Chris Wilcox: 'Just trying to find myself'

BOSTON -- When Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge waded into the free-agent pool this offseason, he essentially had just one chip in his hand -- the luxury-tax payer's midlevel exception of $3 million with which to lure one impact player at something above a minimum contract.

Ainge moved quickly to secure the services of forward Chris Wilcox, a nine-year veteran who seemed poised to flourish in a winning environment (despite playing for five different teams previously, Wilcox has never been to the postseason).

But it's been a slow start out of the gates for the former first-round pick (8th overall by the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2002 NBA draft). Wilcox is averaging a mere 1.4 points and 2.4 rebounds over 9 minutes per game in five appearances.

In Friday's loss to the Indiana Pacers, Wilcox played a mere 2:55, didn't put up a shot, and finished with 1 point, 1 turnover, and 0 rebounds.

After the game, he admitted frustration in his own ability to get going, even as he recovers from a bruised left shoulder that forced him to miss three games.

"I'm still trying to feel myself out, see where I'm at," said Wilcox. "The little injury I had kind of set me back, but, at the end of the day, no excuses. I gotta go out there and I gotta continue to play hard and I gotta find a way to contribute."

Wilcox played a season-high 14 minutes on Christmas Day in New York, chipping in four points, three rebounds, and a block, but suffered the shoulder injury two nights later during the first half of a loss in Miami.

In three games since returning, he's registered three points (taking only three shots) and six rebounds over 22 minutes. He admits he's looking for some sort of spark.

"I don't know what it is, man, but I'm trying to find it," he said. "If you can find it for me, let me know, so I can get on it. Right now, I'm just trying to find myself, trying to find out what's going on.

"Like I said, I have to give more than I'm giving right now."

Well, since you asked, Chris, here's one's man's opinion: More touches wouldn't hurt -- and that's on both you and the second-unit ball handlers as a whole.

In 45 minutes of court time, Wilcox has put up just six shots. And here's the big thing: The Celtics need to find a way to get Wilcox the ball in transition with the second unit.

Throughout his career, Wilcox has thrived in transition. His athleticism allows him to not only get up the court, but finish around the rim. According to Synergy Sports data, Wilcox averaged a ridiculous 1.6 points per play in transition last season (56 points off 35 plays), which ranked him in the 98th percentile.

The majority of his career points have come off cuts, so it's up to him to be sharper in moving without the ball on offense, but, again, the guards have to find him. More court time with Rajon Rondo might aid that process, as will developing continuity with the second-unit guards (whether it's Avery Bradley or Keyon Dooling running the point).

Wilcox is also a solid rebounder, especially on the offensive glass, and will naturally generate points off putbacks.

But none of that has happened thus far. He has no putbacks, no buckets in transition; and five cutting possessions -- plays that end in a field goal attempt, turnover, or free throws generated -- have produced only three points, according to Synergy data.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers remains optimistic the production will come with time and a greater comfort level within the system.

"He missed a couple games and so he's working his way back," said Rivers. "We're eight games into the year, so I'm not that concerned with that."

Wilcox does have to tighten up defensively in order for Rivers to have the faith to keep him on the floor. Bigs are having success against him in the pick-and-roll, and Rivers wants to see him grasp Boston's help-defense philosophies better, rotating to the weak side when guards allow penetration (which is happening early and often).

The Celtics began a four-day break Saturday and will not have a full-team workout until Monday afternoon. The new faces, including Wilcox and most of the reserve unit, were planning to work out on Sunday just to develop continuity away from game situations. Wilcox thinks that will go a long way toward helping everyone.

"At the end of the day, man, I gotta continue to do what I'm doing -- coming in early, getting extra work with the second unit," he said. "We have to get on the same page. Once we get on the same page, we'll be a different ballclub."

Later, he elaborated: "[The second unit is] good [together], but our timing is not right. The first unit has been together for a long time, so we gotta get in the gym and work on our stuff to get it right. We have to be on the same page. When the first unit goes out, we gotta be able to pick it up. Second unit has to be able to come in and give energy."

Which is why Wilcox is fine with the Sunday practice for the reserves.

"We gotta get in there," he said. "We don't need no days off. We gotta get in there and we gotta work."

Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com.