Maine Celtics Coach Jarell Christian calls out instructions during a December practice at the Portland Expo. The team has had 32 players on its roster this season, compared to just 15 players two years ago. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

It is the nature of the NBA G League that players come and go. They are here, after all, to make the move up to the NBA.

But the roster of the Maine Celtics has been extremely volatile this season. Entering back-to-back games Thursday and Friday against the first-place Motor City Cruise (16-6) at the Portland Expo, 32 players have played at least one game for Maine (9-12).

The last season the team played (2019-20), only 15 players suited up.

There is only one member of the Opening Night starting five still on the roster – forward Juwan Morgan. The other four are in the NBA: Sam Hauser and Luke Kornet with the Boston Celtics, Theo Pinson with the Dallas Mavericks and Ryan Arcidiacono with the New York Knicks.

That type of shuffling isn’t good for team bonding or chemistry. And the Celtics are proof of that. One of the best G League teams at the start of the season, they have lagged since the league’s Showcase tournament in December. Maine is in 10th place in the Eastern Conference. The top six teams qualify for the playoffs.

The roster shuffle continues. The Celtics lost Jaysean Paige to a season-ending thumb injury in Sunday’s 125-118 win over Raptors 905. But the Celtics signed guard Isaiah Cousins, who played most recently in Estonia, late last week. Cousins stepped in and scored 15 points in 26 minutes in Sunday’s victory, which snapped a five-game losing streak, all the losses on the road.


Coach Jarell Christian spoke highly of Cousins – he’s known of him since Cousins’ days at Oklahoma – but said Wednesday that it is difficult to get any consistency when the roster is constantly changing.

“You’re trying to get that consistency with guys coming in and out of the lineup,” said Christian. “We still have a number of guys (Morgan and Denzel Valentine) coming back from injuries. … So we’re just trying to find ways for guys to be successful. Sometimes it’s Deonte Burton playing the backup (center) and sometimes it’s Deonte Burton playing the backup point. So it’s just, everybody has to just be ready to adjust at any given moment. And it’s on myself and our coaching staff to prepare guys as such and put them in position to be successful.

“But it’s tough. This is probably one of the tougher years, I can imagine, for a lot of coaches in the league. We’re not the only ones dealing with this issue. With COVID cases and call-ups and natural injuries that take place over the course of the season, it’s been very challenging.”

For everybody. Morgan, who has missed five of the last six games because of an ankle injury and will be a game-time decision Thursday, said he loves that his former teammates are in the NBA. But it doesn’t make it easier here.

“When it comes to this time (of year), consistency is the best thing for a team,” said Morgan. “When you’re playing with the same seven, eight guys, you build relations with them, you know their tendencies, things like that. When you don’t know who’s going to be on the court with you, you don’t know what’s going to happen. Sometimes they might zig when you expect them to zag. It comes with playing and practicing every day.”

Cousins said he had little time to prepare when he arrived, and that the last two days of practice have been invaluable.


“There’s a lot going on,” said Cousins, who helped Oklahoma reach the 2016 Final Four. “You come in and get a bunch of plays thrown at you and it’s a different league, so you’ve got different players you have to learn about.

“Now I understand the plays, what the coach is looking for.”

Christian said it was as important for the new players to hear his philosophy as much as it was for them to learn the plays.

“It got them caught up on what we expect, our terminology and the way we want to play,” he said.

Guard Chris Clemons, who has emerged as the team’s leader during this roster chaos, said it makes a difficult situation. But, he added, guys who are brought in need to find ways to help the team.

“You’ve got to step up, do your job,” he said. “That’s what you’re brought here for, offensively and defensively. That’s what we ask of everyone who has come through.”

Clemons, who is averaging 20.6 points, 6.4 assists, 5,9 rebounds and 1.4 steals, said his job is “to make sure everyone is giving a good effort every night and playing the right way.”

To a man, the Celtics believe they can make a run at the playoffs with 11 games remaining.

“I think our team will be a little more consistent now,” said Morgan. “Having the guys we have, I think we’ll get it done.”

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