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Aron Baynes 'chomping at the bit' for a season of opportunity
Coming as close as the Boston Celtics did to the Finals last year, you can hardly blame them for having big expectations for the upcoming season, and Aron Baynes is no different.
“We have an opportunity to be special," Baynes said, speaking at the Celtics' media day. "I think we definitely can compete with anybody in this league if we go out there with the right mentality."
Last season's Celtics team was an exhibition of selfless, fluid basketball. Despite missing stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward for the playoffs, the team made it all the way to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals before finally being undone by LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers.
Baynes was a massive part of the team's success, not least by emerging as a 3-point threat in the playoffs, knocking down 11 of 23 attempts after having previously gone 4 of 29 for his career. The big man intends to keep spacing the floor, but isn't looking to rely on it too heavily.
A free agent in the summer, that versatility helped Baynes earn a new contract. Fitting of the man, it was no fuss, no muss, with the two-year, $11 million deal done and dusted in the first few minutes of free agency.
Clearing up his contract situation that quickly no doubt helped to make a relaxed off-season for Baynes, who said that, physically, "It was definitely the best after any basketball season I’ve ever played."
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“It wasn’t really about recovering in any type of way, it was about me trying to take a break. That was the hardest thing; I sat out for about five days and I was like ‘yeah that’s probably long enough’ but between the coaches and my wife, I was pressured into a few more days off," the big guy said.
Looking ahead, Baynes is optimistic about how head coach Brad Stevens will use all the players at his disposal, both as a player as well as someone who appreciates the subtleties of the game.
"It’s gonna be fun to be able to see what Brad can put out there and how he can affect the game with his different lineups. It’s entertaining for me to be watching film and see what he did differently to adjust to different circumstances of the game. That’s what I was talking about before, becoming a better student of the game - you can’t help but be when you’re around Brad and how he approaches the game.”
The Aussie big guy may also be taking on a bit of a mentor role, with rookie power forward Robert Williams mentioning that he has been looking to learn from the examples of some of his veteran teammates, including Baynes.
Baynes, for his part, couldn't help but drop a little good-natured dig at Williams, who didn't exactly have the most impressive of starts to his life as a pro.
For him to describe his return to the Celtics as a case of 'unfinished business', it's clear to see that Baynes is ready to get back to the business of playing basketball and helping his team go deep into the playoffs once again. A championship has to be the goal for a team that came so close last year, and Aron's raring to go.
“It’s exciting for us and everyone here is chomping at the bit to get out there and start getting up and down the floor," he said.
Baynes and the Boston Celtics start their preseason schedule against the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday morning (29 Sep) 9:30 am AEST, and will kick off the season proper with a highly-anticipated match-up against Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers.