|Shabazz Napier says he has ‘heart’ to lead an NBA team||06.16.14 at 3:55 pm ET|
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.
|Julius Randle gets some sage advice from Rajon Rondo: ‘Just enjoy the process’||06.13.14 at 2:56 pm ET|
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.”
|Weekly NBA Draft Watch: Could Carmelo Anthony be a fit with Celtics?||06.06.14 at 12:10 pm ET|
In case you missed it, Kevin Love pretty much became a member of the Celtics this past weekend. Ben Rohrbach filled us in on the worst-kept secret in Boston, as Love was essentially a public attraction all weekend long.
Operating under the assumption that Love indeed ends up in Boston, the search for the third member of the next ‘Big Three’ already is underway. And unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock, you’re aware that Carmelo Anthony is the hot name to join forces with Love and Rajon Rondo and generate the next great era of Celtics basketball.
The problem is that many of us don’t like Melo as a team player, myself included. Despite his unique talent, he can be selfish and tends to have tunnel vision toward scoring the ball, blocking out the rest of the intangibles that result in … what’s the word I’m looing for? Oh yeah, winning.
So obviously the Celtics have no reason to add a player like that to their roster, right? Wrong. There is no alternative out there to Anthony, so Danny Ainge has to take what he can get. From there, the goal is to make Anthony fit in Boston, and here’s how you do it.
Melo clearly would be relied upon to score in Boston, it’s the most natural part of his game. But guess what? Anthony also is a good rebounder and passer who has the tools be a good defender. Similar to Paul Pierce, bringing those skills out of him is what could transform Anthony into a winning player late in his career.
|Irish Coffee: Rajon Rondo wakes up America||06.05.14 at 12:57 pm ET|
The biggest thing we learned — other than the fact Channing Tatum may be a better Pop-A-Shot player than the Celtics point guard — is that Rondo finally made his desire for “big changes” this summer public. He’s skirted similar questions about this offseason’s supposed “fireworks” in recent interviews, so there’s that.
“Hopefully this summer we’re going to make some big changes, get the ball rolling and get back in the finals pretty soon,” said Rondo. “I know [Celtics president of basketball operations] Danny Ainge is doing his job, and I’m going to go out every summer, do my job and get better.” (Might want to work on that Pop-A-Shot game, too.)
Here are Rondo’s responses to some more questions submitted by fans on Twitter.
|Irish Coffee: Rajon Rondo, Don Draper, Kevin Love sales pitches||06.03.14 at 11:58 am ET|
When asked about his conversation with Timberwolves star Kevin Love at Fenway Park over the weekend, Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo responded in typical Rondo fashion during an impromptu session with the Boston media as the C’s worked out a number of potential draft prospects in Waltham on Monday.
“I talked to Kevin for about 39 seconds,” said Rondo. “It wasn’t too long. We didn’t talk a lot.”
A lot can be said in 39 seconds. For example, “I love it here, and if you come to Boston, we’d instantly be a playoff team in the East. Danny Ainge knows how to build a championship team around All-Stars, so let’s do this.” That took less than 10 seconds. They could’ve still chatted about the weather and some restaurant recommendations.
“A pitch?” Rondo told reporters. “No, I think the only pitches that were thrown were by Jon Lester. He threw out a couple pitches. I didn’t pitch anything. I just told him to enjoy his time here.”
Not exactly a page out of Jordan Belfort‘s book. Rondo’s going to need to watch “Wolf of Wall Street” again.
“I trust a lot in Danny,” Rondo added. “He’s turned this thing around before, so I don’t not have any faith in Danny. I believe in Danny. I think we do need another big-time player, but that’s all his job. He’s working on that now.”
I don’t not have any faith in Danny. A ringing endorsement! A little more Gordon Gekko this time.
|Weekly NBA Draft Watch: Free agents to watch in ’15||05.14.14 at 11:02 am ET|
In my last column, I wrote about some free agents who potentially could catch Danny Ainge‘s eye this summer. However, if you expect a 2007-ish rebuild to happen overnight again, I’m afraid your expectations are too high. The Celtics are going to take a couple of years to build back up, making 2015 an equally important offseason.
A lot can happen between now and next summer, but a strong free agent class is anticipated. Much like the last column, not all of the names may look like fits now, but under the right circumstances could be in the future. Following is a handful of names that should be on Ainge’s radar for 2015.
Brook Lopez — First and foremost, Lopez needs to prove he can stay healthy. He’s had serious foot issues so far in the NBA, but he also is one of the best scoring centers in the league when healthy. Lopez is a legit 7-footer, something Ainge is looking for in his next big man.
Lopez signed a four-year extension in 2012, but 2015-16 is a player option, so he could choose to opt out if the Nets begin to fade from contention. The Nets have the potential to implode over the next couple of seasons due to age and bad contracts. Even as players begin to come off the books, Brooklyn still should be over the cap for years to come, making the team’s future a delicate situation.
This signing would be a risk, but if the price is right, Lopez could be the perfect fit next to Jared Sullinger … on offense, that is. Defensively Ainge still would need to find a solution. That said, a frontcourt that features and healthy Lopez and Sullinger is scary for any team to face.
Robin Lopez — For twin brothers, Robin and Brook sure have different games. Robin is much more of a low-post defender and shot-blocker than his brother, but he is nowhere near as developed on offense.
With the scoring ability of Sullinger, Robin would be just as good a fit as his brother in Boston. Robin would not be leaned upon to score, allowing him to do what he does best — defend and rebound. He has had a ton of success in Portland this season playing alongside scorers, including in the playoffs. The more I think about it, despite Brook’s All-Star appearance; Robin is the Lopez brother to watch in 2015.
|Weekly NBA Draft Watch: Free agent possibilities for Celtics this offseason||05.01.14 at 12:33 pm ET|
After a flurry of draft-related news, we finally have reached a standstill. The date for underclassmen to declare has passed, and as expected all the big names are in. So what do we have to look forward to?
The draft combine will take place in Chicago from May 14-18, and it’s something Celtics fans will want to keep an eye on. Many of the top prospects will attend, a great way to gauge how each player looks on the exact same measuring stick. Much of the Celtics‘ destiny relies on May 20, when the lottery reveals what pick Boston will hold. Of course, June 26 is the actual draft date, when everything will come to a head.
But the draft is not the only way to acquire talent this summer. Whether Danny Ainge decides to use or trade his draft picks, there is a solid free agent pool that Ainge will not be able to ignore. Trading for Kevin Love is the sexy solution to Boston’s problems at the moment, and it’s not all that unrealistic. Other stars are bound to be available come draft day as well.
Draft picks and trades rely on different variables, however. You can’t make a GM trade you a player, nor can you make a player fall to you in the draft. Free agents, on the other hand, come with far less complications. Of course they can choose their destination (or be matched by their current team if they are restricted), but there is nothing standing in Ainge’s way of pursuing free agents this summer.
With that said, following is a look at some free agents who have a realistic chance of at least being on Boston’s radar.
Lance Stephenson — Stephenson has had a breakout season for the recently struggling Pacers. At one point, this looked like a team destined to stay together. But Indy is self-destructing in the first-round against eighth-seeded Atlanta. Something will need to change next season.
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