|Darrun Hilliard shows Celtics he has ‘right attitude’ in pre-draft workouts||06.11.15 at 8:55 am ET|
WALTHAM — The NBA pre-draft workouts are probably the best medicine for Darrun Hilliard.
The star shooting guard from Villanova visited the Celtics Wednesday for his 10th NBA pre-draft workout. He still has a bitter taste in his mouth from the way his season, and brilliant college career, ended in the NCAA tournament.
The Wildcats finished the regular season and their conference tournament with a flourish never before seen in the rich history of Villanova basketball. They won 16 straight games, won the Big East tournament for the second time. They blew out Lafayette by 41 points in their first NCAA game. They were 33-2 and one of the very hottest teams in college basketball, ranked No. 2 in AP behind only undefeated Kentucky.
Everything seemed to be lining up perfectly for Hilliard and the No. 1 seeded Wildcats to make a deep run. Then it all came to a crashing halt against North Carolina State, losing in stunning fashion, 71-68. The dreams of a national title or even a run to the Final Four ended before the Sweet 16.
“It’s kind of sucks that loss overshadowed what we did in the regular season, going 33-3 is a pretty good record for anybody,” Hilliard told WEEI.com Wednesday. “It was a great run. Unfortunately, we lost but it was a great run. We got better every year we were there. I will miss playing with those guys forever. It was a great run and I definitely enjoyed it.”
“When we first lost, I thought about it every day, every single day, every single second. I put a lot on myself. I should’ve had 30 points. But that’s how it went. It just wasn’t our night that night. N.C. State was the better team that night. It happens in the game of basketball.”
|Pat Connaughton ready to prove himself ready for NBA: ‘I think I look pretty good in green’||06.10.15 at 3:32 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Pat Connaughton didn’t lack confidence when he was setting school records at St. John’s Prep in Danvers, and he didn’t lose that swagger while leading the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame to within a breath of the Final Four this spring.
The Arlington resident always has had a swagger about him, and a wicked good sense of sarcasm and wit for a 22-year-old.
Maybe it’s the fact that he is a legit two-sport pro prospect. As a sharpshooter, he was a key part of Notre Dame‘s ACC basketball title this spring. He also can throw a baseball consistently in the mid-90s, which made him an MLB prospect, drafted by the Orioles last year in the fourth round while making his professional baseball debut with the Aberdeen IronBirds of the Class A-Short Season New York-Penn League. His fastball was clocked at 96 mph.
“The way the baseball draft works is if you don’t sign someone you draft in the first 10 rounds, you lose that slot money. I was very clear before the baseball draft that I wanted to go back to school to play basketball,” Connaughton said. “So, whoever drafted me had to know I was going to do that. I think both the Orioles and myself weren’t sure how far basketball would go. I think they were hoping it would end after college. I was just playing it every single day like I normally do and taking it day-by-day because that’s the only thing you can do with two sports. I found myself here and excited to pursue the opportunity.
“I had a great time in Aberdeen. I thought that down the road, whether it’s after a 10-year NBA career or a two-year NBA career, when I put my mind to baseball I can succeed at it. But I wasn’t ready to give up one of the sports. I’ve been harping my whole life that you can do two sports at the highest level, to kind of be a role model for those kids that are pressured into choosing one. It would be kind of hypocritical of me to just be like, ‘By the way, there’s some money in baseball. I think I’ll go do that.’ ”
At the end of July 2014, he informed the Orioles that he was indeed going to leave the IronBirds to return to the Fighting Irish basketball team.
On Wednesday, after working out for the Celtics, he explained why his priority now is focused on the NBA, not MLB.
“For me, I try to take it like I may not get drafted,” Connaughton said after his workout. “I try to work as hard as I can every single day. It’s been such a whirlwind over the last few months. I hope to be drafted. I’m working as hard as I can. I have some confidence in myself that I have a chance to, but we’ll see what happens on June 25. Read the rest of this entry »
|An absolute mockery of a 2015 NBA mock draft v1.0||06.03.15 at 3:12 pm ET|
I’m not sure whether mock drafts got their name from the false premise that anyone could accurately mock what the front offices of all 30 NBA franchises will do come June 25 or the reality that everyone who projects to know such matters ultimately makes a mockery of themselves. It’s probably a hybrid of the two, but they sure are fun, so without further ado Green Street presents the first of four mock drafts leading up to the real thing in Chicago later this month.
Keep in mind Celtics president Danny Ainge owns two first-round picks in this year’s draft — his own No. 16 selection and the Clippers’ No. 28 pick he received in exchange for letting Doc Rivers out of his contract — and predicting whether The Wolf of Causeway Street will stand pat, trade up or swap out of the draft is like guessing which ridiculous name Ron Artest will use next. Impossible.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves: Kentucky freshman PF/C Karl Towns. Remarkably, the Timberwolves will feature the three most recent No. 1 overall picks next season. Unfortunately, one of them is Anthony Bennett. But with Andrew Wiggins and Towns — two tremendously gifted athletes — Minnesota moves on from the Kevin Love era rather quickly.
2. Los Angeles Lakers: Duke freshman center Jahlil Okafor. As much fun as it was to see the Lakers field a D-League lineup this past season, it would have been more enjoyable had they fallen out of the top five and been forced to send their pick to Philadelphia. Instead, they land Okafor, a 6-foot-11 offensive juggernaut who would’ve looked awful good in green.
3. Philadelphia 76ers: Duke freshman small forward Justise Winslow. With Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid and Dario Saric available to fill the 4 and 5 spots for the next decade, Winslow provides the Sixers with a dynamic wing scorer of the future as well. Well, until GM Sam Hinkie decides to trade them all away for future draft picks and cap space, at least.
|Olivier Hanlan has sights set on proving himself a ‘true point’ in NBA, maybe in Boston||at 10:32 am ET|
WALTHAM — Can Olivier Hanlan help the Celtics?
The point guard sensation broke onto the national scene with a 41-point outburst against Georgia Tech in the 2013 ACC tournament, setting a new conference tournament record for freshman scoring in the process. That summer Hanlan worked out at the Celtics’ training facility in Waltham, playing occasional pickup games with the likes of Jared Sullinger and Rajon Rondo.
Tuesday’s workout was like going back to the future for the 6-foot-4 guard, who led the ACC in scoring this past season at 19.5 PPG.
“It’s definitely fun being back here,” Hanlan said. “I’m kind of used to this place compared to other places.”
In three years at Boston College, Hanlan showed an explosive ability to get to the basket and score from everywhere on the court. It’s that kind of ability from the point guard position that could convince the Celtics to take a chance on the 22-year-old.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens acknowledged that acquiring a guard who can score and knock down the open jumper is high on their priority list heading into the June 25 draft in Brooklyn.
Hanlan not only has New England roots but a Canadian connection that could come in handy on the Celtics as he, like Kelly Olynyk were born in Canada. Hanlan transferred from his home in Quebec to the basketball powerhouse New Hampton School in New Hampton New Hampshire for his junior and senior years of high school.
He was recruited by Boston College and fell into a great situation for the last three years.
“I’ve built a lot of relationships [in Boston], so obviously it would be a dream come true,” Hanlan said. “But you can’t really be picky with these types of things.”
|Celtics to play preseason contest in Italy this October||at 9:49 am ET|
The Celtics will be going international to open their preseason this fall.
The NBA, in conjunction with Euroleague Basketball and RCS Sport, confirmed Wednesday that the Celtics will play a preseason game on Oct. 6 against Olimpia Milano in Milan, Italy, as part of NBA Global Games Europe 2015.
The 17-time NBA champion will play the three-time Euroleague champion and 26-time Italian League champion Olimpia Milano at the Mediolanum Forum in Milan.
“On behalf of the Celtics organization, we are proud to return to Milan for NBA Global Games 2015,” Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said in a statement. “I have particularly fond memories of playing in Europe almost 30 years ago, and I am sure our current players will relish this unique opportunity.”
“It is an honor to represent the Celtics and the NBA in Milan,” said Celtics guard Avery Bradley. “I know there are passionate NBA fans in Italy and we look forward to an electric atmosphere on game night.”
“We’ll play in Chicago and New York against Maccabi and then head home to Italy to play the Boston Celtics which will be an exciting week for us as a team,” Olimpia Milano president Flavio Portaluppi said. “We appreciate the opportunity to play such a spectacular opponent in front of our loyal fans.”
This will mark the Celtics’ seventh game in Europe and second contest in Milan, having previously played in 2012. Olimpia Milano features Alessandro Gentile, Samardo Samuels and MarShon Brooks, who was selected 25th overall in the 2011 NBA draft out of Providence. Brooks also was part of the blockbuster deal in July 2013 that sent Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry to the Nets.
Tickets can be purchased beginning June 8 at ticketone.it.
The Celtics also will play a regular-season game in Mexico City next season as part of NBA Global Games 2015, which will feature additional games around the world, including:
· China: Los Angeles Clippers vs. Charlotte Hornets in Shenzhen on Oct. 11 and Shanghai on Oct. 14
· Brazil: Orlando Magic vs. Flamengo in Rio De Janeiro on Oct. 17
· Mexico: Celtics vs. Sacramento Kings in Mexico City on Dec. 3 (regular season)
· Additional games and locations will be announced at a later date
Brad Stevens is in a good place right now.
The Celtics coach is coming off a season in which his team surprised everyone by making the playoffs, winning 15 of their final 21 games to make the postseason for the first time in the Stevens era.
Now, Danny Ainge and son Austin are bringing in players who could serve as reinforcements to a roster that was overhauled midway through the season, and it’s Stevens’ job to identify players they might want to scoop up with any of their four picks they have in the upcoming draft.
“There have been some guys that been through that I think could help, but there are also some guys that have been through that are pretty impressive [who play positions where] I think we have pretty good depth,” Stevens said. “So then it becomes a decision of do you draft a young guy and develop him at a position where you already feel pretty strong, or do you try to fill positional needs? Luckily that’s above me and I just run the workouts.”
That is somewhat unusual for an NBA head coach, as assistants are usually delegated to such tasks. But with Stevens, he prefers to be hands on and have some input into what he might be working with next year.
“I really like it,” Stevens said. “You get a chance to really interact with guys, meet them face to face, spend time with them, watch them go through tough things, watch them go through good things, and respond to both. It’s good. These guys [front office] have said it many times, and I totally agree with it: it’s not the end-all, be-all. These guys have watched these guys play for years in games, this year, so for me you can maybe go and watch film on some of these guys, and then the workout validates what you saw. Or maybe it doesn’t. So it is fun to have them in here.”
|The Kosta Koufos question: Will Celtics pursue second-tier free agents?||05.19.15 at 11:25 am ET|
Kosta Koufos is exactly the type of player the Celtics need to target this summer.
Given their history of failed free-agent pursuits and the unlikelihood of landing a center of Marc Gasol’s caliber, the C’s are forced to pursue under-appreciated options, so the latest ESPN.com report that team president Danny Ainge already targeted Koufos in trade discussions this season makes complete sense.
After ranking in the middle of the pack this past season with a 102.1 defensive rating — a number that climbed to 110.2 points allowed per 100 possessions in their brief playoff stint — the Celtics are in desperate need of a rim protector, and Koufos was as good as any backup center in that regard. According to NBA.com/stats, the 7-foot, 265-pound former first-round pick held opponents to 46.9 percent shooting at the rim, putting him in good company with Defensive Player of the Year candidates Tim Duncan and Draymond Green at the same percentage.
Offensively, Koufos has proven a capable scorer around the basket, converting 56.2 percent of his shots inside of 8 feet. It might be too much to ask a 26-year-old to suddenly develop a mid-range jumper, but Tyler Zeller made significant strides from outside the paint under Celtics coach Brad Stevens this year.
Regardless, Koufos has averaged 12.7 points, 11.0 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per 36 minutes since being drafted 23rd overall out of Ohio State in 2008, and those numbers have remained fairly consistent for all six years, including when he started 81 games for a Nuggets team that won 57 games in 2012-13.
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