Aron Baynes had a positive message for his young, defeated Boston Celtics squad after they were eliminated from the NBA Playoffs by LeBron James’ latest superhuman effort.
In a post-game address to his teammates, Baynes recalled how he was on the San Antonio Spurs side who lost a heartbreaking game seven in the championship series to the James-led Miami Heat in 2013.
The loss did not weaken the Spurs, featuring All-Star Tim Duncan and fellow Australian Patty Mills, but made them stronger and the next year they comprehensively beat James and the Heat 4-1 to win the title.
“I told the team the 2013 Spurs lost a game seven and it galvanised the group,” Baynes said on Monday.
James played all 48 minutes of Sunday night’s Eastern Conference game seven 87-79 victory in Boston and had a monster 35 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists.
The Celtics had led for most of the game, but wilted down the stretch.
The Cavs won the series 4-3 and will play the winner of the Western Conference Finals between the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors.
That series will be decided on Monday (Tuesday AEST 11am) in a game seven in Houston.
The Celtics overachieved this season.
They were not given much of a chance after All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward suffered season-ending injuries.
Coach Brad Stevens, however, rallied his team, led by NBA Rookie of the Year candidate Jayson Tatum and a young core of players – including Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier – stepped up to support Baynes and All-Star forward Al Horford to make the playoff run.
Baynes was on a relatively cheap one-year $US4.3 million ($5.7m) contract with the Celtics and now becomes an unrestricted free agent.
His playoff form will likely result in new multi-year contract offers from rival teams, putting him alongside the deals Boomer teammates Joe Ingles (four-year $US52 million with the Utah Jazz) and Mills (four-years $US49 million with the Spurs) pocketed last year.
Baynes is open to returning to Boston.
“I would love to be a part of it in the future,” Baynes said.
Baynes also revealed he broke his nose in Friday’s game-six loss to the Cavaliers and will have to undergo surgery.
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