Following a strong 2017 Summer League campaign, Abdel Nader signed a multiyear deal with the Boston Celtics. While playing last season with the Maine Red Claws (Boston’s G League affiliate), Nader averaged 21.3 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists en route to winning the 2016-17 G League Rookie of the Year award. He shot 44.6 percent from the floor and drained a team-high 99 threes.
Abdel’s journey to the NBA included many stops along the way. He was born in Egypt, and moved to the United States as a young kid. After two seasons at Northern Illinois, he transferred to Iowa State, where he helped the Cyclones secure a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament his senior season. Still, Nader was not on the radar of most NBA scouts. Boston chose him with the 58th overall pick in 2016, and he hasn’t looked back since.
We caught up with Nader to talk about his journey to securing a deal with the Celtics and being the second Egyptian-born player in the NBA.
SLAM: How great did it feel to sign your first NBA contract?
Abdel Nader: It’s am amazing feeling. When you work for something your whole entire life and you’re able to achieve that goal, it’s really satisfying, and I was really excited to get that done. But now, there’s more doors I have to open and goals I have to achieve.
SLAM: Have you had a chance to get in the gym with any of your new teammates this summer?
AN: Yeah, I’ve been in the gym with a couple of the rookies, just getting some early training in. And some of the older guys have trickled in here and there. We played some open gyms. I’m getting used to it.
SLAM: What was your experience like last season playing with the Maine Red Claws?
AN: It was great. I took it as a challenge going in to be like, you’re in the G League and hopefully going to sign with the Celtics the following year, which ended up happening. I just took it as a challenge, put my heart in it, and was willing to learn and get better. And I think I did a great job of that, just getting better overall. The mental aspect, the physical things, the skill set…I sharpened up a lot of things. I had to.
SLAM: A lot of people didn’t expect someone picked 58th overall to make such a big impact. Did you think you were going to win Rookie of the Year?
AN: To be honest, I wanted to be the MVP. You can ask my agent, I went into the G League season telling him, I’m winning this MVP. I think I was the runner-up, so I’m still kind of disappointed about that.
SLAM: How do you imagine your game translating to the NBA level?
AN: I’m versatile. I can play on the ball or off. I can play the four. I can do a lot of things. On the other end, I can guard one through four. I’ve made some strides, and I’m going to keep making them.
SLAM: What position do you expect to get the most time at?
AN: Probably one of the wings. That’s naturally what I am. But I have had a lot of reps, especially in Maine, playing the 1. I played the 1 down there almost the whole season, so hopefully I’ll get some opportunity to be on the ball too.
SLAM: Who’s your NBA player comparison?
AN: That’s tough. I haven’t thought about it much. Some of the guys I like watching the past couple years have been LeBron James, Klay Thompson, Carmelo Anthony, and Kevin Durant. Bigger wing players especially.
SLAM: You and Jayson Tatum were getting buckets together in the Summer League. What do you think about his skillset and potential?
AN: Jayson is an amazing talent overall. Very versatile, like a lot of the guys we have, can play multiple positions, can shoot it, can put it on the floor, he’s really good at getting to the rim. I think he’s going to be a special guy in the NBA.
SLAM: Who was the hardest player you had to defend in the Summer League?
AN: Probably Dante Exum. He’s very good at coming off ball screens downhill, always knowing what shots are available and making the right read. He’s really good at doing all that.
SLAM: Isaiah Thomas was picked at the end of the second round like you. Isaiah loves to remind people about that. He uses it as motivation and a chip on his shoulder. Do you look at it like that as well, or is being the 58th pick way behind you?
AN: Absolutely. I wasn’t a highly talked about kid coming out of college either. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for getting drafted by the Boston Celtics. They gave me one of the best opportunities of my life. At the same time, a lot of guys think because they got drafted above you or they were a lottery pick, they’re better than you automatically, which is not the case. At the end of the day we all play in the same league, so that’s how I look at it.
SLAM: You’re the second Egyptian-born player to ever play in the NBA. What does that mean to you?
AN: To be honest, I never knew that until a couple weeks ago someone told me. I represent Egypt, and I want to represent Egypt in a positive way to benefit people as much as possible. But I’m a basketball player. I don’t like to put a label on myself and say I’m the second Egyptian player ever in the League. I’m just a basketball player.
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