November 11, 2020
Tremont Waters played just 11 games with the Boston Celtics during his rookie campaign, but the LSU product dominated in 36 appearances with the Maine Red Claws, winning G League Rookie of the Year. After finding success as a two-way player, Waters is doing everything in his power to take the next step.
Now in Miami, Waters is working with Haseeb Fasihi on a regimented schedule ahead of next season’s rapidly-approaching training camp. Fasihi is the assistant strength coach for the Orlando Magic and the head of strength and conditioning and player development for their G League affiliate, the Lakeland Magic. Fasihi, who works independently with clients in the offseason, has a tremendous track record with G Leaguers on the cusp of getting to the next level, and Waters is perfectly suited for his approach.
Waters has gotten into an impressive, diligent routine in Miami. The 5-foot-10 point guard works out with Fasihi at least twice a day, has cryotherapy sessions three times a week, a massage therapist twice a week and has put an emphasis on improving his diet. The pair tries to do three-a-days (three workouts per day) at least three times a week, but Fasihi makes sure the sessions are never too strenuous.
“On an average day, we get two workouts in,” Fasihi said. “We try to go early morning with a lot of mobility and stability exercises on the court before we do anything focusing on game situations. And then at night, we try to do some type of high-volume shooting, stationary or on-the-move. We try to go three-a-day at least three times a week. The on-court load is never anything too strenuous. The nighttime sessions are never too crazy. We do a lot of stationary shooting and usually work a lot on mechanics.”
Most days consist of Waters waking up at 5:00 or 6:00 am for a workout, which is followed by more training sessions later in the day. On a normal Tuesday, for example, Waters goes through a strength and conditioning workout at 6:00 am with Minnesota Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell. Later in the day, he’ll go through on-court work with Fasihi, and in between, there are other physical wellness to-dos such as cryotherapy and constant sessions at Core Fitness Miami with trainer Andy Luaces.
“I’m just trying to get better. I’m not big into looking left and right,” Waters said. “One of my friends posted something on Instagram and I commented back, I’m not a huge fan of looking left and right when I have my own steering wheel. I’m just staying in my lane. I can’t control what someone else does. All I can control is what I do, how I approach my life and how I want to get better at everything that I do.”
Coming off of a solid rookie season, some players might get complacent, but Waters has gone in the opposite direction. Both Fasihi and Waters are spiritually-minded individuals, which helped them connect right away. Waters’ faith plays a big role in everything he does, and Fasihi was immediately able to relate. The personable aspect of Fasihi’s approach is something Waters has taken a liking to, especially after finding a connection with player development coach Nick Friedman during his successful pre-draft process in the spring of 2019.
“I usually like to work out with guys who believe in something and believe in God, first and foremost. You have to believe in something, and God is a great start for me,” Waters said. “When I figured that out with (Haseeb), it was kind of a no-brainer. I worked out with Nick Friedman last year and they’re similar in their personality – they just want to see you do well. Being able to work with humble guys like Nick and Haseeb is a great opportunity for me both as a person and a basketball player.”
It’s no secret that Waters boasts a sky-high basketball IQ, something that ties nicely with his unique and cerebral approach to the game. Fasihi picked up on this and was able to use it, in addition to their faith, to create distinctive workouts that help motivate the pair. Waters has the talent to play at the next level, and now he’s finding ways to channel that energy into improvements on the floor.
“Whenever I finish working out, I usually make seven free throws in a row because that’s God’s number,” Waters said. “We also throw in eight, because if you turn an eight sideways, it’s like the infinity symbol. So yeah, we talk about that sort of thing. It’s just a different way to look at and approach the game and have fun with it. Our beliefs are something that we try to incorporate into the workouts, not just for fun, but also because we believe in something. It definitely helps us stay on track, stay focused and get better.”
Fasihi knows the importance of faith, especially after suffering a loss. Waters’ father tragically died 16 months ago, which adds further importance to the spiritual elements at play. Waters’ tremendous sense of faith allows him to approach the game and life from a unique and sincere perspective, something that both Fasihi and Friedman commend.
“He’s very spiritually-minded. It’s not just about being a basketball player on the court. It’s also about the cerebral part of the game.” Fasihi said. “The number seven sticks out to Tremont a lot. Some of the workouts I have, we tailor to the number seven so it reminds him of his faith and his father, and he pushes a little bit more than he might normally. So the whole spiritual and cerebral part of the game gets a lot of focus with us and it’s really working out well. I’m learning a lot from him too. He’s a special kid.”
“He’s somebody I have an immense level of respect for, especially after what he’s gone through over the last year or so with the passing of his father,” Friedman said. “Dealing with that adversity that, in a lot of ways is unimaginable, and performing at such a high level — he’s always had such an incredibly-worldly view of the process. You know, putting the game in perspective and seeing how the values of what you learn playing can translate to your own life. He’s really wise beyond his years. I’ve learned an incredible amount from him about perseverance and staying true to yourself and being genuine.”
On the court, Waters’ high IQ and undeniable talent helps him make up for his lack of size, something he utilized this season with the Maine Red Claws, Boston’s G League affiliate. If he can continue to improve his conceptual understanding of relevant in-game situations, his long-term outlook at the NBA level will look even brighter. Yes, he’s 5-foot-10, but the combination of his skill and IQ can make up for that by helping him be a full step ahead of his opponents.
“The thing about Tremont is, he’s just so naturally skillful,” Friedman said. “Obviously that natural skill has come from the hours he’s put in, but for me, it wasn’t really about developing skill. It was more him developing an understanding of the situations he was going to see. Understanding how you have to attack those situations to be successful.”
Both Friedman and Fasihi know how successful Waters can be if the conceptual side of his game continues to develop, especially with his confidence and skill set in mind.
“He’s really just as skillful as they come,” Friedman said. “And then off of that, just continuing to develop a familiarity with the NBA game and keeping that confidence high. He’s got such an immense level of confidence that it really translates into his ability to play bigger than he actually is. So for him, it’s more so that conceptual development – putting him in those situations and letting the instinct and skill take care of themselves.”
His confidence has only increased after a successful first season at the pro level, but Waters is excited to continue his improvement and feels the work he’s putting in will pay off.
“I feel more than confident,” Waters said. “I have a great sense of faith and I know what I’m capable of. Just need someone to value it as much as I value it. Everything else will play itself out. Just knowing that I have an opportunity coming up is more exciting than anything and really humbling, to say the least.”
A major step ahead of year two for Waters is becoming a better professional with a heavy focus on eating right and taking care of his body. Maximizing every variable you can control is huge for undersized guards, and Waters has a great understanding of that. With the help of Celtics guard Kemba Walker, Waters has a good outlook on what he needs to do.
“My biggest thing right now is the way that I eat and becoming more of a professional,” he said. “Kemba actually helped me a lot in seeing how a premier NBA point guard takes care of their body. Just being around him during the season, he kind of took me under his wing and showed me what to do, what not to do, how to do certain things – when to lift, when to do recovery – just all of the little things. He showed me what I could improve on by showing me what he does.”
Speaking of Walker, he’ll be back next year as the Celtics starting point guard. Marcus Smart returns as well, while the restricted free agent Brad Wanamaker’s future in green remains uncertain. So where does that leave Waters coming off of his two-way deal?
The Celtics can present Waters with a two-way qualifying offer, a route that would make him a restricted free agent and one that certainly is not the 22-year-old’s preferred option. All things considered, there is a good chance Boston goes in this direction to kick off the negotiations. His work in the G League last season proved he’s worth a guaranteed NBA contract, but if the aforementioned scenario were to occur, Boston still could negotiate a guaranteed deal with Waters (as an RFA).
The Celtics have serious interest in bringing Waters back on a guaranteed contract this season, according to multiple sources, but there are two complicating factors that remain in play. The unpredictable fluidity of this year’s free agency timeline looms over all impending contract negotiations league-wide. Boston finds themselves in an interesting spot, though, with three first-round picks in next week’s draft. What they ultimately do with those assets will have a big impact on the roster crunch, and consequently affect the likelihood of Waters getting a guaranteed deal.
From the Celtics’ perspective, the perfect scenario is getting him back on another two-way contract, but it’s more than likely that they’re unable to do that with other suitors expressing interest in Waters. He could also put the ball in Boston’s court by outperforming his counterparts in training camp, which ideally would lead to a guaranteed deal.
Adding Waters to Boston’s everyday roster would be a beneficial situation for both parties. He showed his talent in the G League last season, and making him their third point guard would allow the Celtics to keep him in their system while continuing his development. His energy would provide a spark off the bench for Boston, something it desperately needed during stretches late in the season. For Waters, continuing his progression in a familiar system with similar personnel would be advantageous in year two with a top-tier organization.
Some would argue that Waters’ size creates a defensive concern at the NBA level, but his good hands and the awareness of his strengths prove otherwise, especially against quick guards. Waters, the 2019 SEC Defensive Player of the Year, gave Boston good activity during various defensive stints last season, something that caught the eye of head coach Brad Stevens in February. Stevens labeled his quick hands and defensive positioning some of Waters’ greatest strengths, which says a lot considering his size. All in all, Boston would regret not keeping Waters on their roster moving forward.
“You aren’t G League Rookie of the Year, or even All G League Second Team for no reason,” one NBA front office source told me. “I know he can play in the league, it’s just a matter of landing in the right spot. All you have to do is watch 15 minutes of his G League game tape — the talent is there.”
He’s controlling what he can control by putting in the work each day with less than one month to go before training camp. Now, Waters awaits the things he can’t control.