FORT WAYNE – Watch the sidelines closely today as the TV cameras pan across the floor during Game 7 of the NBA Finals, and there’ll be a fleeting glimpse of Boston Celtics guard Oliver Lafayette, less than three months removed from being a member of Fort Wayne’s Mad Ants.
It’s been unbelievable, Lafayette said of his NBA life.
As soon as the 2009-10 NBA D-League season ended, the 6-foot-2 Lafayette was called from the Ants to the Celtics, where he scored seven points in his only regular-season appearance before the playoffs began.
Instead of releasing Lafayette, with the near certainty that he’d be picked up by another team, the Celtics retained the guard, even though there wasn’t room for him on the playoff roster. Although he cannot play, Lafayette has practiced, warmed up and traveled with the Celtics throughout their run to the NBA Finals.
It’s amazing to think I’m one game away from a (championship) ring, Lafayette said.
But the idea is to make this new life believable, and the long-range goal is for it not to be fleeting.
You can’t imagine what it’s like, going from Fort Wayne to almost an NBA championship, Lafayette said. It’s been great getting to know these guys and being with them on and off the court.
Even though he is practice fodder for starting point guard Rajon Rondo and backup point Nate Robinson, Lafayette has enough chops to get noticed.
He started 42 games with the Mad Ants this past D-League season, was third on the team averaging 17.1 points, and added 6.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game.
In his final nine games in which the Ants closed out the season with an 8-1 record, Lafayette averaged 25 points.
And now he’s literally rubbing shoulders with the guys he watched on TV back during those long bus-ride months of January and February.
Just being with them on the court, I’m learning, Lafayette said. You wait to make a play; not forcing things; to use quickness in the open court. I’ve learned a lot of things from these guys.
He says he still keeps in touch with a couple of his Mad Ants teammates – Anthony Kent and Rod Wilmont. They want to know how he’s doing, and he tells them that he’s doing fine, thanks.
Admittedly, it’s a decent gig – practicing with a team that won the NBA title two years ago and is one win away from another. But there is so much more.
I know I’ve got the goods, he says. I’m just waiting for the summer league.
That’s when he can do his thing, and not be forced to run the scout plays. It’s when the player nicknamed O can show his O – with some D mixed in.
So the last few weeks have been split between the two coasts; Boston one day, L.A. the next; of guarding Rondo and watching Kobe, and seeing Jack in his court-side seat.
I’ve seen so much already, Lafayette says. I don’t get overwhelmed by nothing, but it’s hard not to be.