Celtics Waive Wenyen Gabriel After 24-year-old Breakout Game

In Thursday’s preseason finale, Neemias Queta excelled in another opportunity, prompting the Celtics to waive Wenyen Gabriel on Friday.

BOSTON (AP) — Neemias Queta arrived at shootaround in Charlotte after missing Tuesday’s game against the Knicks to speak with Joe Mazzulla. The Celtics intended to play Queta against the Hornets on Thursday, but not as a rest game. They put him in right away alongside the team’s starters.

“I just got prepared and was just trying to get ready for it,” Queta told CLNS Media in Quincy on Friday. “Fortunately, it worked out well, and we won.” I’m simply hoping to keep it going and contribute to the team whenever my name is called.”


Joe Mazzulla Indicates Neemias Queta has Earned More Playing Time - Sports Illustrated Boston Celtics News, Analysis and More


The Celtics won the first complete preseason game against their regular lineup in Charlotte, 127-99, and despite playing five of their top six players, except Al Horford, Queta became the story of the night. He continued his preseason performance with 12 points, seven rebounds, and a steal in 13 minutes, hitting all six shots and fouling twice. Boston cemented Queta’s position after signing him to a two-way contract last month, dismissing Wenyen Gabriel and making Queta one of four centers on the roster.

Luke Kornet, who saw no action on Thursday despite having played 12 minutes against New York, is currently the leading candidate for the third-string center position due to his strong performance in the last regular season. Recently, there has been a shift in the Celtics’ perspective regarding Queta. Initially seen as a developing prospect discarded by the Kings this summer after they signed Javale McGee, the team now believes he can be a valuable rotation center. Boston plans to keep him on the roster when the Maine G-League season starts at the Orlando Showcase Cup on November 10.

Coach Mazzulla praised Queta, saying, “He’s earned his minutes and opportunities by consistently meeting our expectations and putting in the effort. I’ve been impressed with his progress each time he’s been on the court. We’re excited about the opportunity to develop him further. In the next two preseason games, we’ll be focused on whether he can continue to improve and execute on both ends.”

Queta demonstrated his abilities in the game. In the first quarter, he effectively set screens for Jayson Tatum and made a challenging five-foot floater, creating an opportunity for Tatum to score. In the second quarter, he secured a pair of offensive rebounds in one possession, showcasing his agility along the baseline. Later, Queta caught alley-oop passes from Payton Pritchard and executed a third shot on the roll, followed by two put-backs to close the third quarter.

At 7 feet tall and around 250 pounds, Queta brings a physical presence as a screen setter, and he has surprised by contesting shots on the perimeter in a recent game against New York. The Celtics place a strong emphasis on a solid screening game, and while Queta may struggle with shooting and free throws, his offensive rebounding and ability to create vertical spacing could offer a different dimension compared to what Kornet brings.

Al Horford remarked, “The game seems to come naturally to him, especially around the basket. He has a great knack for finishing and rebounding, always being in the right place at the right time. That’s what’s impressed me the most. He’s a big guy who can finish at the rim.”

Kornet is expected to primarily take on the backup center role, and there’s speculation about whether the team’s decision not to address the center position behind Kristaps Porziņģis and Horford was part of a plan to transition Horford to the second unit. Horford was willing to embrace this role, performing well alongside the second unit on Tuesday. The Boston Celtics intend to start the season with 14 players and leave the spot previously held by Gabriel unfilled, which would limit the roles of Kornet and Queta, possibly leading to Gabriel’s release.

A smaller starting lineup had success against the Knicks and Hornets with Jrue Holiday alongside Derrick White. Horford’s performance in the second unit earned praise from Tatum. The Celtics also experimented with Oshae Brissett playing as the power forward alongside the starters, and Lamar Stevens’ strong showing on Thursday secured his spot on the roster.

It’s likely that Queta will remain on a two-way contract, allowing him to play in up to 50 out of 82 NBA games. The Celtics shouldn’t face an issue with the new NBA CBA rule that limits two-way players’ call-up days for teams with less than 15 players on the roster.

J.D. Davison is unlikely to see much NBA playing time, and Jay Scrubb suffered an ACL injury, leaving the third two-way slot empty after DJ Steward was waived on Friday. The only potential decision the Celtics might need to make is adding Queta to the active roster for postseason eligibility.

Sacramento waived Queta in September despite drafting him 39th overall in 2021 as the first NBA player from Portugal. He had a successful college career at Utah State, setting shot-blocking records, and excelled in the G-League over the past two seasons. Despite limited professional experience, Queta is optimistic about his situation in Boston and is excited about the future, enjoying his time in the city and the support he receives from different people. He’s focused on continuing to work hard and make everyone proud while having fun with his teammates.

Queta’s passion for basketball has been ingrained in him since his youth, and his pursuit of greatness is a relentless driving force. Upon arriving in Boston, he has been eager to absorb as much knowledge as possible, seeking advice and guidance from Kornet, Pritchard, and Sam Hauser. He’s even found some favorite Portuguese restaurants in the city, making him feel at home outside of the basketball court.

However, when it comes to his on-court performance, Queta remains humble and doesn’t consider himself fully established. His primary focus is on maintaining consistency in his game. Coach Mazzulla has been impressed by how quickly he adapted to the team’s systems on both offense and defense. There have been glimpses of his playmaking abilities from the high post, which he attributes to his development in Portugal and the challenges he faced with double teams during his college career. These moments are reminiscent of the center who came before him.

Queta has managed to secure a spot on the roster over Gabriel, but he understands that maintaining his role and securing a long-term contract will require more than just a few good weeks of performance. Coach Mazzulla expressed his appreciation for Wenyen’s contributions and positive attitude during camp but also recognized Queta’s valuable role in the team’s defensive schemes. Queta’s ability to adapt and improve in this role will be crucial for his future with the team.





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