|Danny Ainge expects he’ll stay put at Nos. 6 and 17||06.26.14 at 7:40 pm ET|
For all the speculation on possible trades up and down in the first round, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said he’ll like stay put with his two first-round picks. Of course, he made that prediction 90 minutes before the first pick of the 2014 NBA draft.
“There’s been a lot of conversation over the last month,” Ainge said of the interest from other teams looking to move up to take Boston’s first pick at No. 6 overall. “A lot of discussions regarding trading of the picks. Trading up, trading back, trading for players. Big deals, little deals. We’re ready for some different scenarios but just like all trade deadlines, the draft really isnt a deadline, but it is a time where you’ve got to make a decision to take the pick or trade it. Probably it looks like most likely that we’ll keep it.”
Ainge, who said he has “processed” all of the medical information on Joel Embiid, said there’s been “a lot more” dialogue on picks this year compared to last year.
“Quite a few real conversations, but a lot that end in a phone call,” Ainge said. “A yes or a no. Some go a little bit deeper. Two or three phone calls. Some even deeper.”
If Embiid is available, will Ainge be tempted?
“We have processed the information. And I believe in my medical staff. And that’s all,” Ainge said.
Then Ainge was asked to characterize this group of NBA talent.
“I think early in the year, I said it’s a little bit over-hyped,” Ainge said. “I think midway through the year i thought it was still over-hyped. Part of that is maybe the player in me. Like, ‘C’mon let these kids be kids.’ None of these guys are franchise-turners and I still believe that. Everything I said I still believe.
“I’ve always believed, just like in every draft, there are going to be players that are good, guys that can start, guys that can play in rotations on championship teams. There will be a couple of them. Two or three or four maybe that can become NBA All-Stars. I wish I knew which one of those that would be. I think that when you start making comp to Lebron James and Kevin Durant to kids before they’d even played a game in college, that’s sort of unfair. And that’s sort of what they hype was that I was referring to as over-hyped.
“Let’s let them prove it before we start making comparisons. I do feel like we’re going to get a good player at six. A player that I think can be a starter in the NBA. How good they become, time will tell. Players that we’ll be excited about adding to our roster, but players I’m not expected to turn us into an immediate winner by themselves.”
|Austin Ainge admits his dad would’ve taken Kevin Durant over Greg Oden in 2007||06.21.14 at 2:54 pm ET|
Now we know.
“I personally was not working here. But I was in college and I was in the draft room, and they would have taken Durant. I did have some inside information there,” Ainge said.
Of course, that became moot when the Celtics wound up with only the fifth pick of the draft class. Everything turned OK when Danny Ainge convinced Minnesota’s GM and good friend Kevin McHale to trade him Kevin Garnett for Al Jefferson before drafting Jeff Green at No. 5 and then swung a deal that netted Ray Allen. Oden was eventually chosen No. 1 overall by Portland while Durant was taken by the then-Seattle SuperSonics. Oden has been plagued by various injuries, including two bad knees and microfracture surgery. Oden played this season for the Heat.
Durant is the reigning NBA MVP, four-time scoring champ and led his team to the NBA finals in 2012.
Why is this relevant now?
The Celtics might get a chance to take another injury-riddled big man at No. 6 this year after it was revealed this week that Joel Embiid, another highly-touted center, has a stress fracture in his right foot. Throw in concerns about his back and those are serious medical red flags.
“Probably best not to share all of that, but I think we all want to know exactly what it is,” Ainge said. “Even when you have a lot of information, sometimes it’s still just a best guess. I’m not sure what the conclusions will be by the doctors. I’m sure, as with Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger when we drafted them, the medical staffs all had different opinions for every team. It’s hard to predict.”
“It’s case by case. There have been many, many guys we passed on,’ Ainge said. ‘Our medical staff told us to pass on Greg Oden, our medical staff told us to pass on Brandon Roy. Brandon ended up having some very good years, and that may or may not have been the right decision. It ended up costing them a lot of money in the end but he did give them a few great years ‘ four or five, I think, maybe six. So there’s two we’ve taken the chance on. There have been many others that we’ve not decided to (take a) chance on.”
Before picking Bradley, the Celtics were able to examine him and determine the extent of his ankle injury.
‘With Jared, we weren’t (able to look at him),’ Ainge said. ‘We were just emailed and sent things. So it’s different. You just do the best you can.’
Ainge acknowledged that taking Embiid would be a risk, given what is known so far.
“Foot and back, those are not good body parts to injure,” Ainge said. “We try to focus on the long-term health more than the short-term when you’re dealing with draft picks,” he added. “Free agency, it might be a little different. But when you’re drafting kids that are 19, 20, 21, it’s usually best to think: ‘Two years, five years down the road, will it be a concern?’ Those are the ones we usually try to avoid.”
The four that did work out on Saturday morning in Waltham were Louisville‘s Chane Behanan, UConn’s Niels Giffey, Glenn Robinson III of Michigan and St. John’s JaKarr Sampson.
|Austin Ainge is sold on Shabazz Napier as an NBA point guard: ‘He’s going to make it’||06.17.14 at 1:05 am ET|
WALTHAM — The Celtics may or may not get a chance to take Shabazz Napier in the June 26 NBA draft. But team personnel executive Austin Ainge made one thing clear his opinion Monday after Napier’s workout for the team: Napier will be playing somewhere in the NBA eventually.
“Shabazz is so clever and shifty,” Ainge said. “He is very hard to stay in front of because he really changes directions very well. He’s quick but he is even shiftier than he is quick. He’s very clever and he can make shots.
“Shabazz is not physically overwhelming, but he has toughness, intelligence and skill and that extra savvy, so he more than makes up for it. He’s going to make it is my guess. He’s a good player.”
Napier stands just 5-feet-11 and weighs 180 pounds, with a wingspan just over 6-feet-3 and a reach of 7-feet-9. But to Ainge and the Celtics, his ability to lead a winning program on the court has its own rewards in the eyes of basketball evaluators.
“It’s big. It’s big,” Ainge said. “We all can look at physical tools. But the league is full of guys that don’t fit most athletic, physical but still are successful. Shabazz certainly checks the box as to how well physically he can play.”
But those numbers certainly don’t count for everything, like winning two national championships at one of the most prestigious college basketball programs in the country — UConn — and staying at school and playing all four years.
“You can certainly see it,” Ainge said of Napier’s pure skill. “It’s obvious watching Shabazz. Then I think it’s measured in all the other stats. He gets assists, points in the paint and his teams win. All those things can be measured.
“In a college game you learn a lot. But in this, you learn different things. We’re putting him against NBA athletes in NBA positions. That’s probably the biggest advantage for us.”
|Shabazz Napier says he has ‘heart’ to lead an NBA team||06.16.14 at 3:55 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Before stepping on the court for a workout Monday morning at the Celtics training facility, Shabazz Napier wanted to make sure he took it all in.
So, the former University of Connecticut star point guard — born in Roxbury and schooled at Charlestown High — came in Sunday night and took some time before an informal shootaround to just be the fan of the Celtics he was growing up.
“I came in [Sunday] to shoot a little bit,” Napier said. “For about a good 5-10 minutes, I looked around at the banners. Just a warm feeling. [Watching] the Celtics growing up, being a Boston fan and you get those chills you every time you watch those films. It took me about five to 10 minutes to realize I was here.”
Monday, Napier was all business. He took part in an NBA pre-draft workout Monday morning for the Celtics. The two-time NCAA champion guard says he may not have all the physical tools like size and length but his heart makes him an NBA leader. Napier grew up in the Boston area before leaving for UConn but says he still cheers for Boston teams like the Celtics.
One thing he wanted to get across in his meeting with reporters was his confidence that he can do in the NBA what he did at UConn — lead a team to a championship.
“I don’t have the crazy wingspan,” said Napier, whose wingspan at the combine was measured at 6-foot-3.25 inches. “I just have the heart that a lot of guys with those attributes don’t have. You put me in front of anybody I’m going to compete. That’s the biggest thing that I have gotten since I was younger. I was always the littlest guy. Those are the things I can’t worry about. Just be myself. There are a lot of guys with those attributes that can’t lead a team like I can. There’s always a reason for something. I’m definitely happy I can lead a team.
“I’ve been to six [NBA] teams so far and basketball has taken me there. It’s been a blessing.”
Napier said that he plans to work out for at least two more teams, including the Rockets this week, before sitting back and watching where his name is called on June 26.
|Julius Randle gets some sage advice from Rajon Rondo: ‘Just enjoy the process’||06.13.14 at 2:56 pm ET|
WALTHAM — After one year at Kentucky, forward Julius Randle feels he’s ready to take on the NBA.
Friday, following a pre-draft workout for the Celtics, the 19-year-old showed just how ready he is by answering a non-stop stream of questions from reporters about the state of his right foot, which had a pin placed in it in his senior year of high school to help heal a break.
There were reports Thursday that some NBA general managers believe the foot did not heal properly and that it could be an issue that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.
“My foot is fine,” Randle said. “Everybody has their opinion on what [I] should do but I’m pain-free. There’s no pain before, during or after. I’m fine.”
Randle said surgery has not been considered to this point.
“It’s never been considered,” he said. “I’ve met with my own doctor and talked to specialists, some of the best doctors in the world and they said they wouldn’t do anything with it. [I] broke it back in high school. I have a pin in it. I guess some people may think they want to put a different one in. I don’t know. I have no clue. It’s the draft and they want to know about it.
Where did he get the advice on how to handle the barrage of questions that he knew would be coming? Another Kentucky product — Rajon Rondo — spoke with him before his workout and gave him some advice.
“I talked to him a little bit today and yesterday,” Randle said. “We kind of have that Kentucky connection. Rondo is a great guy. I have nothing bad to say about him. He’s a great guy, competitor. I’d love to play with him.
“Just be myself, just enjoy the process. A 19-year-old kid going through this can be a lot. Just really enjoy the process, have fun with it, and don’t let outside distractions take away from your joy of the process. That’s what I’ve been trying to do, that’s what my family has told me to do and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.”
The media hype Friday over a pre-draft workout in Boston gave him a little taste of what to expect in the NBA, especially if he’s selected by the Celtics.
“It’s a little bit of the same. Kentucky prepares you a lot for things like these,” he said of playing for John Calipari for just one season. “At Kentucky, this is all they know, Kentucky basketball. So, it really prepared me from an expectation level. The fans of Boston, city of Boston has great expectations for their team. This is a winning organization, a championship organization. Kentucky is the same way. Our season is a lot shorter, they don’t expect to win maybe two games at the most.”
|Brad Stevens sends a clear message to his Celtics: ‘We’ve got to have a defensive DNA’||04.17.14 at 9:30 am ET|
Brad Stevens saw a lot in his first season in the NBA as a head coach.
After the 57th and final loss of the season, he gave some insight as to what he learned from his maiden voyage in the pro ranks of basketball.
“I think the best thing I learned is that this is not fun to not win but it doesn’t define who you are or how you go about your business. One of the things that I’m probably most happy about with our team is that they didn’t change necessarily who they were. They didn’t let the losing or the multiple losses affect them or their approach, and I hope that I was the same way.”
The best advice for what would be a long season came at the start of the season, when Celtics assistant coach and long-time NBA veteran coach and scout Ron Adams offered some perspective on patience.
“I learned a lot about the NBA game and how it’s played,” Stevens said. “It’s a different kind of basketball. Ron Adams told me at the beginning of the year, ‘If I went and coached high school after 22 years coaching in the NBA, I wouldn’t know what’s going on. It’s 32 minutes, no shot clock. I’d really have to adjust to that.’ I think that’s probably true no matter which way you go. But it is an adjustment. The part I felt most comfortable was in the game, once we got used to the time outs, the 24-second clock and all that other stuff.”
All that other stuff for Stevens starts and ends with better and more consistent defense. It’s what separates talented teams from winning teams in the NBA. It’s what separates teams that can close out games and protect leads from those – like the 2013-14 Celtics – who lose close games time after time down the stretch. Stevens very rarely called his team out after games of this lost season, with a notable exception coming after a lackluster home loss to the Sixers on April 4. But after the final game Wednesday, a 118-102 defenseless loss to the playoff-bound Wizards, he delivered a clear and present message to any player that might return next season.
“So there’s a couple different ways to look at it: are you going to get better in your role, or are you going to expand your role? What I mean by that is: are you going to get better at what you do well, or are you going to get better at some other things that make you, that give you the chance to instead of be the eighth guy be the fifth guy, instead of be the fifth guy be the third guy. We have a lot of great data to be able to share and subjective thoughts as well, and I think we can get better with the guys in the room. I think we clearly are going to need to add to our team to be better, but I told them at halftime, I said, ‘We can start it on October 1st or we can start it right now.’ That is, we’ve got to have a defensive DNA to start next season at a little bit different level than I thought we did at the end of this season. I thought we tried to compete defensively early-on in the year; I didn’t think we made the strides that I would’ve liked to have made.”
Stevens took the time Wednesday at halftime of a game in which they surrendered 38 points in the first quarter and 68 points in the half to remind his team of exactly what he will expect going forward.
“At halftime, I was obviously disappointed in our defensive effort,” Stevens said. “I knew, just look out there, we were undermanned a little bit, but I thought we could play better defensively and it thought we came out in the second half with a great deal of spirit and fight, a little bit more aggressiveness, and it was great until we were worn out. And I thought we wore out and we didn’t have any juice in the last 10 minutes or so, prior to that little run at the end. Credit them; they put us in a world of hurt in a lot of different match-ups. It’s a good basketball team who’s playing well right now, who, as I said earlier, is really sitting pretty for the future because they’ve got really good players at the one and the two that are both very young, that have a chance to be elite at their positions.”
|Rajon Rondo wants a say in rebuilding of Celtics: ‘Danny Ainge has always been in communication with me’||04.17.14 at 12:12 am ET|
Following a season-ending 118-102 loss to the playoff-bound Wizards at TD Garden, Celtics captain Rajon Rondo talked about what he’s learned from this 25-win season and how he can become a better leader. Rondo also acknowledged that he would like input on the make-up of the roster next season.
“Every team is different,” Rondo said. “This is a new [situation] with me being the only guy here back when Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were here. [Roster rebuilding] isn’t new. I still think I have been involved. I was in trade talk myself. Danny Ainge has always been in communication with me, what he has planned and what he has in store for this team.
“Being a leader, I just have to do it more than talking.”
Asked if that means doing it more by example on and off the court, Rondo answered, “Correct.”
How will a 25-57 season drive him this offseason?
“Motivation for next year we have a lot to work on and I look forward to next year,” Rondo said. “A good group to play with and a lot of great guys a lot of young guys just trying to be better.”
Does he want to be back?
“Next question,” Rondo said, referring to comments he made a week earlier indicating he feels he is a part of the team’s future.
Rondo said he will not watch the NBA playoffs, which begin this weekend. Instead Rondo maintains he looks forward to a summer of work as he continues to build his legs back to 100 percent, 15 months after ACL surgery on his right knee.
If he puts in the work, Rondo figures the rest of the team will follow.
‘It shows the group of guys we have,” Rondo said. “It starts with Danny Ainge and it starts with Brad Stevens. We had guys like Chris Babbs and Chris Johnson to come help us and help brighten their future.’
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