Monroe getting into rhythm with CelticsBy STEVE BULPETT
March 07. 2018 9:46PM
CHICAGO — There are still things Greg Monroe needs to work on. His game is fitting better seemingly by the day with the Celtics.
But the hat... It’s a problem.
Perched on the upper shelf of his locker in the far left corner of the visitors’ dressing room at the United Center late Monday night was a blue baseball cap with the intertwined “NY” facing outward. That’s right, a Yankee hat.
Monroe laughed as he tried to explain that he just wanted to wear something blue and that, when informed that the Red Sox cap is also navy, the red in the latter wouldn’t work with his outfit, which, of course, featured those fashionable ripped jeans.
He tried to contend he has no baseball favorite — he was born in New Orleans, home of the Triple-A Baby Cakes — but eventually let on that the “Bronx Bombers are back.” He laughed again when told he should probably keep the Yankee lid tucked away when he’s walking around Boston.
Yet, despite what the locals would term a character flaw, the bet is that Celtic followers will forgive him his lack of diamond discretion if he keeps playing the way he has in the last three games.
After struggling a bit early as he tried to find a rhythm with his third team this season and then sitting out against Memphis, Monroe has made 17 of 25 shots (68 percent) and averaged 14 points against Charlotte, Houston and Chicago. His best outing came against the Rockets when the Celts pounded the ball to him inside and he emerged with 18 points, including a 6 for 6 effort from the free throw line in 19 minutes.
“It’s just getting into a rhythm, getting comfortable,” said the 6-foot-11 Georgetown product. “I’m just trying to be aggressive and make the right play. That’s it.”
Monroe began the season in Milwaukee, got traded to Phoenix with first and second round picks for Eric Bledsoe in November and reached a buyout agreement with the Suns on Feb. 1. The Celts signed him as a free agent on the disabled player exception granted for Gordon Hayward’s injury.
There was some question as to how it might work out, in that Brad Stevens likes his big people to be able to step out, hit jumpers and space the floor. Monroe has taken just 12 3-pointers in his eight-year career and missed them all, and while Aron Baynes is just 1 for 12 from that range all-time, he’s at least very comfortably proficient with the 15-to-18-footers that are part of his arsenal.
But Stevens is more than capable of playing to his roster’s strengths, and Monroe wasn’t concerned.
“Nah,” he said. “If they didn’t feel like I fit, I don’t think they would have pursued me. And I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have come. That’s stuff we talked about before I got here. And he hasn’t asked me to do anything I’m not comfortable with, and all the stuff they do already I feel like I am comfortable with. So it’s just about me getting my legs back under me and getting back into a flow.”
That flow was helped along by what happened Saturday when Monroe became a focal point against the NBA-leading Rockets. As much as the Celts already knew what he could do, it’s natural when stepping into a different locker room to want to prove one’s value to new teammates.
“Especially the situation here with these guys playing at an extremely high level,” said Monroe. “So it’s not just gaining their trust, but also making sure there’s no letdown from what they’re already doing.
“I just try to come in and be me. Maybe that’s why they wanted me here, because of what I’ve shown I can do. I just want to add to what they already had going.”
And what they hope to keep going well into springtime. Among the reasons Monroe chose the Celtics is the opportunity for a deep postseason run. He has appeared in just one playoff series, coming off the Bucks’ bench to average 13.2 points and 7.3 rebounds in the six-game first-round loss to Toronto.
“I’m excited,” he said. “Right now I’m just trying to get myself in the best shape possible and just be ready to do whatever they need me to do going down the stretch. But I’m looking forward to it.”
Monroe should have plenty of time to add to his wardrobe and put certain items on the inactive list.
“I have no loyalty to any baseball team,” he tried to claim again. “I just wanted a blue hat, man. We’re not in Boston right now.
“Hey, I get the rivalry, but I’m not from Boston, so I don’t identify with it. I could see if I had on a Lakers jersey or something. Then we’d have a problem.”
Monroe was still laughing as Andy Mannix, the assistant equipment manager, walked by. Mannix, a Boston diehard, shook his head.
Someone may want to start checking his shorts for Tiger Balm. Just sayin’.