't think] that would be possible. Everything happened the way it did and I'm grateful to be on the team."
Pressey represents another new face on the Celtics roster, and he certainly isn't the only new one following a tumultuous offseason. Boston unloaded longtime captain and future Hall of Famer Paul Pierce -- Pressey's childhood favorite -- along with defensive cornerstone Kevin Garnett in a megadeal with the Brooklyn Nets, landing the C's a boatload of new players of all ages.
"Yeah, I'm really disappointed," Pressey said about the fact that he won't be able to play with Pierce. "Like I said, I grew up watching him. Everything happens for a reason, and I'm glad that we have the team that we do now and we're able to go forward in the right direction."
The team no longer revolves around Pierce and Garnett, and the only remaining member of the 2008 championship team is All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo, but he will likely miss the beginning of the season as he continues to recover from an ACL tear that sidelined him last season.
With Rondo out, there's a chance Pressey could be the Celtics' starting point guard when opening night rolls around. Needless to say, that's a tall order for a rookie, but Pressey is taking it in stride.
"I'm anxious about the season just in general, but all of that's out of my hands," said Pressey. "I can just control hard work and everything and just getting ready for the season. If that happens, it happens. Right now, I'm just getting ready for training camp."
Pressey hasn't had a lot of interaction with Rondo yet, as the former NBA assists leader continues his rehab, but the two have exchanged texts, and Pressey is eager to learn from one of the best.
"When I went up there [in Boston] with the other rookies, he wasn't there. He was somewhere in rehab," he said. "But I've been texting him and talking to him and just trying to pick his brain. But once I go back and he's back in town, I'll have time to sit down and talk to him and really get to know him because he's one of the best point guards out there and I'm trying to learn from him."
One member of the Celtics that Pressey has had the chance to interact with is his new head coach, Brad Stevens, and Pressey is looking forward to establishing a deeper connection with his coach.
"Once he first got the job, he texted all of the players and I called him and we talked for about 10 minutes," Pressey said. "When he got down to Orlando for the summer league, he sat down and talked to us. He sat down and talked to me about 30 minutes and I just got to know all his background, what he was trying to do ... Once I get back to Boston, we'll get into it more."
The two have different backgrounds, but they have one thing in common: they're both rookies.
"[Coach Stevens] said he's on a quick learning curve himself. He said he's a new coach [coming] into the league," said Pressey. "We're both learning and I think when you're learning you have to be a student of the game. He's coming in as a rookie himself, as a rookie coach, and a student of the game and just trying to learn and [learn] as much as possible in as little amount of time."
As training camp approaches, Pressey continues to prepare for the biggest jump of his young career, and he is fully aware of the stark differences between college and NBA basketball.
"[I'm just working on] a lot of conditioning to get my condition right because it's a different type of game and just continue to hone in on a lot of my skills," Pressey said. "Just shooting, finishing with contact and just [continuing] to get better in every aspect."
Pressey prides himself on his playmaking ability, and rightfully so. In his final season at Missouri, he averaged career highs of 7.1 assists to go along with 11.9 points in 34 games. For his college career, Pressey averaged 9.7 points on 39.5 percent shooting, 5.9 assists and two steals per game.
"I'm always trying to improve all parts of my game, but since I was young I've always worked on my floater and continue to work on my mid-range game, and just getting stronger," Pressey said. "A lot of my strengths [are] making players better, playmaking. I don't think that's going to go anywhere -- I really can't work on that. I try to just keep studying the game and that's one of the biggest things I'm still trying to do, just watch a lot of film."
Since landing with the Celtics, Pressey couldn't help but notice the critics and those who think the Celtics won't be very good after their roster reset, but all he can do is worry about himself.
"I can't control what they say. I can just control going out and producing on the court," he said. "I know a lot of the guys on the team love winning. I've always been on a winning program since I was a kid. We're going to have our ups and downs, I know that, but my main focus is winning and doing whatever it takes to win. ... I can't control what other people say."