These days, job opportunities don't usually present themselves at will. It's hard enough to find work when you're seeking it in any field, let alone professional basketball. Sometimes, though, opportunity comes knocking.
Michael Sweetney, a four-year veteran forward who hasn't played in the NBA since 2007, was just going about his usual business when he got a phone call on December 9th, the first day that the NBA re-opened its doors after the lockout.
He answered. Who was on the other end of the line? The Boston Celtics.
"I was shocked, actually" said Sweetney, who received a training camp invite from the Celtics. "It was pretty much a shock, but like I say [I'm] just taking it day by day and hoping for the best."
Sweetney was drafted by the New York Knicks with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft at the age of 21. In 233 career games with the Knicks and Chicago Bulls, Sweetney has averaged 6.5 points and 4.5 rebounds. In his rookie year with the Knicks, Sweetney averaged 4.3 points and 3.7 boards. His best season came with the Bulls in '04-'05 and 5.4 rebounds in a career-high 77 games. He averaged 3.2 points and 2.5 rebounds in '06-'07 with the Bulls.
Sweetney was with the team from the very beginning of camp, but he has some catching up to do since he hasn't played for an NBA team since his '06-'07 campaign with the Chicago Bulls. Slowly, but surely, he's coming along.
"I'm feeling like I'm getting better every day," Sweetney said. "I'm learning the system, working hard, trying to get in better shape and taking it day by day."
Sweetney played eight minutes during the Celtics' intrasquad scrimmage on Friday night at TD Garden, scoring six points on 2-of-5 shooting and grabbing three rebounds in eight minutes for the White Team, which lost 52-51.
"I missed a lot of easy buckets around the basket," said Sweetney. "Just trying to get my timing and confidence back. It'll come. I'm going to just work hard every day and just hope it comes."
While he hasn't played a regular season with the team, Sweetney has a unique perspective of the Celtics organization, having been with them during training camp on more than one occasion. Playing with future Hall of Famers helps, too.
"You're playing against the best every day, so you can't do nothing but get better and get your confidence and get going. It's just exciting to be around these guys and gain confidence and try to stay ready."
"I haven't been around any team that's like this. These guys are very close-knit, everybody's together and you really play hard for each other on and off the court, so guys are just close."