Jabari Bird had his bags packed for Maine, ready for the start of the Red Claws’ training camp. He sat on the couch at home in northern California, watching the Boston Celtics’ opener with his parents.

He recoiled with the rest of us when Gordon Hayward suffered that season-ending leg injury. But it wasn’t until after the game, when General Manager Danny Ainge called, that Bird realized Hayward’s misfortune meant his trip to Maine would have to wait.

“It didn’t even cross my mind that the Celtics might be calling me, saying they need me on the team,” said Bird, a 6-foot-6 wing chosen 56th overall in this year’s NBA draft. “I was just hoping everything was OK with Gordon.”

Bird, who will make his G League debut Friday night during the Red Claws’ opener at the Portland Expo, hustled to the San Francisco airport not long after Ainge’s call to catch a red-eye flight to Boston, arriving the next morning in time to suit up for the Celtics’ home opener against Milwaukee. He didn’t play that night, nor did he expect to play two nights later in Philadelphia.

“I’m sitting on the last seat on the bench,” Bird said. “If you were watching on TV you probably didn’t even know I was on the roster. I was buried in the corner.”

With the Celtics down by eight midway through the third quarter, Coach Brad Stevens walked down the bench, appraising his options. Bird, who had gone through training camp with the Celtics and played in three preseason games, had seen similar Stevens strolls.

“He always does that,” Bird said. “So I’m thinking, he’s not going to put me in. I’m just sitting there chilling, relaxing. All of a sudden he says, ‘Bird.’ ”

The rookie remained in his seat.

“I heard him but my heart stopped,” Bird said, “so I’m like, ‘I didn’t really hear that.’ He said ‘Bird’ again, so I hopped up.”

Stevens told Bird to go in for Jaylen Brown, Bird’s former teammate at the University of California, and blanket Sixers sharpshooter J.J. Redick, who already had 15 points.

“Don’t give him anything easy,” Stevens told Bird. “Make everything tough for him.”

Redick managed four points the rest of the way. The Celtics rallied and by the time Stevens pulled Bird more than six minutes into the fourth quarter, Boston led 88-84 on the way to victory, the first of its current six-game winning streak.

“I was not surprised that he got in,” Red Claws Coach Brandon Bailey said of Bird. “And I was not surprised by the impact that he had in that game. He puts in the work.”

Bird wound up playing 13 minutes, 38 seconds. He scored three points, all free throws. He grabbed a rebound. His plus-minus was 12, third-highest among Celtics that night behind Shane Larkin (plus-16) and Brown (13).

Stevens said later he figured Bird might give the team a spark because he had shown himself in preseason to be a dogged perimeter defender.

“I think he’s got a huge upside,” Stevens said. “His ability to guard on the ball, especially shooters coming off screens, is just really good. He’s not afraid and you knew he would step up.”

Four nights later, Bird played a few minutes late in Boston’s 110-89 victory over the visiting New York Knicks. He traveled to Milwaukee and Miami, but didn’t play again and finally joined the Red Claws for Monday’s intrasquad scrimmage in Waltham, Massachusetts. He arrived in Maine on Halloween, one of his favorite holidays.

“I like to dress up,” said Bird, who revealed that his favorite candy treat is banana Laffy Taffy. “Last year I was Captain America. Year before that I was Bane. You ever watch Batman? He’s the villain.”

Bird will wear No. 23 with the Red Claws. He and guard Kadeem Allen are Boston’s first two-way players, signed to contracts that allow for up to 45 days in the NBA for a maximum salary of $275,000. They essentially fill Boston’s 16th and 17th roster slots while spending most of the year in the G League.

A quarter-century after the retirement of the most famous Bird to wear Celtics green, Jabari is working to make a name for himself. Yes, he and Larry did cross paths, when Jabari worked out in Indiana for the Pacers before the draft. They are not related and the youngster showed no hesitancy when asked how he’d fare against Larry Legend in a 3-point shooting contest.

“Me right now versus him back then?” said the 23-year-old. “I’m winning. I’m a confident player.”

Maine fans can judge for themselves. Their first opportunity comes Friday night. The Claws play again Sunday, when Portland High graduate Josh Longstaff returns to the Expo as the Erie Bayhawks’ coach.

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

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