Press Play on Phil Pressey

Posted by Clevis Murray on Saturday, May 24, 2014 with No comments

As a little kid it's a natural instinct to dream big as we all want to become great at what we do. World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE)  Hall of Famer Bret Hart's motto was "The Best there is, the Best there was and the Best there ever will be." That's the slogan that every athlete should follow because they all should aim to be the best at their craft. In the NBA that motto is hard to follow; especially when one is selected in the 2nd round but to be undrafted makes that motto irrelevant but one can use it as motivation. 

Former Missouri guard and the son of 11-year NBA veteran, Paul, Phil Pressey was projected as a late to undrafted player in the 2013 NBA Draft by many “experts”. He did not have his name called by then NBA Commissioner David Stern or Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver and his dreams of joining a exclusive fraternity was falling from his grasp. Going undrafted must've hurt the ego of Pressey, because as a little kid he would go the gym with his father who was a assistant coach for the Celtics, along with playing his AAU games in Waltham where the team practices and idolizing Celtics' legend Paul Pierce. Along with other offspring of NBA players ala Austin Rivers - son of Doc Rivers - and also being scared of the forward.

"We used to be there shooting before practices and games,” Austin Rivers said. “Then he would come up and say, ‘Y’all got to get off. It’s our turn now.’ We were like, all right. We were scared of him at that point."

Pressey recalls watching now 36-year old NBA citizen Paul Pierce play as a youthful child back at the Fleet Center alongside of Antonie Walker.

"He’s one of my favorite players,” Pressey said. “Me being younger, eighth grade, you always were just kind of drawn to whoever were the best players on the team. When him and Antoine Walker were on the same team, that was like my favorite. Because all they did was shoot threes. That was fun to watch."

As a basketball player, he knew he had the talent to be one of sixty players drafted into the association but he wasn't and despite that he still felt as if he belonged. 

"I was just frustrated because I knew I had a chance to be drafted," Pressey said.

Phil Pressey was given a chance by a team he was familiar with in the past as a child which was the Boston Celtics as they signed him to be part of their summer league roster and after a humdrum summer league in which he averaged 9.4 points, 6.6 assists, 2.2 rebounds and a PER of 12.0, the Boston Celtics decided to sign him to a contract. On July 22, 2013 the then 22-year old signed a 3-year deal with the Celtics with the first year being guaranteed with him making $490,180. Pressey signing that contract was a great start to his NBA career as All-Star guard Rajon Rondo was still recovering from a Torn ACL and the team needed another ball-handler to be the leader while their "captain" was recovering from battle. No one wants to go undrafted and become a free agent but Pressey cherished it becoming one and somewhat suggested it as being a better option than most cases. He believes it behooved him in the long run because he was put in a position in which he was granted a opportunity on a rebuilding team in search of young talent

"After the 45th pick, it’s almost like you want to go undrafted because you never know what the team is going to do with you when they have your rights,” Pressey said. “So unless you’re 100 percent (sure that) the team is going to keep you, you might want to go undrafted so that you don’t end up overseas or getting sent to the D-League.......Do I want to hear my name called and go to a team that will probably send you overseas or cut you? Or just wait and go undrafted, and go to a team that really wants you."

Pressey had a feeling the Boston Celtics were a good fit for him to make a name for himself in the league due to the direction to team was heading in the era of Rajon Rondo after the departure of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Doc Rivers.

"I kind of knew that was probably going to be the place for me, my best shot to make it in the NBA,” Pressey said. “A lot of guys want to get drafted and hear their name called. But after the first 35 picks or so, you don’t want to get drafted. Because they have your rights and they can just send you overseas. That was probably the best thing I did in my life, because going undrafted was the best thing that ever happened to me."

As a rookie, Pressey came off the bench for the most part and in certain junctures of time he showed the fans and organization that he could be part of the Celtics immediate future. First year coach Brad Stevens trusted Pressey with the key to the car and allowed him to drive for awhile until Rondo came back and he needed to take a backseat but even so, Rondo would receive nights off due to rest and Pressey would be inserted into the starting lineup.

"There’s so much you can learn from (Rondo) from a talent aspect,” Pressey said. “But the most I’ve learned from him is his leadership on the court – how he manages the game offensively and defensively. It’s like when he’s on the court, everything’s where it needs to be. Guys are in their spots. Guys are competing at a high level. Just, his leadership is unmatchable out there."

"Phil’s case, it worked out perfectly,” former teammate and current D-League front office official Jarrett Sutton said. “I think the Celtics were always interested in him and knew he would be there if he didn’t get drafted. It’s worked out for him. He’s kind of a rare case." 

His rookie season was filled with great highlights and his play shouldn't be taken for granted as he showed he deserves to be in the exclusive of about 400 and is a reliable backup Point Guard. In a catastrophic season for the 17-time NBA champions, the now 23-year old guard averaged 2.8 points, 3.2 assists and 1.4 rebounds. Pressey is watching his dream of being a pro unravel in front of his eyes and taking this opportunity and running like Usain Bolt with it.

"I think when I’ve had the opportunity to play, I’ve done the best I can,” said Pressey, whose work ethic has been praised by Stevens and teammates throughout the season. “I went out there playing my hardest. There’s not much more I can do. My rookie year is going well so far. I mean, I wish we won a lot more. But I feel like for me personally, it’s gone up and down. But overall it’s pretty good."

"I’ve been dreaming since I was a little kid to start in an NBA game," Pressey said. "and I’ve had great assists games, and I’ve scored my career high. I’m just trying to learn as much as I can this season so I can come back next year even better."

Over the course of the NBA season, Pressey has soaked up knowledge about the parameters of the NBA and learned why veteran players say NBA stands for "No. Boys. Allowed." Pressey is ready for next season after what he learned in a tumultuous season. Phil Pressey has become a local favorite in Boston with his play on the court and with him having a past in Boston. He has become a cache of youthful prospects Danny Ainge has assembled in white and green, and has a solid rookie season in a wasted season. Pressey won't become a All-Star but has proved he can play in this level when needed as he is ready for any situation he's out in.

"Make sure you’re ready,” Pressey said. “You need to look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself if you’re ready. Don’t just leave because it’s the NBA. I mean, the NBA takes no type of sympathy. If you’re not ready, they’re going to let you know it, and they’re going to send you elsewhere."