|Marcus Smart: ‘We embrace these banners’||06.30.14 at 5:54 pm ET|
WALTHAM — It was a day for coronation.
Two would-be cornerstones of Boston’s basketball future – Marcus Smart and James Young – were formally indoctrinated publicly into the Celtics mystique on a six-seat dais on the team’s practice facility court. In five days they head out for the NBA Summer League in Orlando on their first basketball excursion as formal members of the most hallowed team in the NBA.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, co-owner Steve Pagliuca, head coach Brad Stevens and team president Rich Gotham introduced first-round picks Smart and Young on Monday at the club’s training facility on Monday, three days after they were chosen sixth and 17th overall, respectively, last Thursday in the NBA draft.
“We’re just excited to be here,” Smart said. “We embrace these banners. It means a lot to us, the tradition that’s here. We just want to go out and play our game and just feel part of this tradition and embrace it all.”
“Really just come out here and do what we did to get to this point,” added Young. “The empty banner up there, just look at it as motivation, that’s about it.”
As was the case before the team won the 2008 NBA title, there is a blank white banner with green trim next to the team’s last NBA title banner up on the wall in the practice facility.
Family members of both draft picks were on hand and formally welcomed by Ainge during the 15-minute press conference at the Sports Authority complex in Waltham.
|Danny Ainge: Avery Bradley ‘is a big part of our future’ as Celtics extend qualifying offer||06.30.14 at 4:17 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Danny Ainge doesn’t want Avery Bradley going anywhere.
Whether that means Monday’s qualifying offer from Ainge to the fourth-year NBA guard is enough to make Bradley a permanent fixture in Boston remains to be seen.
On Monday, the Celtics offered Bradley a qualifying offer worth an estimated $3.6 million as they try to retain his rights in Boston. The move itself, without any agreement on a long-term deal, makes Bradley a restricted free agent. The bigger benefit of Monday’s offer is the ability of the Celtics to match any offer made to the 23-year-old defensive shutdown guard.
Before the 2013-14 season, Bradley reportedly turned down a four-year, $24 million contract extension from the Celtics as he anticipated his shot at restricted free agency this summer. Bradley, who played only 60 games due to various injuries, averaged a career-high 14.9 points per game while shooting 44 percent from the field.
The real cost of Boston’s offer Monday is the so-called “cap hold.” Ainge and the Celtics will have to set aside 250 percent of Bradley’s previous salary or approximately $6.3 million.
“It would mean a lot,” Ainge said Monday of keeping Bradley in the fold. “I think Avery can be a very key player in us winning the championship. He does things that other players can’t do. And his shooting continues to improve and we have all seen in the past his terrific defensive abilities. I think Avery is a big part of this.
“Avery is a big part of our future. You obviously need three guards that are going to play significant minutes. We also think Marcus can play with Phil Pressey. Phil can play with Rondo and Phil can play with Avery. I think that because of the versatility of Rondo and Marcus, that probably allows that versatility. Listen, there are a lot of guys in our league that are small forwards, especially bench small forwards that are 6-5, guys are that are basically wing players that are ‘2’ guards. I think there’s a time and a place in a game where you could see three guards that could be playing. I see those guys being able to playing very well together and compliment each other.”
Hours earlier, speaking at his own skills academy at UMass-Boston, Bradley did nothing to dispel the notion that he wants to return to the Celtics long-term.
“I haven’t been worried about [free agency],” said Bradley. “I’ve been worried about getting better. I try not to think about anything I can’t control. All I can do is continue to try to get better every single day, and I know everything else will work out.
“We really haven’t [discussed] any numbers or anything. Obviously, I want to be here. And I let those guy know that. When the time comes, we’ll just see what happens, and see if we come to an agreement.”
|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.”
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