BOSTON — There was a definite lack of humor in the Celtics’ locker room throughout their disappointing 2018-19 season.
A team that was picked to reach the NBA Finals fell flat due, in large part, to a lack of chemistry along with issues surrounding impending free agent guard Kyrie Irving.
The Celtics were a team that did not have much fun as they won 49 games and were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs.
One year later, with nine new players, including a pair on two-way contracts, the mood is different. There are more smiles and laughter on a team that gets along very well and is off to a 26-11 start.
A lot of the light-heartedness that is evident in the locker room comes from newcomer Enes Kanter, the 6-foot-10 center from Turkey who keeps everyone loose with his laid-back style.
Kanter, who has been on five teams since entering the NBA with the Utah Jazz in 2011, has a down-to-earth way about him that is appreciated by teammates.
But that is far from the only contribution Kanter has made during his first season in Boston.
He has been a key to the second unit, averaging 9.1 points on 58 percent shooting and a team-best 8.6 rebounds in only 18.3 minutes. Kanter ranks among the NBA leaders with 3.1 offensive rebounds per game.
Kanter’s abilities were on display Saturday night when the Celtics routed the shorthanded New Orleans Pelicans, 140-105.
He was on the floor for just 23:05 but had 22 points on 10 for 13 shooting and grabbed 19 rebounds, including seven at the offensive end.
According to the Celtics, he is the team’s first player to come off the bench and have at least 22 points with 19 or more rebounds since Larry Bird went for 31 points and 21 rebounds on March 16, 1982, in a rare stint with the second unit.
Kanter is also the first Celtics player since Ed Pinckney on April 19, 1994, to come off the bench and get 19 rebounds.
“He’s been pretty consistent with his ability to score in the paint and rebound the ball,” said coach Brad Stevens, whose team continues a three-game homestand against the Chicago Bulls Monday night. “He’s a really good rebounder and he’s got a wonderful touch. That’s the thing that we’ve seen, certainly, in the last two months.”
Kanter has averaged 11.8 points and 7.7 rebounds while playing 22 minutes a game during his nine-year NBA career.