After a long journey, Abdel Nader is finally getting his first real shot in the NBA with the Boston Celtics
Just a day after moving into his Waltham, MA home, Abdel Nader was off to Canobie Lake Park alongside fellow rookie Gursheon Yabusele to meet kids from the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty as part of the Shamrock Foundation.
There, Nader sported Navy blue shorts with a mic box attached to the right side of his hip with black cords from the device dangling about five inches south. Nader was all smiles with part of his t-shirt tucked behind the mic box as he was enjoying spending part of his day assisting with the Boston Celtics family.
Nader’s actually been a member of the Celtics family since 2016. He was selected by the organization with the 58th overall pick. Being a second-round pick, he was granted some flexibility and uncertainty throughout that summer. He was faced with an overseas offer in Russia worth $350,000, per reports. He could accept it or continue to pursue the NBA dream now rather than later.
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Nader took a risk and decided to follow his childhood dream of being in the NBA. The 6-foot-6 guard first needed to make a pit-stop in the D-League, now the G League, for an entire season with the Celtics’ affiliate, the Maine Red Claws.
In Nader’s lone season in Maine, he averaged 21.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 40 games. He was impressive. He won the league’s Rookie of the Year award along with leading the team to a 29-21 record while claiming the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference.
“I just wanted to go in and dominate as much as I could,” said Nader. “I knew I was going to be a feature player; the ball was going to be in my hands. I just took it from there.”
In Maine, he was the man. He held a 28.94 usage percentage. Despite being the go-to guy, Nader’s main focus was to use the developmental system and improve his skill-set. From his already lethal shooting, to his defense and leadership amongst his peers, he knew he had work to do. Nader wanted to become better, and his former head coach in Maine, Scott Morrison, saw the potential in him.
“I think his biggest asset is his versatility,” said Morrison, who’s now an assistant in Boston. “He can play multiple positions on both sides of the ball, and the way the NBA is kind of trending is that guys have to be versatile. They have to be able to switch on defense. They have to be able to have a wide skill-set, offensively. He has those things and he has the potential to get even better, not to mention he’s a great athlete with great length.”
At the Portsmouth Invitational in 2016, Nader posted a 7-foot-1 wingspan, which helped him peel of a steal per game. It’s his versatility on defense that will get him on the court for coach Brad Stevens. Just ask Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier. The Celtics already have a plethora of offensive juggernauts with Gordon Hayward, Al Horford and either Isaiah Thomas or Kyrie Irving, depending on if that trade is finalized or rescinded.
Coach Morrison does see Nader receiving playing time on the main roster if he prevents himself from making the typical rookie mistakes – cutting down on turnovers, prevent taking bad shots, and minimize defensive mistakes. If Nader can do all that in the limited role he’ll have to start the season, then it could help him stand out to coach Stevens as time progresses throughout the year.
“Just start by being the guy that coach Stevens can rely on to not hurt the team out there,” said Morrison. “As he establishes himself as a guy who’s not going to hurt the team, then he can start to show more and more of the strengths he has and maybe expand his game a little bit more.”
Morrison does believe Nader has “a lot of the tools required” to play at the NBA level. The confidence being exuded by the former Coach of the Year isn’t what Nader received coming out of a two-year stint at Iowa State. When he declared for the draft, he was being told by multiple who recruited him that he was overseas bound. All of them were chirping the same idea except one: Cervando Tejeda.
“All I did was put a plan together,” said Tejeda. “He stayed with that plan. He believed in that plan and he trusted the process. He trusted my process when he got drafted; he trusted the Celtics process.”
It took a lot of work for Nader’s long-shot dream in the eyes of some to come true. From being a long-shot draftee, to an ideal overseas prospect, to inking a lengthy deal with one the most storied franchises in all of sports.
“I was really excited,” said Nader on receiving a four-year contract. “I wasn’t sure what to think at first. The fact that they would offer me a four-year deal, was basically them showing faith in me and their willingness to work with me over a period of time. That was the biggest thing that really stuck out to me. They drafted me when no one else would. They basically believed in me when no one else would.”
Nader’s deal with the Celtics is fully guaranteed the first year and partially guaranteed the second year, according to a source.
With his opportunity finally here, Nader is focused on using it to his advantage on and off the court. The 2017 D-League All-Star intends on using his increased platform to be a guiding light for those who need just a slight dim of hope. Especially in his native country of Egypt.
“If I can help some kids from where I’m from – the middle east North Africa area – and inspire them to better their lives with basketball because it’s helped me so much, that would mean the world to me.”
Despite leaving the country at the age of three for Illinois, Nader stays up to date on what’s going in Egypt. From the Egyptian revolution in 2011, along with the government itself tied along with societal concerns and unequal income distribution, Nader is aware and what’s to be change for others.
“Any positivity I can bring to that country,” said Nader. “Any hope I can give kids or families that they can make it out or better their lives, that’s the end goal.”
When it comes to basketball in Egypt, Nader does have interest in playing for their national team one day. Along with being a participant in the NBA Africa game, akin to teammate Jaylen Brown this year.
Nader has goals for himself on and off the court, and his journey to achieve the greatness he envisions in himself will begin when training camp commences. The Boston Celtics are expected to open training camp during the final week of September.
Until then, the 23-year-old is focused on taking advantage of his estimated 10-minute commute from his home to the team practice facility, and continuing to get better during voluntary workouts. As coach Morrison put it, Nader is usually the first person in the gym “most of the time.”
Both Morrison and Nader graduated from Maine to the main roster, and view each other as reliable tools for each other. The two have crossed paths during workouts, and Morrison, who’s promotion to the Celtics has been in the works since last year, per source, finds it soothing to have a familiar face around him.
“It’s great,” said Morrison. “It’s nice to walk-in and see someone that I’ve already worked with and hopefully I can provide some of the comfort to him every now and then.”