Moe Wagner started his Thursday as usual, walking outside for his pregame walk. It was in the middle of his routine that he found out that he was traded from the Wizards to the Bulls. While emotionally preparing to head to Windy City, he learned minutes before the 3 p.m. trade deadline that he would instead go to the Celtics.
It’s fast-paced life in the NBA, where livelihoods are uprooted in a flash. Wagner was supposed to be preparing to play the Knicks on Thursday, but instead, he headed to Milwaukee to meet up with his new team.
To acclimate with the Celtics and their new coach, Brad Stevens, Wagner said he spent the past 24 hours digging into the playbook to learn everything he can. Despite being traded on Thursday, Wagner made his Boston debut in a 122-114 win over the Bucks on Friday. Wagner played 10 minutes, adding three points and five rebounds.
However, everything remains a process for the 23-year-old forward from Michigan.
“I can feel how I’m still a little overwhelmed here and there,” Wagner said after the game on Friday. “I keep telling myself it’s just basketball and keep playing through the mistakes.”
Wagner was part of a three-team trade between Boston, Chicago and Washington. The Celtics sent Daniel Theis and Javonte Green for Wagner and Bulls big man Luke Kornet. The Bulls and Wizards had an original deal that sent Wagner to the Bulls, but the alterations right at the trade deadline made things go haywire.
Wagner began his career after being selected in the first round by the Los Angeles Lakers. He was traded from the Lakers to the Wizards to free up salary cap space and sign Anthony Davis. That’s why Wagner said he understood the business side of the league once he was transferred. He played in 25 games for the Wizards this season, averaging 7.1 points and 2.9 rebounds per game.
“The basketball part is the easiest thing because it distracts you from all the other things you have, like moving and all the off-court things that you have to figure out,” Wagner said. “So talking about coverage and meeting new teammates is fun. That’s what I enjoy the most. “
There were some nuances of coincidence when Wagner and Theis were traded for each other, both German players in the league. Wagner said he knows Theis from experience on the national team, but has not prepared much for the German team, so he does not know Theis on a personal level.
Wagner admitted that it’s strange to be traded for another player, especially one who was loved by his teammates like Theis. He said he watches games all the time and could see how much Theis meant to his new team.
“The dynamics of the team,” Wagner said of what he’s trying to learn. “Who is leading, who has what role, emotional role and all that. And then defensively, I think the most important thing is to have the correct terminology because if you play hard and you don’t know what’s going on, you can’t play. “
Wagner said his number one priority was defining those terminologies, both on the offensive and defensive sides. He’s adjusting to a new coach, and Wagner said he’s seen a great emphasis on learning about Stevens’ system.
Stevens and Wagner haven’t talked much about the role of the newer Celtics yet. Wagner said they had a brief conversation before a team meeting, where Stevens told him to be a safe player and to follow the system as he went.
Wagner was the first of the three newest Celtics pieces to see the floor. Kornet was on the sidelines during Friday’s game, but saw no action. Stevens said Evan Fournier was in Boston doing physicals and other assignments. But Stevens said he will speak more fully with the efficient and leading guard so they can incorporate him into the system for the home stretch.
Wagner joined in the middle of a road trip, but will soon be able to enjoy his new home. The Celtics embark on a seven-game home stay starting Monday against the Pelicans, where they will be able to smooth out any adjustments with their most recent.
“It’s the great thing about the NBA,” Wagner said. “You play a lot of basketball and I try to lose myself in it and worry about the other things off the court. But basketball is the easiest and most fun part for me. “