As the NBA draft entered into the back half of the second round, the future of Jabari Bird was mired in uncertainty. The 6-foot-6-inch shooting guard ended his career with the Cal men’s basketball team more refined than when he first donned the Bears’ signature gold, but an overwhelming majority of basketball pundits expected the guard to go undrafted.
Now two months removed from deputy commissioner Mark Tatum calling his name to announce the Boston Celtics had selected him with the 56th overall pick, Bird’s future, at least in the short term, has found solid ground.
Fresh off an impressive string of performances this past summer, Bird has signed a two-way contract with the Celtics, whose roster also features a former teammate of Bird’s in last year’s No. 3 overall pick, Jaylen Brown. Bird and Brown are the first alumni of Cal men’s basketball to become teammates since Jason Kidd and Lamond Murray were members of the 2005-06 New Jersey Nets.
Fellow shooting guard and second-round pick Kadeem Allen signed one of the two two-way contracts allocated to each franchise.
Bird made the most of his opportunities during the Las Vegas summer league, averaging 10.0 points on 61.1 percent shooting from the field. The guard shined against the Golden State Warriors and the Philadelphia 76ers, scoring 17 and 15 points, respectively, while knocking down a combined 15 of 20 shots attempts.
Boston’s log jam at the guard position does not bode well for Bird’s playing time with the Celtics in this upcoming season, but the guard will have the chance to be a centerpiece of the Maine Red Claws, the franchise’s G-League affiliate, and further develop his game.
Bird’s best bet to carve out a role for himself is to become a knockdown shooter from downtown — the Celtics lost five players who shot at least 34 percent from three last season, and Marcus Smart is one of the worst shooters from beyond the arc in the game — but even at that, the former Bear will likely have to wait in the wings for most of the foreseeable future.