Max Strus has the perfect chance to prove that the Boston Celtics were wrong for cutting him just before the 2019-2020 regular-season campaign began.
Strus came out of DePaul in 2019 and thrived with Boston through the Summer League, even making it past the final preseason cut before former coach-now team president Brad Stevens cut him in favor of Javonte Green another undrafted prospect per Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
“I think they went with the more defensive-minded player,” Strus said, per Windeman. “But they said it was a tough decision for them to make. And everything happens for a reason.”
Now facing the team he took a cup of coffee with three years ago, Strus has a chance to make sure Stevens and the Celtics know how wrong they were in cutting him. When you peel back the curtain just a bit more, Strus sees one organization, Boston, giving up on him before his NBA career could start.
While the other, Miami, saw his potential and decided to take a gamble on Strus despite the former DePaul Blue Demon coming off a severe knee injury. The perspective allows Strus to seemingly play in the Eastern Conference Finals without much hate for Boston in his heart.
“No,” Strus said. “This isn’t about me. This is bigger than me. It’s the Eastern Conference finals. There’s no personal vendettas here. We’re just trying to win a series.”
However, Strus revealed that he had a Plan B after being cut by Boston. His hometown Bulls signed him to a two-way contract. Strus played two games with the Bulls before his rookie season ended after he suffered a bruised bone and torn ACL in his left knee while playing with Chicago’s G League affiliate, the Windy City Bulls. Strus averaged 18.2 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.2 assists in 13 G League games.
Strus signed a training camp deal the following offseason, performing well enough to earn another a two-way contract. Strus scored 6.1 points per game in 39 appearances, dropping 21 points against the Rockets on 5-8 shooting from three-point range. Strus then proved that he was worth more after playing well with the Heats summer league team in 2021, and the Heat rewarded that performance by signing him to a two-year deal worth $3.5 million to stay in Miami.
Since then, Strus has averaged 10.6 points and 3.0 rebounds per game while shooting 41.0 percent from distance. The 26-year-old shooting guard has shined in the playoffs, hitting three triples in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals to help Miami gain a 1-0 lead.
Technically, Strus didn’t play for Boston, but the memory of being cut by Boston wasn’t something he could control. The politics of the 2019 Celtics training camp led to him being kept off the Celtics roster. The front office decided to keep Tacko Fall, leaving Stevens and then-GM Danny Ainge to choose to keep either Strus or Green. A decision that Strus was told was difficult during that fateful meeting with Boston’s brain trust.
While his teammates like Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro had no recollection of Strus playing in the legendary green Boston jerseys, he is seemingly in a better place, playing for an organization that, from the outside looking in, appreciates him.
Strus says he won’t play with any lingering bad feelings against Boston or his former, but he doe shave a chip on his shoulder from that fateful day. In hindsight, the move worked out. Coach Erik Spoelstra caught wind of Strus after assistant GM Adam Simon put him on. Spoelstra reportedly watched the film and was impressed enough to want to sign Strus, and a week later, they brought Strus to South Beach. The rest is history.
“Of course, always,” Strus said. “I have multiple chips on my shoulder, not just that. I have a lot of things that I could fall back on for motivation and to provide energy for me, so it’s not just that.”
Strus may have been willing to bleed green, but for now, he’s soaking in the radiant Miami sunshine, up 1-0 on the Celtics in the ECF. Game 2 will be on Thursday in FTX Arena, and it’ll be another chance to write another page about his time in Boston and a chance to gloss over his time in Beantown.
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