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Assessing the 2011 NBA Draft 06.29.11 at 3:42 pm ET
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The Cavaliers made Kyrie Irving the top pick in the NBA draft. (AP)

The 2011 NBA Draft was short on star-power and long on intrigue. It failed to deliver on the latter count and it will take two, if not three years before we know the definitive answer to the first.

For all the sound and fury leading up to draft night it was fairly straight-forward affair. Trade rumors swirled, but in the end only one major deal went down: the three-way trade between the Bobcats, Bucks and Kings. Players that fell — Kawhi Leonard, Jordan Hamilton — didn’t fall far very far and there were few outright surprises in the first round.

Here’s an early look at how this year’s draft unfolded broken down into five tiers: Winners, losers, teams that gambled, teams that helped their cause and solid selections. For those who don’t want to search for it, I’ll throw the Celtics up top and place them right in the “solid” category.

Celtics

Picks: JaJuan Johnson, E’Twaun Moore

The Celtics needed two things: size and shooting and they got both with Johnson, a 6-foot-10 shot-blocker with decent range. He’s not Chris Johnson thin, but he’s skinny, which is why he was available late in the first round.

The Celtics have been looking for complimentary big men for years. They’ve tried tall, athletic guys like Mikki Moore and Patrick O’Bryant, undersized bruisers like Leon Powe and Glen Davis and seemingly every fading veteran star from Rasheed Wallace to Shaq and Jermaine O’Neal.

If Johnson pans out he will give them a dimension they’ve lacked and help them matchup with teams like the Bulls, for example. On a team with so many open roster spots Moore will have a chance to stick if and when training camp ever begins.

Here’s the rest of the list: Read the rest of this entry »

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Larry Bird on the Big Show: I never would have coached at old Garden 06.28.11 at 6:39 pm ET
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Celtics legend Larry Bird. (AP)

Celtics legend Larry Bird was a guest of The Big Show on Tuesday and he sat down with Glenn Ordway for a wide-ranging interview that touched on his job with the Pacers, how he feels about the modern game — and some of the players — and his memories of playing with the Celtics.

Bird also said that he never would have coached at the old Boston Garden.

“All my memories I just wanted them to be as a player,” Bird said. “Even here in Indiana, I told Donnie [Walsh] if the Garden was still up I would never go in there as an opposing coach and play the Celtics as an Indiana Pacer coach. I just couldn’t do that. But they tore it down and I got in there in the other Garden and it didn’t bother me as much.”

Asked if he would have handed over the team to his then-assistant coach Rick Carlisle, Bird laughed, “Carlisle did a lot of it anyway. No, I just wouldn’t have taken the job. I just couldn’t do that. I couldn’t see myself walking in the Boston Garden as a visitor. I just couldn’t do that.”

Listen to the whole interview on The Big Show audio on demand page. Here’s the rest of the transcription from the interview:

You haven’t made a lot of trips back [to Boston]. Is that by design or is that just how the schedule worked out?

Well, we’re pretty busy here and I try to get out there as much as I can, just never enough because my admiration I have for that city, it’s a great city, it’s a sports town. I always like to go back out there but an opportunity hadn’t arose as much as I’d like. But obviously I’m going to be there for a couple of days and I’ll probably enjoy it.

As you look back at the great period that you had with [the Celtics], is there anything you look back at and say, “I wish I had done this?”

Yeah, a couple more championships would have helped. You know in 1981 when we won our first championship, I looked at our team and I thought, “Boy, we got a chance here to win at least five championships.” And we had a couple years where we didn’t do as well. Starting in ’84, ’85, ’86, and ’87, we were well on our way to winning a lot of championships. Then all of a sudden the back issues started coming in and things started changing. I always felt that we had a good enough team to win five championships.

We played in five finals but we just won three, so that’s probably the most disappointing thing, but overall it was the greatest time of my life. It was something I loved and playing in a city that cared for their players and their teams, really it was a positive for me and I miss it. I miss being out there, I miss playing, but sometimes I forget I even played because it’s been so long. But it was a great experience for me, I grew up in Boston and met a lot of good people and obviously got to play for Red [Auerbach], and I had some good teammates. We were a good team out there. Read the rest of this entry »

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Video: JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore are introduced 06.27.11 at 2:40 pm ET
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JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore are ready to contribute 06.27.11 at 2:35 pm ET
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JaJuan Johnson (left) and E'Twaun Moore hold up their new Celtics jerseys. Photo by Peter Neudel

The Celtics introduced their newest players — JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore — to the media at Edison school in Brighton on Monday and if first impressions count for anything both players came across as engaging and mature. That’s to be expected of a pair of four-year college players, both of whom earned degrees at Purdue.

Education was the theme of the day as Johnson and Moore were on hand to dedicate a new mobile computer lab through the Celtics Shamrock Foundation with 25 new Mac’s for the kids in the K-8 public school. With their parents in attendance, Johnson and Moore mixed easily with the kids.

Both acknowledged that it was a strange but pleasant coincidence that they would wind up on the same team in the NBA. That process didn’t begin on draft night. It started when both players decided to return for their senior seasons after going through the draft evaluation last year.

The extra year in school wasn’t wasted as Johnson increased his scoring average from 15.5 to 20.5 points per game and was named Big 10 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. Moore also raised his scoring average for the fourth straight season with the Boilerrmakers and shot 40 percent from the college 3-point line.

“These guys have both improved a lot over the course of their college careers,” team president Danny Ainge said. “They’ve played a lot of big games in a lot of hostile environments. I think that can only help.”

The knock on Johnson is that he’s thin and he acknowledged that he wants to add to his 220 pounds in the weight room and with a nutritional program. The negative for Moore is that at 6-foot-4 (in shoes) he may be too small to matchup with NBA 2-guards and he rarely played the point at Purdue. Johnson said that he sees himself as a four-man — as do the Celtics. Moore described himself as a combo guard and said he knew he had to be prepared to handle any backcourt assignment.

The NBA is filled with undersized, or oddly sized, players and each player brings something different to the equation for the Celtics who are trying to add pieces that can help this season, as well as in the future.

“I can run the floor, rebound, defend and be able to knock down that 15-18 foot shot pretty consistently,” Johnson said. “That’s what I can bring to the team.”

Moore was an accomplished scorer at Purdue and had a memorable game against Ohio State when he scored 38 points and knocked down seven 3-pointers. Johnson noted that in college Moore was the player the other Boilermakers counted on to make a big shot.

Their roles are reversed now as the pressure will be on Johnson to provide some interior help and athleticism to a frontline that can use both. Moore will have a chance to earn a roster spot and he may have competition. The Celtics brought University of Pittsburgh guard Gilbert Brown in to get acclimated with the facilities.

Brown told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Ainge was in contact with him after the draft and compared his situation to Wes Matthews, an undrafted free agent out of Marquette who has already carved out a niche in the NBA, as well as a five-year $32 million contract from the Blazers. The Celtics can’t sign undrafted free agents — or free agents of any kind — until July 1 and if there is a lockout Brown told the paper he was likely to play in Germany.

On a team with so many open positions and a determination to get younger, more athletic and affordable there’s a decent chance that both Moore and Brown could find their way on to the Celtics roster. Ainge told WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan last week that he did not intend to mess with the team’s cap space after the 2012 season when they will be way below the cap, regardless of whatever system is in place in a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Click here to listen to the whole interview.

That’s why this draft was so important for the Celtics. They want to remain competitive for a championship this season, while also laying the foundation for the future. Ainge told D & C that one more year with the big three was realistic, but two was probably asking too much. With Johnson, Moore, possibly Brown and last year’s first round pick Avery Bradley vying for playing time, the Celtics will have not only youth, but experienced youth to try and alter the dynamic of the team.

NOTES

Johnson will wear No. 12 as a tribute to his mother, Rhonda Curlin. That was her number in high school. Moore will wear No. 55. He said he was a fan of Jason “White Chocolate” Williams growing up.

Johnson said he was looking forward to learning from Kevin Garnett. “If he tells me something I’ll definitely do my best to execute what he’s saying,” Johnson said. “I don’t want him to shut me down. I want to learn as much as I can from him.”

Ainge said the team would extend a qualifying offer to restricted free agent Jeff Green before the deadline as expected.

One area Ainge wouldn’t address was any potential free agent plans. Anything and everything related to the new CBA has been off-limits in keeping with NBA policy.

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Celtics trade picks, get Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson 06.23.11 at 10:24 pm ET
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JaJuan Johnson (AP)

The Celtics swung a minor deal in the first round of the NBA draft, trading back from 25 to 27 with New Jersey and picking up a 2014 second-round pick in the process. The Celtics wound up with Purdue big man JaJuan Johnson, a rangy 6-foot-10 shot-blocker who averaged over 20 points and 8 rebounds a game for the Boilermakers.

Johnson stayed all four years at Purdue and ended his career with a bevy of awards including Big Ten Player of the Year, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and consensus All-America. The Celtics desperately need size and Johnson offers that, along with some upside offensively.

Officially the Celtics selected Providence’s Marshon Brooks with the 25th pick. The trade went through after the Nets chose at 27. A league source indicated that the Celtics would have taken Boston College product Reggie Jackson, but the Thunder took him one spot ahead of their choice at 24.

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Celtics draft day scenarios 06.23.11 at 3:20 pm ET
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In what is considered a weak draft, the Celtics are no illusions that they will be able to find a true difference-maker in the first round.

“When you’re drafting where we’re drafting, I’m not trying to put a negative spin on this, I’m trying to be realistic,” team president Danny Ainge said on Wednesday.  “The 25th pick in the draft is probably not going to help us, immediately. But there are some players that we think can fit our roster, fit into the personality of our team and have a work ethic that can make our team better in practice and add depth to our roster.”

Ainge also said that he’s not interested in packaging their future first-rounder from the Clippers obtained in the Kendrick Perkins trade to move up in this draft. (The pick is top-10 protected through 2015. If the Clippers and Timberwolves both have picks in next year’s draft out of the top 10, then the Celtics would get the lower of the two choices.) That would take a player like USC center Nikola Vucecic out of the mix.

That said, Ainge can still go in a number of different direction in the draft. Here are a few of the scenarios:

IF THEY TRADE THE PICK

ESPN’s Chad Ford reported this morning that the Celtics  would be looking to add a young veteran in exchange for the pick and they have the Marquis Daniels trade exception — valued at just under $2.4 million — to help the cause. The player should be young, relatively cheap and tall.

SI’s Zach Lowe compiled a helpful list of players who could be available in that scenario. It includes players like Antony Tolliver, Lou Admunson and most intriguingly Sacramento’s Jason Thompson who is easily the best player on the list. The Celtics need two things: size and shooting and if they could begin the process of addressing one of them in the draft that would be a success.

IF THEY KEEP THE PICK: OPTION I — THE COLLEGIAN

There will be a number of experienced college players available at 25 and Ainge has done well in this regard over the years, most notably taking Ryan Gomes and Leon Powe in the second round. (Click on the name for a mini-profile).

Jimmy Butler, Marquette: Butler is getting the most buzz because the Celtics had him in for a workout this week. He’s long and athletic for a wing player, which are two things the Celtics have in mind. They feel that one of their problems in the playoffs against Miami was that the Heat got to way too many loose balls and long rebounds. That’s not effort as much as it’s athletic ability. A player like Butler would help in that regard.

Reggie Jackson, Boston College: One of the biggest mysteries in the draft. Jackson was considered an obvious first rounder with the chance to sneak in the lottery when the process started, but he didn’t participate in the combine and hasn’t worked out for teams. Rumors are everywhere that he has a promise from some team to take him in the first round and if he isn’t picked, the Heat are expected to snatch him up with the first choice in the second round.

Tyler Honeycutt, UCLA: Like Butler, Honeycutt is long and athletic. UCLA players tend to be better pros than collegians and he has an intriguing upside.

Justin Harper, Richmond: Harper is 6-foot-10 with range and the Celtics love big players who can stretch the floor.

Kyle Singler, Duke: Singler is a fairly well-known commodity, but with Jeff Green likely back it’s hard to imagine a scenario where he would get playing time with the Celtics.

Nolan Smith, Duke: Ainge has never really worried about having a true backup point guard behind Rajon Rondo, but Smith is experienced enough to compete for backup minutes as a rookie.

IF THEY KEEP THE PICK: OPTION II — THE PROJECT

Jeremy Tyler: His backstory is well-known. Tyler skipped his senior year of high school to play professionally in Israel. Things didn’t go as planned mainly because of maturity issues, but he had a better year playing in Japan for former NBA coach Bob Hill. Tyler is big and talented, but it’s unrealistic to think he can help the Celtics immediately.

Doc Rivers offered his take on big men projects: “Usually if size is available at the 25th pick, I don’t know if that’s a good sign or a bad sign honestly. Sometimes you can get lucky. Danny, I’ve said it for years, if there’s a guy there at that size who can play he’ll know it.”

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Danny Ainge is realistic about the 2011 draft 06.22.11 at 2:48 pm ET
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Danny Ainge (AP)

WALTHAM — On the eve of the 2011 NBA draft, Celtics president Danny Ainge said that it’s unlikely the team will find much help for the upcoming season with the 25th pick in the first round.

“When you’re drafting where we’re drafting, I’m not trying to put a negative spin on this, I’m trying to be realistic, the 25th pick in the draft is probably not going to help us, immediately,” Ainge said on Wednesday at the team’s training facility in Waltham. “But there are some players that we think can fit our roster, fit into the personality of our team and have a work ethic that can make our team better in practice and add depth to our roster.”

Ainge said that had no intention of trading the future Clippers pick that is top-10 protected through 2016 to move up in this year’s draft and agreed with the overall sentiment that this is a down year for talent. ‘The picks we have aren’t good enough to get to the very, very top of the draft and we think next year’s draft will be better,” Ainge said.

Here are some other items of interest from Wednesday’s media gathering that also included coach Doc Rivers:

On Rajon Rondo: “He’s not 100 percent yet,” Ainge said. “He’s probably about four weeks away from playing basketball at full speed, but he can do some training and conditioning right now.”

Rondo was running on a treadmill above the practice court at Waltham and wasn’t wearing any kind of a brace for his elbow that he dislocated in the playoffs. He turned down requests for an interview.

On Jermaine O’Neal: “He has every intention of coming back,” Ainge said. “Something could happen, that he won’t come back, but he has every desire to come back and play, and he didn’t like the way it finished this year. He doesn’t want to end his career on that kind of note, wants to be a much bigger contributor next year.”

O’Neal has been in Waltham getting treatment and working out and Ainge said that O’Neal decided not to have more surgery on his knee.

On Lawrence Frank, who has been a finalist for several head-coaching jobs: “Lawrence has interest in coming back,” Ainge said. “Lawrence will have an opportunity to coach, as you know, he’s been a top candidate in a lot of teams this year. We want Lawrence back. Lawrence will have options with other teams, too, he’s not under contract, so he has an option to explore all those options.”

Frank was also getting in some treadmill time.

Ainge also confirmed that free agent center Nenad Krstic has signed with CSKA Moscow and will not be back.

On possibly trading one of their core players: “We love our core group. I will just say this. I never tell players that I would never do anything like that,” Ainge said. “We have to keep our options open and explore. That’s my job. Our intention is to bring our core group back.”

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