|Brad Stevens on rebuilding with Marcus Smart and James Young: ‘I don’t want to sell our team short’||06.27.14 at 12:57 pm ET|
Rebuilding is a four-letter word to Brad Stevens.
More to the point, it’s something the second-year coach of the Celtics doesn’t have time to consider. Let Danny Ainge be concerned about the semantics of “putting young pieces in place” or “restructuring the roster.” For Stevens, his focus is on the here and now and near-future.
He made that much perfectly clear when asked if adding 20-year-old Marcus Smart and 18-year-old James Young to the roster Thursday night meant that he was entering the second year of a rebuilding program.
“That’s going to have to be a question for all of you and maybe pose that question to management or pose that question to people who aren’t coaching,” Stevens said. “At the end of the day, when you’re a coach and you’re in the midst of it, you’re trying to win every game and you’re trying to win the next game. You don’t look at anything as rebuilding. You look at it as the next opportunity. As long as you can prepare and strive and do your best, it’s hard for me to say that because I don’t want to sell our team short.”
Stevens is excited about this much — he’s getting two young talents that know how to create their own shot, something that was missing last season in the 25-win campaign.
“The only thing I would say that we were at least discussing coming into play with the second pick was perimeter scoring,” Stevens said, referring to the selection of Young at No. 17. “I guess the current roster construction you might say that played a role in that. But at the end of the day, we wanted to take the best players available, that we thought were the best players available for us.
“I feel a lot better standing here today than I did on July 4 last year, with how I feel heading into things, how much more comfortable I am understanding the schedule of the NBA, the way to get the most out of our team as we move forward, the way to get the most out of our individuals. We’ll have a lot of guys back that have been a part of this and understand how we want to do things. I think we’re adding two good workers. I think we’re adding two guys that will be hungry to help and I think that’s all a positive. Can I predict how many wins that creates? I can’t predict that. I think we’ll be a lot more prepared from the standpoint of the big picture, both on the court and in our preseason and everything else than I would’ve felt last year at this time.”
|Danny Ainge on Marcus Smart and James Young: ‘I don’t want to put too much pressure on them right away’||06.27.14 at 11:55 am ET|
Danny Ainge was true to his word Thursday night – he decided to take the two picks he had in the first round and stay right where he was after all trade talks fell through.
As Ainge predicted 90 minutes before the draft began, there was no draft night drama for Boston. The Celtics selected powerful point guard Marcus Smart and super swingman James Young at Nos. 6 and 17 respectively in an effort to get younger and stronger at the same time.
“We’re very excited about the two guys that we drafted,” Ainge said. “Marcus Smart and James Young, we think they have a bright future. We can’t wait to get them started and get them ready for Summer League.”
Summer League begins Saturday, July 5 and runs for a full week in Orlando. “I just think they’re two guys that can be starting players in the NBA for years to come. I just don’t want to put too much pressure on them right away. We need to let these guys develop and sort of earn their stripes. I think they’re going to have very, very bright careers.”
Smart is a 6-foot-4 point guard that happens to weigh in at 230 pounds. Young is a 6-foot-7 swingman who weighs nearly 20 pounds less but showed in the NCAA title game against UConn that he can do what is an absolute must for a wing in today’s NBA – get to the basket and score. He led Kentucky with 20 points as an 18-year-old in the 60-54 loss to UConn.
In his freshman season at Kentucky, Young was the second-most prolific freshman 3-point scorer in school history with 82 threes. He was named to the 2014 All-SEC second team and All-Freshman team. In 40 games (39 starts), he averaged 14.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 32.4 minutes per game.
“They’re young players and very talented,” Ainge said. “Good size for their position, good length and good scoring for their positions. James played very good defense and he had to guard the different perimeter positions throughout his college freshman year. He’s very young. Marcus is a terrific defender and really defends the pick-and-roll and is a guy that goes downhill on pick-and-rolls, gets to the basket, absorbs contact, plays through contact, initiates contact.”
After being recruited as a sharp-shooting wing in high school, (earning McDonald’s All-American status in Rochester Hills, Mich.), Young saw his percentage drop to 40.7 percent for John Calipari in his only season at Kentucky.
“He was a good shooter all throughout his high school life,” Ainge said. “He didn’t shoot the ball as well this year as he has in the past but he shot the ball great in the NCAA tournament. We know he’s a good shooter. He’s got a good athletic body, good size, good length for a small forward and we think he’s a prototypical small forward.”
|Steve Pagliuca: Drafting James Young at No. 17 was ‘a great steal’||06.26.14 at 11:43 pm ET|
There were some eyebrows raised when the Celtics selected 18-year-old swingman James Young out of Kentucky with their second pick of the first round Thursday night. But listen to the Celtics‘ brass and they will tell you they were the lucky ones.
Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca said there were cheers galore in the team’s war room when Young fell to them at No. 17. Pagliuca made several references to Young’s 20-point performance against Connecticut in the national championship game in April..
“There were two or three players that we felt like we would love to get at 17, and he was the one we really wanted to get,” Pagliuca said. “We were on pins and needless in there as the selections went by. We were thinking Chicago might take him but they didn’t so we were really, really happy. There was a big cheer in the war room when his name was available.
“Young, as evidenced by the final game, the top two teams in the nation playing, scoring 20 points. He’s got an inside game, an outside game. He moves well. He will fit well with Brad’s ball-movement system. So, Young’s going to bring us a player that can slash and move and hit the outside shot. He’s crafty and can defend. We’re really excited to get him at 17. Thought he could’ve gone a lot earlier.”
What was also very clear was management’s sense that Young could play several positions and serve different roles for the Celtics, even at a young age. Combine this with the backcourt versatility the Celtics see in Marcus Smart and the Celtics think they’ve added two pieces they can put in different places in Brad Stevens‘ flex offense.
“Absolutely, actually, James can play the 3. He’s 6-7, prototypical NBA body,” Pagliuca added. “And Marcus Smart is a versatile player. He can play the 1 or 2. We’re going to have a very versatile and great team. We’re really excited about this. We had these guys ranked higher than Danny drafted them. Our staff is ecstatic.
“James Young is a versatile player. He’s 6-7, he’s Young, 18 years old. Young is young. We really feel he can develop into a versatile player and help us a lot. Twenty points in the final, 14 points per game average. NBA-length and quickness. He can shoot the ball. We’re really excited about him at 17. We think that’s a great steal.
“Danny [Ainge] is always looking at all the options. We had Young ranked a lot higher than he went. He scored 20 points in the [NCAA] final. He’s really progressing. Marcus Smart is a competitor, intense. As Red always said when we bought the team, he wanted us to get instigators, not retaliators. Marcus Smart is an instigator. He got fouled just about more than anybody in college basketball. We’re really excited about his addition.”
|Wyc Grousbeck: Drafting Marcus Smart doesn’t have ‘any impact’ on Rajon Rondo||06.26.14 at 11:12 pm ET|
Well, according to owner Wyc Grousbeck, the answer is not much at all. The reason for Grousbeck’s public stance is Brad Stevens, who proved through a 25-win season that he could handle most of what Rondo could throw at any first-year coach.
“It’s interesting, that wasn’t a topic of conversation tonight,” Grousbeck said. “We have confidence in Brad that he can manage a roster but we also had confidence that of the top six we were going to take the best available as opposed to trying to slot in. That’s a strategy when you’re rebuilding a team, you take the best available athlete and then you let it all work out. We’ve got an All-Star point guard, so that’s not a question here.”
“I don’t think this has any impact on Rajon at all.”
Grousbeck acknowledged he hadn’t spoken with his star point guard before the selection was made.
Earlier this offseason, Grousbeck hinted at possible “fireworks” this summer if Danny Ainge found a trade partner.
“I always said fireworks were a possibility,” he said. “It takes two to tango around here. There just hasn’t been that much movement tonight. Typically on draft day, we make two trades if not three. That’s just the way we roll, ‘Trader Danny,’ and it’s had great effect for us. We like to be aggressive about rebuilding this team. We like to become contenders again as quickly as possible. So, we’ll keep working the phones, but it takes two partners to make a trade.”
So the Celtics did what Ainge predicted they would at the beginning of the night — hold onto their selections at 6 and 17 overall, taking Smart and Kentucky wing James Young.
“We knew there were six or seven kids that we wanted,” Grousbeck said. “So, the idea of moving to 8 or 10, moving slightly higher in the draft really wasn’t of interest. Maybe there’s a cliff in the draft. We wanted to stay at 6 or move up. We wanted to make other trades in recent days. We’d been on the phone quite a bit with other teams about other ideas. Nothing ever really seemed close to fruition, no matter how hard we tried. I remember trading for Kevin Garnett in ’07 and I got a call from Minnesota on July 30 or 31st, [so] the trade season is not over yet.”
|Wyc Grousbeck thinks of Red Auerbach in drafting Marcus Smart: ‘He’s an instigator [and] a bull’||06.26.14 at 9:23 pm ET|
Apparently Red Auerbach paid very close attention to the Big Bad Bruins.
When the Celtics chose Oklahoma State fireplug point guard Marcus Smart with the sixth pick overall Thursday night, Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck thought back to something Auerbach told him when he bought the team.
“We like the fact that he’s an instigator,” Grousbeck said. “Back to Red, as Red told me personally right when I came in, ‘You need instigators, not retaliators.’ This kid is energetic. He’s a bull. He is a force, and when I met him, he filled the doorway. He’s just got that physique and that drive and that attitude that we really like around the Celtics.”
Grousbeck said Smart has been on the radar of the Celtics for some time, including three sessions in front of team president of basketball operations Danny Ainge.
“Our war room is very happy with the pick,” Grousbeck said. “My job is to be part of that and be supportive. Our basketball guys are very excited and have been focusing on Marcus for several weeks. [They] really like the top six or seven kids in the draft quite a bit but really thought he’s pretty exceptional in a couple of ways and really looking forward to having him in green.
“He’s been on our list for a month as we started setting up the draft workouts. He came back here twice and Danny saw him again in a third workout elsewhere. He’s seen him personally three times in the last two or three weeks. We really think there’s a lot of quality in the top of the draft here and think that it’s not always clear how to differentiate among the quality. I’m repeating things as opposed to giving you my own personal evaluation. That’s not my role with this team. But we think this kid really has some special attributes.”
|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.
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