WALTHAM — Quincy Ford really sounds like a Celtics fan already.
There’s good reason for that. The 6-foot-8, 225-pound power forward prospect played his ball at Northeastern. And on Wednesday, during a pre-draft workout in Waltham, he got a taste of what it would be like to play for the team he’s admired and respected from afar.
“For one, that they play hard all the way to the buzzer,” Ford said. “They don’t give up. I really like that they’re a young group because all the other teams, they have vets but they have a young core group and they really look close and they play hard together all the time, regardless the outcome. So, that’s one thing I truly respect, guys that play hard, no matter what.”
Already 23, Ford is the type of player Ainge was referring to on Wednesday when he said NBA teams are looking for size, length and the ability to score. During his five years at Northeastern, he was in double figures four seasons. The only year he didn’t average double figures was his junior season when a back injury limited him to two games. This past season, he caught the eyes of NBA scouts with averages of 16.4 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists.
“It was my very first workout. It was just an unbelievable experience. I’m truly blessed and humbled to be able to be considered to work out with a great group of guys here. It was a tough workout. I was tired. I really wanted to push my body to the limits. So, that was the goal coming in.”
WALTHAM — With the cap flexibility and the possibility of names like Kevin Durant and Al Horford on the free agent market this summer, there’s one question at the top of everyone’s mind: Can Danny Ainge make Boston and the Celtics attractive to free agents next season?
“I think our team is attractive to some,” Ainge said. “I think Boston and the tradition and the Celtics and their winning ways and our fan base and ownership group and sort of the chemistry that we have as an organization between coach, management, and ownership, I think that we’re an attractive place for free agents.”
Ainge is not permitted to talk about any free agents at all, not even potentially his own as they apply to next season, including Tyler Zeller, Evan Turner and Jared Sullinger.
What Ainge did make clear was that he believes with the coaching staff in place — led by wunderkind Brad Stevens — and the winning chemistry of a team that won 48 games a year ago, there is a lot to be drawn to in Boston.
“But, ultimately, free agents want to come to a place where they can win,” Ainge said. “Where they get paid. Where they get an opportunity to play their game. There’s many factors. And some places people want to be closer to the sun, closer to equator, and I think that there’s just a lot of factors. But I do think that we are and we will be attractive to some free agents.”
WALTHAM — Turns out Kelly Olynyk may need surgery after all to fix a shoulder that never fully healed after an injury that slowed his season.
On Feb. 10 at TD Garden, he injured his shoulder in a collision against the Clippers in the first half. It was partially separated but began to heal after a 14-game absence.
But upon his return he never fully regained the form that produced the most effective 3-point shooter on the team at 41 percent. He did help lengthen the Celtics bench and the spacing on the court but when he re-injured the same shoulder in Game 1 against the Hawks, he was reduced to a small bit player off the bench, missing Games 2 and 3 and playing sparingly in the final three games of the series.
“Kelly is still deciding what to do with our medical staff and with the opinions that he’s received,” Danny Ainge said Wednesday. “We should know within the next week or so of what that decision will be, but surgery is an option and it is being discussed. He’ll make that decision soon.”
As for other injured Celtics at the end of the season, Ainge said none will require surgery. Jae Crowder (right ankle), Isaiah Thomas (left wrist) and Avery Bradley (right hamstring) should all be back to full strength with rest and rehab.
“Jae’s is a bone bruise in the foot,” Ainge said. “Some things just linger. He’ll be OK. Same with Isaiah, same with everybody else. I think the only surgery possibility is Kelly’s shoulder.”
Ainge made it clear that Bradley almost certainly would not have been able to return to the Atlanta series, simply because the team did not want to risk future injury. And returning soon after that was a “long shot” as well.
“I think that first of all, the hamstring injury Avery had, a Grade 1 strain, it’s risky,” Ainge said. “You want to be really careful with that because if you get a second hamstring injury then they sort of have a tendency to linger throughout your career. So we probably wouldn’t have let Avery go back out unless he was just 100 percent and felt absolutely nothing. But I think that was always a long shot.”
Isaiah Thomas will be representing the Celtics at the lottery draft. (Brett Davis/USA Today Sports)
WALTHAM — The Celtics are going in a different direction to change their lottery luck.
Danny Ainge, the team’s president of basketball operations, confirmed the big news after draft workouts Wednesday that they’re not sending one of the legends like Bill Russell, Tom Heinsohn or Jo Jo White to New York City for the May 17 draft lottery.
Instead, they’re sending a current star who seems perfectly suited to fitting the bill of bringing good luck: Isaiah Thomas.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge will be busy trying to retool his roster this summer for a title run. (Russ Isabella/USA Today Sports)
WALTHAM — The comparisons have already begun with the Celtics this offseason.
Many Celtics fans are hoping for the kind of reset that the franchise underwent in the summer of ’07, when Ainge was able to trade for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen and put together a team with just enough youth, veteran talent and depth that resulted in Banner 17 the following June.
With Brooklyn’s lottery pick on the horizon as one of three first-round picks and eight overall in the draft and the prospects of a Kevin Durant in free agency, the potential is there.
Does Ainge see any similarity with summer of ’07?
“I’m not sure we have a Paul Pierce on our roster,” Ainge said. “But I do think we have a lot more things to trade, a lot more things to move.”
This, of course, brings up the next point, is anyone on the current roster untouchable?
“Nobody’s ever untouchable. When Kareem Abdul-Jabbar gets traded, you know there’s no such thing as an untouchable in the NBA, or in any league for that matter,” Ainge added. “There’s certain guys that we want to keep and build around and move forward with.”
Ainge acknowledged there are certain players he’d like to keep, a not-so-thinly veiled reference to Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder.
Ainge said he doesn’t have a good feel for the pending salary cap (estimated at $89 million next season and $109 the next) and how that might alter trade market.
“I don’t know that. I don’t know. This is new territory for all of us,” Ainge said. “We can all make our predictions but really, I’m not sure. Every team is in a unique situation and a different situation. We’ll be making lots of calls, trying to make trades. Listen, the transcendent players, the good players that you all need to win and to be successful in the NBA, they’re very hard to find and there’s not that many of them. And there’s 30 very qualified teams out there trying to find them all.”
“I really don’t know,” Turner said after scoring just eight points on 4-of-17 shooting in 37 minutes in a 104-92 loss to the Hawks in Game 6. “I would love to come back, but at the same time, a lot of things, a lot of variables that are going to occur and things like that that I can’t control. Whenever July hits we’ll talk about it.”
Turner, the No. 2 overall pick of the 76ers in 2010, made $3.425 million this season, finishing out a two-year, $6.7 million deal. He could be in line for a big payday, somewhere in the neighborhood of an $8 million-$10 million annual salary.
What will Turner be looking for?
“Just fit, obviously. I want to get a decent amount of money, you know what I’m saying? But at the same time the fit is going to be huge and the opportunity to play on a winning team,” Turner said. “I have played on [expletive] teams a couple times and it’s not fun. But obviously the fit, the opportunity to play, and the opportunity to progress and win.”
Celtics forward Jae Crowder was overmatched all series by the Atlanta bigs. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)
For the first 66 games of the season, Jae Crowder was the second-most important player on the Celtics.
Then he turned his right ankle against the Rockets on March 11 and wasn’t the same the rest of the way, playing with an ankle he said was really never better than 70 percent.
Crowder could never consistently get his shot to fall when Isaiah Thomas was double- and triple-teamed, and his ankle prevented him from driving and cutting to the basket the way he did when he was healthy. In Thursday’s season-ending Game 6 loss to the Hawks, Crowder missed his first six shots and was 2-for-9 at the half. He finished 5-for-15 for 15 points in the 104-92 setback.
“Yeah, it was a very tough stretch for me,” Crowder said. “But I’m not here to make any excuses about that, it was just tough, it was a tough series for me, but my teammates never stopped believing in me. I just tried to get through it. … I gave it my best, so I can sleep good knowing that I gave it my all.”
In the series, he wasn’t the same forward who was a legitimate threat when Thomas was drawing attention early in the season. And he could never get comfortable against the Atlanta front court of Paul Millsap, Kent Bazemore and Al Horford.
“It will drive me to work harder, for sure,” Crowder said. “It will drive me to be a different player than I am today, so we use it as motivation to move on.
“Like I just told Isaiah, we’ve just got to keep chipping at it, keep getting better, of course its only going to be one team to have a successful year and that’s when you hold that trophy up. So until we do that, its not a successful season. We are going to keep building, keep working.”
As for the futures of Evan Turner and Jared Sullinger and breaking up some of the chemistry on the team, Crowder will leave personnel decisions to Danny Ainge.
“That’s what sucks about it, but like Isaiah said, it’s a part of the business, but we did build a bond with each and every guy in the locker room and it was fun,” Crowder said. “We just tried to have fun each and every night. When we have a locker room that’s bonded like the way we do and have fun you never want to see it end, and it was tough to see it end.”