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Sad turn for NBA prospect Isaiah Austin an important lesson for all athletes 06.25.14 at 11:05 am ET
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Draft prospect Isaiah Austin was just days away from seeing his dream of playing in the NBA come true. Instead he becomes another sad but true reminder why all college student-athletes should prepare for life after sports. And it’s another reason why colleges should do more to help prepare these young men for what lies ahead.

In a terrible turn of events, the 20-year-old, 7-foot-1 center from Baylor was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, a career-ending condition “caused by a genetic mutation that leads to problems in connective tissues throughout the body.” Marfan.org states that “about 1-in-5,000 people have the condition that can affect the heart, blood vessels, bones or joints.”

I know the pain of having your life’s dream come to an abrupt end at an early age. I will never forget being a 24-year-old rookie sitting in then-Heat coach Pat Riley‘s office and having my career come to an end due to an ankle injury.

Riley shared his experience as a former player and talked about how he felt after his body could no longer withstand the pounding in the NBA. “Huck, I have to let you go,” are the words that I’ll never forget. For a 24-year-old who had just signed an NBA contract, it was like dying. I was blessed enough to be able to play for a paycheck in the NBA and Europe, but like so many I had never thought about what I would do when basketball ended.

I’ve heard about some of the quirky questions general managers ask draft prospects in the NFL and NBA (Michigan’s Nik Stauskas said he got a Justin Bieber question). But I wonder if they ask every draft prospect how prepared they are to go out into the general workforce (non-sports-related field) and obtain a job?

I make it a point now to talk to every player I interview while doing games for ESPN about preparing for life after sports. There is nothing wrong with chasing a dream of playing professionally, but it is bad business to not have a succession plan of what you will do afterward.

Unfortunately, Isaiah Austin, like myself, had his career come to an abrupt end. Hopefully he can go back to Baylor, finish his education and share his story with other student-athletes about the importance of a backup plan.

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Read More: Aaron Gordon, Isaiah Austin, Malcolm Huckaby, Pat Riley
NBA Draft’s Potential Celtics: Team’s biggest needs 06.23.14 at 10:28 am ET
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With Celtics fans focused on the fantasy of acquiring players like Kevin Love and Carmelo Anthony, it’€™s easy to forget the plentiful attractive options in the 2014 NBA draft. With two first-round selections and the versatility to move or add more picks, fans should still be excited about the chance of building through the draft.

That’€™s one reason I published my 2014 NBA Draft Guide as a means of putting all of my research into one convenient 115-page package for fans and readers to download. This article includes a more in-depth look at what’€™s included for each club in the “€œteam needs”€ section of the book, but watch the video above to find out what else is included in the guide, which can be downloaded by clicking here.

The Celtics roster needs a lot of work this summer, but the three biggest draft needs are a rim protector, a sharpshooter and a go-to scorer. Below are five options for each need that could be addressed with either the No. 6 or 17 pick. Click on each player’s name to discover a more complete draft profile.

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Read More: 2014 NBA Draft's Potential Celtics, Aaron Gordon, Boston Celtics, Dante Exum
Irish Coffee: Doug McDermott, Aaron Gordon and Celtics philosophy 06.12.14 at 6:05 pm ET
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As the Celtics begin welcoming a revolving door of NBA prospects into the their practice facility, two of the more intriguing options found their way to Waltham on Thursday, offering an interesting dichotomy for the C’s front office.

On the one hand, you have Creighton’s Doug McDermott, 22, the NCAA‘s Wooden and Naismith award winner best known in Boston for recreating Larry Bird‘s famous Sports Illustrated cover. The 6-foot-8 senior also happens to be a scoring machine, averaging 26.7 points on 64.4 true shooting this past season. A stat geek’s dream.

For the record, McDermott downplayed the Bird connection, as he should. Dougie McBuckets is no Larry Legend.

“œIt’€™s really not fair,” he told reporters after his workout. “I don’€™t think you can compare anyone to Larry Bird. There’€™s just not going to be another one. œIt’€™s good to have a guy like that for everyone to look up to, all these young guys, myself included. That’€™s the best of the best right there — him and Magic [Johnson] and Michael [Jordan], those guys. You can’€™t compare guys to those three, I don’€™t think. I just take pieces of his game and try to apply it to mine.”

On the other hand, you have Arizona’s Aaron Gordon, 18, the youngest player in the draft and best known in Boston for falling asleep on the T while in town for his sister’s Harvard graduation a couple weeks back. The 6-foot-9 forward is shooting challenged, but uber-athletic, versatile and defensive-minded. A talent scout’s dream.

Oh, and wouldn’t you know it? While McDermott models himself after Bird, Gordon is more of a Magic man.

“I loved how he could control the game,” Gordon told the media following Thursday’s Waltham workout. “He kinda broke the foundation of what basketball is really about — how guards have to be little and bigs have to be big. I like how creative he was with the basketball. He kinda brought a lot of flash to the game.”

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Read More: Aaron Gordon, Boston Celtics, Doug McDermott, NBA
Weekly NBA Draft Watch: Mock draft v3.0 at 9:50 am ET
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2014 has brought us one of the most unpredictable NBA drafts in years. The only guarantee that we have just two weeks out from draft day (June 26) is that there are no sure things.

If we know one thing, it’€™s this: Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins will be the first three names called (in no particular order). But all three still have as legitimate a shot to go No. 1 as they do No. 2 or 3.

This is going to be the type of draft where mocks will be changing all the way up until draft night when we find out what actually happens. Here is my latest crack at trying to break it down in my mock draft 3.0, picks 1-17 pick as usual.

1. Cavaliers, Joel Embiid (Kansas, freshman) – No changes here. Embiid is going to work out for the Cavs and show them what he can do on the court. But more importantly, he will have a physical done on his back to make sure it is healthy. With Embiid’s NBA potential, it feels like only a poor medical report can keep him from being the top selection.

2. Bucks, Jabari Parker (Duke, freshman) – I don’t see there being a debate as to whom to take between Parker and Wiggins, but many teams do. In this scenario, the Bucks make the right call. Parker is going to be a star, and could be just the building block the Bucks need to rebuild. Parker is the best player in this draft right now. He should have the inside track at Rookie of the Year no matter where he lands.

3. 76ers, Andrew Wiggins (Kansas, freshman) – The 76ers have the easiest pick in the draft. Simply take the leftover top-three pick that Cleveland and Milwaukee pass on. Although I don’t see Wiggins reaching his ceiling, he is going to be a solid player. Michael Carter-Williams and Wiggins would create one of the biggest, fastest and most athletic backcourts in the game.

4. Magic, Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State, sophomore) – Last mock I wrote that Exum going fourth to the Magic was about as sure a thing as we had in this draft. Well, over the last couple of weeks Smart has been climbing and Exum has been slipping, combining to change this pick to one of the least certain picks in the draft. Exum could still be the pick, but the Magic are just much more familiar with Smart right now. So let’s try this again. The most certain pick in the 2014 draft will be that the Magic take either Smart or Exum. There, that works.

5. Jazz, Dante Exum (Australia) – Exum falls into Utah’s lap here, and the Jazz get a great fit. With their frontcourt in place, the Jazz get a dynamic guard to put next to Trey Burke. The real question would be if Exum goes to Orlando. Would the Magic go big with Vonleh? Or stick with a guard in Smart?

6. Celtics, Aaron Gordon (Airzona, freshman) – Sorry to be boring, but reports that Danny Ainge is locked in on Gordon make it tough to go with someone else here. However, nothing is written in stone. Gordon would immediately become the Celtics‘ best athlete if he were the pick. He is not the only guy who will be working out in Waltham before the draft, though. Noah Vonleh, Julius Randle, Doug McDermott and Smart either have worked out or are scheduled to pay a visit so the Celtics can get a closer look at them.

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Read More: Aaron Gordon, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid
Weekly NBA Draft Watch: Mock draft v2.0 has more clarity 05.30.14 at 10:04 am ET
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About a month ago I posted my first mock draft. In the words of Lloyd Christmas, “I was way off!”

Since April, the lottery has provided us the clarity of who will own each pick, while the draft combine gave the prospects a chance to show team executives their talent. The result? A completely different draft board. We think we know the top three picks, but we have no clue in what order. This is a good draft, we know that, but predicting the picks is as tough as any year.

So without further adieu, here’€™s my mock draft 2.0, covering both of the Celtics‘€™ selections.

1. Cavaliers, Joel Embiid (Kansas, freshman) – From all accounts, it sounds like Embiid’€™s back is healthy. If that holds true when the 7-footer goes through his workouts, Embiid’€™s potential will be too high for Cleveland to pass up. Everyone is quick to use the Greg Oden comparison, but Embiid is much smoother on his feet for his size.

2. Bucks, Andrew Wiggins (Kansas, freshman) – The Bucks are absolutely horrible, but they have good young pieces in Larry Sanders, John Henson and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Since they already have so many players to develop, why not do the same with Wiggins? Personally, I do not see Wiggins as a star in the league. But if the Bucks do, they will roll the dice on him.

3. 76ers, Jabari Parker (Duke, freshman) – Philly makes out great here coming away with a sure thing. Parker is ready to play now and probably would be the best player on the 76ers roster. At worst he is a longtime NBA starter, but I see Parker as the clear-cut best player in this draft. I would be surprised if he did not end up as a less-selfish Carmelo Anthony-type player.

4. Magic, Dante Exum (Australia) – Orlando has long loved Exum. The Magic should have the chance to snag him at No. 4, and they will if they can. This is probably the surest pick in the draft at the moment. There are rumors that Philly would take Exum and No. 3 and look to trade the Rookie of the Year, Michael Carter-Williams. MCW’€™s trade value probably will never be higher, but taking Exum over Parker would be a mistake.

5. Jazz, Noah Vonleh (Indiana, freshman) – Vonleh has scouts going crazy over his 7-foot, 4 1/2-inch wingspan. Obviously that is a nice quality to have in a league with as much size as the NBA, but is Vonleh’€™s length important enough to draft over talents like Julius Randle and Aaron Gordon? I’€™m not yet sold, but many are.

6. Celtics, Aaron Gordon (Arizona, freshman) – From all I can gather, Danny Ainge loves Gordon if he is going to use the No. 6 pick. I wrote last week about the players that Ainge will most likely be selecting from with this pick. There are some unique talents on the list, but in the end Gordon’€™s potential, flexibility to play both forward spots, and versatility on both ends of the floor make him the pick.

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Read More: Aaron Gordon, Andrew Wiggins, Dante Exum, Jabari Parker
NBA Draft’s Potential Celtics: Arizona F Aaron Gordon 05.27.14 at 9:00 am ET
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As part of WEEI.com’€™s coverage of the 2014 NBA draft, here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be available to the Celtics when they make their two selections in the first round.

AARON GORDON

Position: Forward
School: Arizona
Age: 18
Height: 6-foot-9
Weight: 220 pounds
Wingspan: 7-foot

Key 2013-14 stats: 12.4 points, 8.0 rebounds, 35.6 3P%, 42.2 FT%

Scouting report: While 18-year-olds usually don’€™t come to the NBA ready to defend at a high level, Aaron Gordon could be the exception. He is one of the best athletes in the draft, possessing outstanding lateral quickness and length, which will allow him to defend at least three positions. But it’€™s his off-ball awareness that puts him in proper positioning when it comes to rotations and weakside help. This versatility and reliability gives him the defensive potential of a Shawn Marion, Gerald Wallace or even Andrei Kirilenko.

Gordon’€™s abominable free throw percentage will get a lot of press, as it should; he was terrible from the line, shooting only 42.2 percent. But his form isn’t that bad, and a player with his work ethic should be able to fix it by the time his rookie contract is over.

Other than that, the 6-foot-9 forward brings fantastic offensive tools to the pros. He’€™s exceptional at moving off-ball, often finding his way to the rim as a result of dive cuts, transition and screens. Gordon appears to have a great sense of spacing, which also helps him with the ball in his hands; he’€™s a very good ball handler and passer, which gives him potential as a pick-and-roll playmaker. Of course, Gordon must develop his shot, but his 35.6 3-point percentage, solid mechanics and youth give him great upside.

How he fits: Gordon could very well be the steal of the draft if he develops a reliable shot. The C’s could really use a “do-it-all” player at the wing, and Gordon may be the best option for them at the sixth pick.

Related articles:

CelticsBlog: Six options at the sixth pick for Boston

CBS Sports: Aaron Gordon’s stellar upside

Video: Here is a video of  Gordon’€™s top 10 plays this season.

(Kevin O’€™Connor also covers the Celtics for SB Nation and can be reached on Twitter @KevinOConnorNBA.)

Read More: 2014 NBA Draft's Potential Celtics, Aaron Gordon, Boston Celtics, NBA
Weekly NBA Draft Watch: Top prospects exit early from March Madness, but some intriguing talents remain 03.26.14 at 10:46 am ET
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Remember last week when I said that the beginning of March Madness is the greatest four-day stretch on the sports calendar? Well, I rarely get to reap the benefits of being right, so this is the part where I say, “I told you so.”

Seriously, what a weekend. Some will whine and complain about the low scores, the long shot clock or the quality of the play. Really!? Mercer completely outplaying Duke wasn’t shocking enough for you? Harvard winning a tournament game for the second year in a row, then giving Michigan State a run for its money didn’t entertain you? Dayton battling past Ohio State and Syracuse into the Sweet 16 — setting up a double-digit-seed showdown with Stanford, which took down Kansas — didn’t inspire you? Sorry to ramble, but this tournament is just too much fun.

To sum it all up, just picture this: No. 5-seed VCU is at the free throw line for a pair, up four points, with 10 seconds left against 12th-seed Stephen F. Austin. Now I tell you Stephen F. Austin will win this game by two points in overtime, arriving there on two missed free throws followed by an improbable four-point-play with 3.6 seconds remaining in regulation. Would you even believe me? It makes it 10 times more fun if you had Stephen F. Austin in your bracket, too.

This is why you watch March Madness.

The Celtics are involved in some madness of their own, as they jostle for lottery position in the bottom-heavy NBA. They currently are slotted into the fifth lottery spot, which after giving a glance at the standings and schedules isn’€™t a horrible place to end up. With 12 games remaining, Boston has to face the amazingly horrible 76ers (riding a cool 25-game losing streak) twice before season’€™s end, but the rest of their games could be helpful to their cause.

The Celtics will play the Bulls, Raptors and Wizards twice each, along with games against the Hawks and Bobcats — all teams battling for playoff position in the East. Lets just say those teams will be playing for a lot more than the Celts. And even when Boston faces off against fellow lottery competition on the road in Cleveland and Detroit, those games come on the tail end of back-to-backs ‘€“ meaning no Rajon Rondo. A 3-9 finish is not too much to ask for going into Wednesday night when Boston plays host to Toronto.

As much fun as the NCAA tournament was to watch, things didn’t go quite as well for the top NBA prospects. Jabari Parker and Marcus Smart went down in their first games, Andrew Wiggins dropped his second game (ending his college career with a four-point stinker) and Joel Embiid never even played. Add Dante Exum (the heralded Australian prospect) to the mix, and none of the potential top five picks in the draft will be playing in a Sweet 16 game.

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Read More: Aaron Gordon, Andrew Wiggins, Dante Exum, Jabari Parker
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