Most of my articles come from an idea in my head that struggles/demands to get out. Usually that process goes pretty quickly—projectile vomiting and flushing a toilet come to mind as analogies and while neither calls up a pleasant picture, they are probably more apropos than I would like to admit. Occasionally, however, there is a topic that gestates. Running around and around in my head it keeps resurfacing as the Celtics’ experiences and my perception thereof keep bringing it to the forefront. In most cases the delay, and the recurrence of it boiling to the top, bespeak an ambivalence born of green-tinted desires and the hard cold splash of reality testing. Such is the case of Vakeaton Quamar Wafer.

Watching him play I find myself sadly intoning “Von, Von, Von” reminiscent of Ernest P. Worrell’s imploring the obviously disappointing and reluctant sidekick, Vern. "KnowhutImean?" Events have conspired to set up Wafer’s tenure with the Celtics to potentially become one of the most poignant success stories. A team in dire need of new young talent, made even more pressing by a string of injuries, intersecting with a player who has shown sparks of good (if not great) play who has fallen upon hard times brought on by his own character flaws, and in desperate need of redemption. Problem is, every time Von has taken a step forward, he has quickly slid back into his old (and increasingly tiresome) habits.

Often when I get one of these percolating notions, as I find myself revisiting the topic I occasionally jot down one or two ideas that just refuse to go away. My notes on Von (There Should Be an I in Team) Wafer include:
Usage rate
Defensive effort
One Delonte away from afterthought

Most of those items were penciled in six weeks ago and actually date back to the 2nd or 3rd preseason game. I keep hoping the Celtics’ culture will overcome the athlete ego but, alas, a most difficult case is proving to be this Von Wafer (strangely I find it awkward to use either his first or last name alone, more natural is a compound VonWafer--no more comfortable to separate than vanGough or Rumplestilskin).

To flesh out the notes a bit, on several occasions Wafer has come in for a five minute stint and either forced up a shot or turned the ball over on almost every offensive trip down the court. That is a usage rate of nearly 100% and it comes without any other teammate ever touching the ball. Now usually this is when he is playing with mostly scrubs during garbage time but it is still the antithesis of the Celtics Way. More recently playing with front-line players he has had some nice assists but for a while I thought he might ring up an assist-to-turnover (or assist-to-shot for that matter) ratio of zero for the season. This attitude is in stark contrast to a team philosophy of unselfish sharing that has been a major advantage over most of the league. For the several appearances before, and the ones immediately after, his defensive outing in November that garnered approval from coach and teammates alike, Von exhibited indifferent defensive attention and effort. Obviously he could “do it right” but just as obviously he mostly (usually, too often) chose not to do so. If there can be a worst, then worse yet he played without any interest in being part of the group, often dispiritedly turning away from the action when he did not get the pass, uninterested in the team huddle during timeouts, ignoring the coaches discussions, and walking away from fallen teammates. This is the converse to Ubuntu, the Ubuntu-NOT. I take an enormous interest in my game/shots/ball-possession, the rest of you—not so much. Before Delonte returned from his suspension, during his brief period of play, and since his injury, I frequently thought, “Von, this is your golden opportunity and if you don’t shape up you will be a fading footnote as soon as Delonte settles in.

Now in fairness, Wafer has shown more consistent defensive effort (although subject to the brain farts of “Hey so that’s where my man went”), the occasional nice assist, some ability to attack the basket, and even an occasional offensive rebound. Surprisingly what has deserted him is his long-range shot which was supposed to be his one strength. The team need is still pressing and the Green would greatly benefit from a focused, active, and dedicated guard who can hit the outside shot. I dare say Von would benefit from showing Doc (and the league) he can be productive and consistent. But the sand is running out of the hourglass and Wafer is in danger of blowing his limited-time opportunity. For all concerned, I hope he finds himself and that self is within the Celtics—there is an “m” and an “e” in t-e-a-m, it’s just not me first.

Lee Lauderdale 12/31/2010 12:02:00 PM Edit
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6 Responses so far.

  1. Bohemian says:

    Very well written article, bballee. I really enjoyed it. Von Wafer sounds like a character from Paul Auster's novels. There is something different in him, and I'm still trying to know the nature of this "weirdness" and if this will be of any interest to the C's :P

  2. ronit07 says:

    Is his contract guaranteed?If not plz bring lasme or even mario back?Hate to say it but I was a big fan of him when he played for the injured T-mac and was dreaming that someday he would be a celtic.If he really does not buy into the Ubuntu system then sent him to free agents or toronto.Also very nice piece MR. BBALLEE =D

  3. JR says:

    Celtics definitely made the right call going with Von Wafer over Mario, Lasme, or Gaffney. I trust Doc and Danny when it comes to decisions whether a player's character fits with the team. While Wafer hasn't shot the ball well this season that will come. I've been impressed with the defensive energy he's bringing. He's a young player and is improving every day. Not much more you can ask for from the 15th roster spot.

    When Delonte and Rondo went down we would have been in a lot of trouble if we hadn't kept Wafer.

  4. tb727 says:

    Wafer is beginning to remind me of a poor man's Artest. The way he runs it looks like he has a stick up his ass lol. The way he defends. His volatility and mobility. Now I sound like Clyde Frazier lol.

    Anyways I do like his effort and I think he should get some more time, especially at this point. If some of his jumpers begin to fall, watch out. Especially with that quick first step.

    He's a much better player than West or Gaffney and the Celts made the right decision keeping him.

  5. tb727 says:

    That's Mario West I was referring to, not Delonte...

  6. Three Toe says:

    I can't speak to his off-court contributions or lack thereof, but I think it's important to recognize that his role is a scorer with the end-of-the-bench guys. He's often not looking to pass, and probably being instructed thusly. As you say at the end of your article, his defense is improving. I have noticed him being more of a team player, even helping delonte off the floor soon after the fight they had. I think the guy is probably more mysterious than outwardly negative. I expect in time if he sees more playing time that we will get a more accurate (and I assume more positive) picture of VW.

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