It’s the summer of 2017.
Aron Baynes is weighing up his options, trying to decide which NBA city would be the best fit. In the past, the decision might have come a little easier for the Australian. But now, with his wife Rachel and young son Mason to think about, factors other than strictly on-court x’s and o’s come into play.
“At the end of the day its more about, within the city how will the family be once you determine those other things, and for us, Boston is such a great city as soon as we came here we fell in love in with it,” Baynes tells ESPN.
Immediately, the city loved him back.
From the time Baynes landed in Boston, fans have been coming up and making him and his family feel at home with words of encouragement or just a friendly chat. It’s that community environment that reaffirmed Baynes’ belief that he made the right decision moving his family to Beantown.
“Any time I walk down the street people stop and tell me how much they love what the team is doing and excited that I’m a part of it. It reaffirms that it’s the right decision and it’s the right city.”
Baynes signed with Boston in mid-July, and by the time training camp had rolled around he had already become one of the loudest voices inside the Celtics’ locker room; the Aussie bringing some of his championship experience to a squad that is hoping to topple the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference this season.
That locker room leadership is borne from an unwavering intensity, so much so that, prior to becoming a father, it was hard for Baynes to disconnect fully from basketball once he got home. But with the birth of his son, Baynes has also taken on a new perspective.
“A lot of people would say it’s mellowed me out a lot,” Baynes says. “That was something I was hoping it would do as well you know. It kind of gives me a different perspective and that was something that Pop also preached – basketball is not the most important thing in life and when you have a kid you definitely understand that.”
Back on court, Baynes has been playing his usual style of physical basketball this season. His numbers aren’t eye-popping (they rarely will be), but it’s the intangible things – setting screens, being in the right spot on the floor, grabbing rebounds – that have helped the Celtics to a Conference leading 26-9 record so far.
Led by Kyrie Irving with 25 points, seven Boston players score in double digits in a 117-92 rout of Chicago.
Baynes says he senses something special brewing with Boston this season. And having won a championship with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014, he also understands that hot starts early in the regular season don’t necessarily translate to wins in late May and early June – the time when the Celtics really hope to be rounding into form.
Baynes is adamant the Celtics are yet to reach the level of basketball they’re capable of.
“We’re not playing good basketball right now compared to what our standards should be, so we are excited that there is so much room for improvement and because of that we know we can do something special,” he says.
“There’s going to be some up times, there’s going to be some down times; we’re not going to get too high, we’re not going to get too low. We’re just going to keep trying to get better every time we step on the floor and, at the end of 82 games, hopefully we’re where we want to be and we’re getting pretty close to all guns firing at the same time.”
Whether the Celtics win or lose the NBA championship this season, for Baynes, the family man, the bigger picture remains crystal clear. He says family is “everything.”
“That’s why I do what I do because it gives me the opportunity to hang out with them,” he says. “As busy as we are, we get a lot of down time that, when I am home, I try to spend as much time with my son and my wife as I can. They mean everything to me, and I am so happy they are a part of my life.”