Wilcox rising to challenge after nearly being traded

When reports came out that the Celtics nearly traded Chris Wilcox to the Wizards instead of Jason Collins, many Celtics fans were surprised. We had seen what Wilcox was capable of when he was healthy, and his ability to run the floor, and rebound at a solid rate were things that Collins could never do. But the Celtics felt differently obviously, and nearly shipped Wilcox (with the injured Leandro Barbosa) to Washington for Jordan Crawford, before Wilcox rejected the deal by refusing to waive his early-bird rights. Following the deal, Wilcox was left as the only serviceable big man off the bench for the C's, and the Boston Globe's Baxter Holmes wrote about how Wilcox has responded to a very pointed message by Celtics coach Doc Rivers. From the article (link).

Wilcox wanted to know what role he’d be playing now that he was the only backup center on the Celtics roster, as Jason Collins had just been traded to Washington in a deal for guard Jordan Crawford.

The coach gave Wilcox a straightforward answer.

“He told me that he wanted me to go out, play hard, be aggressive, and bring energy every night,” Wilcox said Sunday before practice.


It’s worth noting, though, that Wilcox also nearly was traded to the Wizards instead of Collins, but Wilcox declined to give up his impending early Bird rights, which allow the Celtics to re-sign him without it counting against the salary cap.

Had Wilcox given up those rights, it would have facilitated the deal, and he would’ve been wearing a Wizards uniform.

On the day of the trade deadline, Rivers lamented the dealing away of Collins, saying, “We lost a very important guy in our locker room.” Rivers then said of Wilcox, “We’re putting a lot of pressure on Chris. Chris is going to have to play well.”

A day later, when Wilcox did play well against Phoenix, Rivers praised him, but said, “It can’t be one game and go have a parade. He’s got to keep doing it.”

And after Wilcox played well against Golden State, Rivers again lauded Wilcox, but added, “You’ve got to do it every night.”

I don't think it's difficult to read between the lines with Doc's quotes in Holmes' piece, and the fact that the C's tried to ship Wilcox out of town despite the fact that he's more talented that Collins - The Celts just haven't felt that Wilcox has brought them enough energy when given minutes this season. One thing that Rivers has never put up with in his time here is a lack of effort/energy, and it appears that almost getting traded has sparked Wilcox.

In four games since the trade deadline Wilcox is averaging 6.5 points, and 4.5 rebounds per game over 20 minutes. He has also shot an incredible 13-17 (76.5%) over the four games, and the Celtics are +27 when he has been on the floor.

Whether Wilcox recent play is a product of motivation after nearly being traded, finally feeling healthy, or knowing his role in the system - his production is extremely important going forward. With Jared Sullinger out for the remainder of the season, the Celtics are left with three 'rotation-quality' bigs in Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass, and Wilcox, and will need quality minutes from #44 to stay afloat in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

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