Fresh off a taxing big man battle with New York’s Enes Kanter, Aron Baynes was quick to admit just how much he enjoys physical matchups.
“It’s always fun, that’s what I’m out here to enjoy and I’m just loving it.” Baynes laughs.
Despite suffering a left knee sprain which kept him out for the majority of the second half, Baynes logged 22 minutes - recording 3 points, 4 rebounds and countless screens to get his scorers open.
The injury wasn't serious. Baynes took on the Bucks two days later, where he managed the best game of his short Celtic career; 12 points and 7 rebounds.
There’s no doubt that the 2017/18 NBA season will be a career-defining one for Baynes. After signing a one-year deal with the Boston Celtics, Baynes has, in a way, bet on himself. And why wouldn’t he, when his attributes are exactly what the team needed.
Despite the pressure, Baynes’ mindset doesn’t change; he just wants to bring it every single night.
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) October 21, 2017
“Just try to be an impact with this team.” Baynes said of his role for the Celtics this season. “Be that piece that they need; trying to be physical on defence, get guys open on the offensive end and just play a solid game.”
“That’s what has gotten me to this point, and that’s what I want to bring here and keep continuing to do.”
Through five games, Baynes is averaging career-highs in multiple major statistical categories: points (7), rebounds (5.2), field goal percentage (59%) and minutes (19). He's definitely making the most of his opportunities.
Being a starter was not on the radar for Baynes in Detroit. 156 games for the Pistons over two seasons saw him start just three times. In Boston, five games into the season, Baynes has already started twice and his impact has been keenly felt.
With only four players returning from the Celtics 2016/17 team, Baynes isn’t the only one still getting acquainted, but he’s enjoying the system that coach Brad Stevens employs.
“I’m just trying to go out there and play within the system - Brad’s system is so great and I’ve played against it for a few years now and seen what it can do.” Baynes said.
“I’m happy to be playing in it. We’re all getting comfortable in it, and that’s making it a lot easier for us.”
After Baynes’ first start for the Celtics, in a matchup against the Sixers, Stevens highlighted Baynes’ game and what he brings to the table.
“I love Baynes. He does all the little stuff and he’s had a good first three games.” Stevens said.
Baynes acknowledges that having that trust and confidence from Stevens, along with the rest of the coaching staff and playing group goes a long way.
“It’s definitely something that you want. You always want people to like what you’re doing and contributing.” Baynes said.
“There’s definitely a lot of areas that I can get better in and that’s what is so fun about being here. We’re playing pretty well but we can get a lot better and we all know it and that’s what we’re working towards each day.”
"I know that if I get in a jam, he's got my back," Al Horford says of Aron Baynes. pic.twitter.com/lRBC0hU8IA
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) October 27, 2017
The battle for Rookie of the Year is already a hot topic. And Aron Baynes has his allegiances tied to two of the top candidates.
Of course, there his Aussie compatriot in Ben Simmons, and then his Celtic teammate, Jayson Tatum. Both rookies have fans salivating at their respective bright futures.
Baynes isn’t picking sides though, and that’s probably a wise move. He, just like the rest of us, is enjoying what the rookies are producing.
“It’s fun to watch," Baynes chuckled. "Obviously with Jayson, you saw tonight (22 points against the Knicks) that it’s fun to watch him and he can really get it going as well. It’s going to be a fun battle, but it’s good to watch and good for all the fans.”
The future of Australian basketball has never been brighter, and Simmons is a big part of that. Baynes can’t wait for the young guns like Simmons and Thon Maker, to join the Boomers and help take basketball in this country to new heights.
“We’re definitely excited. We’ve had a core group that we’ve had for a number of years now but we’re trying to add those pieces.” Baynes said. “We’re so close to being really good that’s it’s a matter of continuity for us and then also coming together and getting everyone healthy.”
The 2020 Olympics can’t come soon enough for Australian basketball fans. Baynes is focused on the team's objective for the next Olympic Games, and doesn’t shy away from a lofty declaration, the same way the Boomers have said it, prior to their Rio campaign.
“Yeah, [a medal] is definitely our goal - there’s no question about it.” Baynes said “We have great talent and like I said, we’ve got to have everyone healthy and if we can start to play well together, it’s going to be good for us and bad for a lot of other teams I think.”
“It’s something that we’re looking forward to and it hasn’t ever changed."
We want that gold medal, and we think it’s within our grasp if we can get there healthy and playing well together.”
With the Australian team named for the upcoming FIBA World Cup Asia Qualifiers, Baynes, as he always does, will be keeping a keen eye on those tournaments.
“Yes, I’ll definitely [be watching]. I’ve looked at the team and they’ve got Damian Martin and Chris Goulding and guys that we’ve played with for a number of years.” Baynes said.
“We’re thankful that we have such great talent down there in the NBL, who can really go out there and play a solid game with what Lemanis has.” Baynes said.
With all that talent in the NBL, Baynes acknowledges how great the league is and pathway it provides to the NBA.
“Anytime Aussies are playing, I’m always trying to watch it and I watch the guys that are over here in the league and watch the NBL as well.” Baynes said.
“I know what’s going on back there and it’s always good just seeing the level of competition and even the number of guys that have gone through the NBL and are now in the NBA – it’s a good thing.”