Michael Finley No Joke When It Comes to Still Hitting a Jumper
Michael Finley, born when Nixon was in the White House, is that guy. So it was no surprise the 37-year-old shooting guard has heard ample ribbing since he arrived in Boston earlier this month and became the Celtics' most senior citizen.
"I've heard all the jokes that I'm the oldest guy on the team, and that Rasheed (Wallace) and Kevin (Garnett) are not the oldest anymore,'' Finley said.
Some of those jokes come from Wallace, 35, and Garnett, soon to be 34, who realize there aren't a lot of guys who can make them seem young. And some come from other Boston players.
"He is one of those guys who I first saw play when I was in diapers,'' said guard Rajon Rondo, 24.
But Finley is putting smiles on faces of teammates for other reasons. He still can play.
After being waived by San Antonio on March 1 by his request due to inactivity, the 6-foot-7 Finley plucked off the cobwebs and signed March 5 with Boston. The Celtics, having clearly dropped out of being lumped with Cleveland and Orlando to comprise a Big Three in the East, figured it couldn't hurt to bring him aboard.
"I didn't have a lot for him coming in,'' Celtics coach Doc Rivers admitted about expectations surrounding Finley. "Because I didn't know. He hadn't played much in San Antonio. We just knew we were getting a good guy, a high-character guy that has seen everything. But his shot has been terrific. His passing has been very good. He's just been doing a lot of good things for us.''
In nine Boston games, Finley is averaging 6.3 points and 14.4 minutes. He's shooting 54.5 percent, including 44.4 percent (8-of-18) from three-point range.
How smooth has Finley looked? The guy with the NBA's smoothest stroke is impressed.
"He gives us a lot more versatility,'' said guard Ray Allen. "When I come out, there's not really a drop-off from a shooting perspective. ... (Opposing players would say before) when I came out that, 'I get to rest before Ray comes back.' Now, they got to see Finley. That's not easy for anybody.''
Finley once was one of the NBA's top shooting guards, making All-Star Games in 2000 and 2001 during a stretch from 1997-2002 when he averaged more than 20 points for Dallas for five straight seasons. But Finley had slipped a bit by 2005, and the Mavericks waived him to take advantage of the NBA's one-time amnesty rule, meaning they wouldn't have to pay luxury tax on his then huge contract.
Finley resurfaced with the Spurs, where he played for 4 ½ seasons. That included winning his only NBA title in 2007.
But while Finley, who averaged between 9.0 and 10.1 points in four full San Antonio seasons, has no problem late in his career with being a role player, he didn't want to be a no-role player. So, while averaging 4.4 points and barely playing for the Spurs, he approached team officials not long before the March 1 deadline for players to be waived and be eligible for the postseason with another team.
"I came to them,'' said Finley, who has a 15-year career scoring average of 15.8. "I was just curious about my situation at the time. I wasn't getting any minutes, and I was just curious of where they saw me as a basketball player. ... It was mutual (being waived). I was just in a situation where they thought they could afford to let me go and not miss a beat.
"I still have a lot of respect for the coaches and the organization there. We just went our separate ways. ... I thought I could give more to (a) team. I came (to Boston), and I'm not playing major minutes but I'm playing a little to spell the starters. That's all I pretty much was looking for. ... So far, so good.''
The Celtics are counting on Finley being able to hit some big shots in the playoffs. He can help fill the void created when they shipped sharpshooter Eddie House last month to New York for Nate Robinson, who also can hit an outside jumper but is limited at times by being 5-9.
If all goes well, Finley is hoping to get a contract for next season. He's not one to believe that most shooting guards his age are not only washed up but also have been through a full dryer cycle.
"I want to definitely finish out this year and put myself in a position to play next year,'' said Finley, the NBA's sixth-oldest player and second-oldest guard behind Oklahoma City's sparingly used Kevin Ollie. "Then after that I don't know. We'll see. The key for me is to take care of my body and continue to eat well and do all the things physically that I can do to put myself in a position to help a team. ... I'm still chasing (another) ring. That's why I'm still playing.''
And that's why he's putting up with all those wisecracks.
"The younger guys, they joke about how they were watching me when I was in grade school,'' Finley said.
Actually, Rondo said it was diapers.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @christomasson