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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
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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.”

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Austin Ainge named Red Claws head coach 07.21.09 at 4:26 pm ET
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Austin Ainge, son of Boston Celtics GM Danny Ainge, has been named head coach of the Portland Red Claws. He is the first head coach in the history of this NBA Development League team.

‘€œI have always been intrigued by new ideas and innovation,’€ Red Claws President and General Manager Jon Jennings said in a team statement. ‘€œAustin Ainge brings that to our team. He blew me away with his ability to analyze players and game strategy. When I was a young coach with the Celtics, video was the new revolution. Today, it’€™s statistical analysis. Austin brings that to a whole new level. Combine that with his ability to develop players and his background, and he is going to be a fantastic head coach.’€

Ainge, 27, most recently  served as a scout for the Celtics. His responsibilities included working with J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker while they were assigned to the D-League’s Utah Flash. Ainge served as an assistant coach at Southern Utah University after finishing his basketball career at Brigham Young University.

‘€œI have had the unique opportunity to be on many sides of this business,’€ Ainge said in the statement.  ‘€œA main focus for me, as I have drawn from each situation, is talent evaluation.  That includes both as the team is being assembled and during the season. As a coach, you must focus on which plays to call and what defensive adjustments to make, but even more important is which players are your best players and which lineups are playing the best together.  Evaluating your own players and lineups is paramount, and using statistical analysis is a big help in making more accurate evaluations.’€

The Red Claws are the NBDL affiliate for the Celtics and Charlotte Bobcats.

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