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Austin Ainge admits his dad would’ve taken Kevin Durant over Greg Oden in 2007 06.21.14 at 2:54 pm ET
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Now we know.

In 2007, when the Celtics finished 24-58, they had a theoretical chance to finish first in the NBA draft lottery and choose between either Kevin Durant or Greg Oden.

On Saturday, as the Celtics continued to work out players for the 2014 NBA draft, Celtics director of player of personnel Austin Ainge announced what his father Danny would’ve done.

“€œI 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.

“€œProbably best not to share all of that, but I think we all want to know exactly what it is,”€ Ainge said. “€œEven 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.”

The Celtics have had a track record of taking players with an injury background, taking Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger in previous drafts.

“It’€™s case by case. There have been many, many guys we passed on,’€ Ainge said. ‘€œOur 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.

‘€œWith Jared, we weren’€™t (able to look at him),’€ Ainge said. ‘€œWe 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.

“€œFoot 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.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Greg Oden, Joel Embiid, Kevin Durant
Shabazz Napier says he has ‘heart’ to lead an NBA team 06.16.14 at 3:55 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Before stepping on the court for a workout Monday morning at the Celtics training facility, Shabazz Napier wanted to make sure he took it all in.

So, the former University of Connecticut star point guard — born in Roxbury and schooled at Charlestown High — came in Sunday night and took some time before an informal shootaround to just be the fan of the Celtics he was growing up.

“I came in [Sunday] to shoot a little bit,” Napier said. “For about a good 5-10 minutes, I looked around at the banners. Just a warm feeling. [Watching] the Celtics growing up, being a Boston fan and you get those chills you every time you watch those films. It took me about five to 10 minutes to realize I was here.”

Monday, Napier was all business. He took part in an NBA pre-draft workout Monday morning for the Celtics. The two-time NCAA champion guard says he may not have all the physical tools like size and length but his heart makes him an NBA leader. Napier grew up in the Boston area before leaving for UConn but says he still cheers for Boston teams like the Celtics.

One thing he wanted to get across in his meeting with reporters was his confidence that he can do in the NBA what he did at UConn — lead a team to a championship.

“I don’t have the crazy wingspan,” said Napier, whose wingspan at the combine was measured at 6-foot-3.25 inches. “I just have the heart that a lot of guys with those attributes don’t have. You put me in front of anybody I’m going to compete. That’s the biggest thing that I have gotten since I was younger. I was always the littlest guy. Those are the things I can’t worry about. Just be myself. There are a lot of guys with those attributes that can’t lead a team like I can. There’s always a reason for something. I’m definitely happy I can lead a team.

“I’ve been to six [NBA] teams so far and basketball has taken me there. It’s been a blessing.”

Napier said that he plans to work out for at least two more teams, including the Rockets this week, before sitting back and watching where his name is called on June 26.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Connecticut Huskies, NBA, NBA Draft
With his lesson learned, Marcus Smart ready to prove he can play at ‘next level’ 06.13.14 at 7:48 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Marcus Smart has high expectations.

Those expectations include a high draft position on June 26, a long, successful and financially beneficial career and the chance to compete for an NBA title.

Now, the issue is whether the Celtics help Smart fulfill those dreams. The Celtics held a pre-draft workout on Friday morning that featured six guards. The group was headlined by the 20-year-old who spent two seasons at Oklahoma State.

Several mock drafts, including the most recent on WEEI.com’s Green Street, have the former Cowboy selected between spots 4-8 on June 26. So, landing in Boston with the No. 6 overall pick is a strong possibility.

“€œI just came out here and competed,” Smart said of his workout, “€œI wanted to prove that I can play at the next level.”€

Coach Brad Stevens had a strong takeaway from watching Smart work out.

“€œI thought he was good, he was physical, he’€™s a leader,”€ Stevens said. “[I] thought he shot the ball well in drills. He’€™s got a way about him that people follow. He’€™s a very tough guy, he competed the whole time. My expectations for him were high in that regard, but he certainly met them. He’€™s going to be a good player.”

Not surprisingly, one of the first questions Smart fielded was about the altercation he was involved with back on Feb. 8 when he shoved a fan at Texas Tech.

“Surprisingly, not many teams have asked me about it,”€ he offered, “€œThey kind of just understand it’€™s the competitiveness in [me]. … And I know I’ve learned my lesson from it.”

Stevens had little concern as well. When asked if he had any concerns about Smart’€™s maturity, Stevens replied, “€œNo, not at all.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Marcus Smart, NBA, NBA Draft
Julius Randle gets some sage advice from Rajon Rondo: ‘Just enjoy the process’ at 2:56 pm ET
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WALTHAM — After one year at Kentucky, forward Julius Randle feels he’s ready to take on the NBA.

Friday, following a pre-draft workout for the Celtics, the 19-year-old showed just how ready he is by answering a non-stop stream of questions from reporters about the state of his right foot, which had a pin placed in it in his senior year of high school to help heal a break.

There were reports Thursday that some NBA general managers believe the foot did not heal properly and that it could be an issue that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

“My foot is fine,” Randle said. “Everybody has their opinion on what [I] should do but I’m pain-free. There’s no pain before, during or after. I’m fine.”

Randle said surgery has not been considered to this point.

“It’s never been considered,” he said. “I’ve met with my own doctor and talked to specialists, some of the best doctors in the world and they said they wouldn’t do anything with it. [I] broke it back in high school. I have a pin in it. I guess some people may think they want to put a different one in. I don’t know. I have no clue. It’s the draft and they want to know about it.

Where did he get the advice on how to handle the barrage of questions that he knew would be coming? Another Kentucky product — Rajon Rondo — spoke with him before his workout and gave him some advice.

“I talked to him a little bit today and yesterday,” Randle said. “We kind of have that Kentucky connection. Rondo is a great guy. I have nothing bad to say about him. He’s a great guy, competitor. I’d love to play with him.

“Just be myself, just enjoy the process. A 19-year-old kid going through this can be a lot. Just really enjoy the process, have fun with it, and don’t let outside distractions take away from your joy of the process. That’s what I’ve been trying to do, that’s what my family has told me to do and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.”

The media hype Friday over a pre-draft workout in Boston gave him a little taste of what to expect in the NBA, especially if he’s selected by the Celtics.

“It’s a little bit of the same. Kentucky prepares you a lot for things like these,” he said of playing for John Calipari for just one season. “At Kentucky, this is all they know, Kentucky basketball. So, it really prepared me from an expectation level. The fans of Boston, city of Boston has great expectations for their team. This is a winning organization, a championship organization. Kentucky is the same way. Our season is a lot shorter, they don’t expect to win maybe two games at the most.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Julius Randle, Kentucky Wildcats, NBA
Jared Sullinger, Jerryd Bayless provide offensive punch, lead short-handed C’s to win 02.07.14 at 9:50 pm ET
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The short-handed Celtics have suddenly won three straight.

Jared Sullinger scored a career high 31 points and grabbed 16 rebounds to lead the short-handed Celtics to their third straight win, a 99-89 victory over the Kings Friday night at TD Garden. All three wins (Orlando, Philadelphia and Sacramento) come against losing teams that figure to provide much stiffer competition for draft position in the NBA lottery this spring.

Playing without Rajon Rondo (knee soreness) and Avery Bradley (ankle), Jerryd Bayless (19 points) and Kelly Olynyk (11 points, nine rebounds, five assists) also helped to pick up the slack.

Gerald Wallace added eight points, grabbed 12 rebounds and dished nine assists as the Celtics have followed up their worst month in history (2-15 in January) with three straight wins to open February.

Jeff Green added 17 points on 6-of-20 shooting to help the Celtics improve to 18-33, which may not be great news in the long run. Boston moved 3.5 games ahead of last place Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division.

The Kings took advantage of the depleted Celtics early on, building a 29-19 lead late in the first quarter. DeMarcus Cousins was big early on, scoring 13 of his team-high 31 points in the opening quarter. Cousins and Sullinger each finished with 31 points and 16 rebounds. Sacramento led 29-21 after 12 minutes.

But Olynyk led the Celtics back in the second quarter, scoring nine of his 11 first-half points off the bench. Olynyk couldn’t miss in the first half, hitting all three field goals, including a 3-pointer, while draining all four free throws. Olynyk had eight of Boston’s 12 points in a 12-0 run that put the Celtics on top, 31-29. Boston outscored Sacramento, 28-17, in the second quarter to grab a 49-46 halftime lead.

The Kings scored the first six points of the second half, taking a 52-49 lead, moving coach Brad Stevens to call a time out. After the break, the Celtics responded with a 10-0 run. The Kings responded with the game’s next seven points to tie the game again, a trend that continued for most of the third quarter as the Celtics led, 71-69, heading into the final 12 minutes.

Isaiah Thomas added 24 points for the Kings and got into a brief scuffle with Bayless late in the fourth quarter under the Kings basket. The tussle came close to spilling into the stands but was brought under control just in time. Both players were assessed technicals but remained in the game.

The Celtics opened the fourth quarter on an 18-4 run and were never threatened down the stretch. The Celtics have Saturday off before hosting the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday evening (6:30 p.m. ET) at TD Garden.

For more, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Jared Sullinger, NBA, NBA Draft
A mom’s NBA draft diary: Hard to handle a disappointing team workout 06.12.13 at 3:28 pm ET
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Hamilton resident Mandy Carter-Zegarowski, the mother of Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams and the girls basketball coach at Ipswich High School, is chronicling the days leading up to the June 28 NBA draft through blog entries for WEEI.com. Carter-Williams, who prepped at Hamilton-Wenham High School and Rhode Island’€™s St. Andrews School before spending two seasons at Syracuse, is projected to be a lottery pick.

Michael left Phoenix and flew to Sacramento this past Friday night. He was in great space and felt really good about his Phoenix workout and interviews with the GM and president. His agent received really positive feedback from Phoenix but reminded us that the positive feedback did not mean Phoenix was going to take him. He told me not to get too high or too low through this process, which we could understand. [Carter-Williams’ stepfather] Zach [Zegarowski] and I always tell our kids, don’t ever get too high or too low in basketball. It is a little more difficult not to do this during this process because we feel and have been told a lot will weigh on Michael’s workouts. So after Phoenix, we were looking for houses in Phoenix. Just kidding, but we were happy his first workout went well. Sacramento was a different story.

My family was at a friend’s son’s graduation party on Saturday. I have been friends with Ellen since the fifth grade, so her family is our family. We are very close. We lived with them for a while after our house burnt down. Our kids are best friends. I had actually forgotten Michael was working out because of the time difference, I was not even thinking about when he would be done. I got a text message from him at 4 our time saying: It didn’t go well. My body felt a step behind and I did not defend like I can or shoot as consistently as I have been…..I stayed positive but I did not feel great….

He said he felt dehydrated and had trouble sleeping the night before. I felt sick after reading the text, my stomach dropped. I removed myself from the crowded table I was sitting at and went to an area in the yard where no one was so I could text him back without distraction. I signaled to Zach who was in the middle of a horseshoe game and mouthed, “It did not go well” to him. He continued to play the game, which made the pit in my stomach turn to fire. Is he really not running over here to deal with this, I said to myself!

My fingers were moving furiously as I text Michael he should have been drinking water on the plane the night before and how important preparing yourself physically and mentally is for these workouts. I asked him what the hell he was thinking about and that he must have been distracted. I told him he has to immediately move on from one workout to the next mentally and start thinking about what he needs to do to be ready. The time change, the travel, sleeping in a hotel, he has to adjust quickly and he will need to do that in the NBA. I texted him he has seven workouts in 15 days, he has to be disciplined.

“Mandy, come back and join us,” my friend yelled from what felt like another state as I stood there anxiously wondering how to find out what this means. How bad was the workout? Michael is usually accurate with his self-assessments. I looked over at the table of friends and yelled back, “Michael did not do well in Sacramento,” in a tone that let everyone know not to call my name again. I couldn’t believe it. He just did so well in Phoenix. I glared over at Zach with the threat stare letting him know that either the horseshoe game was going to end or I was going to end it.

I stopped caring about everything else around me and was in my own world. Michael was upset, and I did not have it in me to tell him it was OK. Or that things would work out. I knew Zach could spin it quicker than I could. He has the ability to help Michael learn from things and move on quicker than I do. He doesn’t tell Michael what he wants to hear like a friend would, but he is less intense with his tone and energy than I am, so Michael is more receptive to him. But I don’t care in the moment. It takes me a while to process and regroup. I am working on it, but it’s who I am.

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Read More: Mandy Carter-Zegarowski, Michael Carter-Williams, NBA Draft,
Five worst Celtics draft day moves of Danny Ainge era 06.27.12 at 7:20 pm ET
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When Danny Ainge was hired as Celtics president of operations in 2003, he inherited a team on the upswing that had just come off of a pair of playoff exits following six straight seasons missing the playoffs.

Nine years later, Ainge has become known across the league for his bold decision-making, something that has helped the Celtics rise back to the elite of the NBA over the last five seasons. But despite the success, it hasn’€™t gone without some controversy and questionable moves.

As Ainge enters his 10th NBA draft in the Celtics front office, here’€™s a look at the top five worst draft day moves Ainge has made and how they’€™ve panned out.

5. J.R. Giddens, 30th pick, 2008 ‘€“ Heralded as one of the best scorers in the 2008 draft class, Giddens simply just never panned out in the NBA. Considered to be a potential replacement for Tony Allen, who eventually left the Celtics in free agency, Giddens couldn’€™t live up to the defensive standards that Doc Rivers stresses and never received much playing time.

It didn’€™t begin well for Giddens, who declined to participate in minicamp after being drafted because he hadn’€™t agreed to a contract. After finally signing, the 6-foot-5 guard was put on assignment with the Utah Flash of the NBA D-League before getting called up to the Celtics in February 2009. He saw very limited action and saw eight minutes during the season.

In 2009-10, Giddens saw an increased role but still didn’€™t see much playing time. He played 4.7 minutes per game in 21 appearances, which even included a start on Jan. 2, 2010. He scored a career-high 10 points and posted nine rebounds against the 76ers on March 19, 2010, as a member of the Knicks after being traded by the Celtics. For his career, Giddens averaged 1.9 points, 1.4 rebounds and 6.5 minutes per game.

Where is he now?: On Feb. 18, 2010, Giddens was traded by the Celtics as part of a deal that sent him, Bill Walker and Eddie House to the Knicks in exchange for Nate Robinson and Marcus Landry. He saw an increased role with the Knicks but chose to leave the NBA after the season to pursue a career overseas. He spent 2010-11 in Poland before signing with PAOK Thessaloniki,  in Greece, where he currently plays.

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Read More: Celtics, Danny Ainge, Gabe Pruitt, Gerald Green
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