Bonnies' Nicholson a possible C's target

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Bonnies' Nicholson a possible C's target

BOSTON While all eyes are focused on the Boston Celtics and their quest to move past Philadelphia Saturday night and on to the Eastern Conference finals, the C's are quietly going about looking towards the future by bringing in potential targets for next month's NBA draft.

The Celtics had a handful of players in town on Friday, a group that included St. Bonaventure star Andrew Nicholson.

Nicholson, who is 6-foot-9 with a 7-4 wingspan, told CSNNE.com that the workout in Boston "went well," and added that it was the first of many he would have between now and next month's draft.

"I've got 13 more (workouts) lined up," said Nicholson, who said he plans to be in Oklahoma City on Saturday for a workout.

Several draft boards project the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year and honorable mention All-America as a late first-round pick, which would put him squarely in the cross hairs of the Celtics as a possible first-round selection.

Boston currently has their own pick at No. 21, and the next pick at No. 22 pick as part of last year's Kendrick Perkins trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

In addition to Nicholson, other big men participating in the Celtics workout included Kevin Jones of West Virginia, Mike Scott of Virginia, Michigan State All-America Draymond Green and Detroit Mercy forward Eli Coleman, who has already had workouts with the Los Angeles Lakers and the New Jersey Nets.

While the needs of the Celtics may be many this offseason, there's little doubt that the C's will target size and versatility in this year's draft.

Boston has five players under contract for the 2012-2013 season, a total that does not include center Greg Stiemsma who is expected to get a qualifying offer of 1.05 million, and in all likelihood sign a multi-year deal with the C's.

Among the five players under contract is Brandon Bass, although he may opt-out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent this summer. While Bass has said that no decision has been made, multiple league sources anticipate he will test the free agent waters in search of a multi-year deal on par with the four-year, 26 million deal that his childhood friend Glen Davis agreed to with Orlando as part of the sign-and-trade that sent Bass to Boston and Davis to the Magic prior to the start of the 2011-2012 season.

Bass signed a four-year, 16 million contract in July of 2009 that will pay him 4.25 million next season if he chooses to not opt-out and become a free agent.

Regardless, the need for size is definitely there for the Celtics who were among the NBA's worst rebounding teams. Only the woeful Charlotte Bobcats were a worst rebounding team than the C's and their 39.1 rebounds per game average.

As a senior, Nicholson averaged 18.5 points per game, along with 8.4 rebounds and two blocked shots per game. In his four seasons with the Bonnies, he never shot worst than 56 percent from the field. And knowing how the Celtics love to use pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops to free up their big men, Nicholson could be a major asset with his perimeter shooting skills. As a senior, he shot a career-best 43.4 percent from 3-point range.

Of course Boston will look into adding big men via free agency and possibly by way of a trade. But with this considered one of the more deeper drafts in recent years, adding a big man like Nicholson late in the first round might prove too tempting for the C's to pass on.

Horford, Johnson wasting no time in developing chemistry

Horford, Johnson wasting no time in developing chemistry

WALTHAM, Mass. – When the news came out that Al Horford was going to be a Boston Celtic, Amir Johnson couldn’t wait to meet his new teammate.

He didn’t have to.

Johnson soon found himself on plane headed to Atlanta to not only work out with Horford, but also try and work out some of the kinks that tend to come up among new teammates in those early days of training camp.

“I took it upon myself when I saw Al was part of the team, I automatically wanted to go down to Atlanta and work,” said Johnson who added that he brought his daughter along for the trip and they went to dinner with Horford’s family during the visit. “I thought it was great just to get that chemistry going. I just wanted to get to known him, make him feel comfortable.”

It’s still early in training camp, but Johnson and Horford seem to be meshing quite well on the floor. 

“The chemistry’s definitely coming along,” Johnson said. “I know when Al wants to roll or pop, and just working my way around it. Al’s more of a popper and eventually he’ll roll. It’s up to me to read whether I stay up or work the baseline.”

Johnson has been in the NBA long enough to know that often the keys to success are subtle nuances that may be overlooked by fans and spectators, but players know are essential to them being successful.

Being able to not only understand a player’s game but figure out how to play well with them, are critical to teammates being successful.

Last season, Johnson was Boston’s primary rim-protecting big man which is a role the 29-year-old Johnson has been cast in the last few years he was in Toronto. Horford brings a similar set of defensive skills to the table which gives Boston a true 1-2 defensive punch along the frontline.

“It’s big time,” Johnson said. “We communicate to each other. It’s all about communication out there; just knowing he can hold it down and he trusts me to hold it down. It’s key.”

GREEN INJURY UPDATE

Gerald Green is expected to get a few more days to rest his hip flexor injury which he said on Thursday was feeling better.

The injury should keep the 6-6 wing from participating in the team’s Green-White scrimmage on Friday, but it isn’t considered serious.

Still, Green is eager to get back and return to full contact work which is why he is getting a steady diet of treatments during the day and returning in the evening for more treatments from the Celtics’ medical staff.

“It’s almost like a precautionary thing; make sure it doesn’t get worst,” Green said.

The injury occurred earlier this week but Green could not pinpoint exactly what he did to suffer the injury.

“I don’t think I stretched properly,” Green said. “I’m not 25 no more. Just try to come out there and go at full speed. Those are things I’ve got to learn now I’m in my 30s.”
Indeed, one of the many benefits of being older now is that Green sees the big picture of things better now, which is why he isn’t trying to rush back to the floor too quickly.

As a veteran, it’s a long season,” Green said. “You’re not trying to do too much to make it worst. Training camp is important, but being healthy at the beginning of the season is even more important.”

RUN, YOUNGSTERS, RUN

Near the end of Thursday’s practice, the Celtics had a full court game of 3-on-3 involving some of the team’s rookies and end-of-the-bench training camp invitees like Jalen Jones of Texas A&M. The 6-7 undrafted rookie had a dunk over Jordan Mickey, a 3-pointer and another strong, uncontested flush at the rim in a matter of minutes. He’s likely to wind up with Boston’s Developmental League team, the Maine Red Claws.

With Thursday morning’s session being the team’s fifth practice this season, head coach Brad Stevens thought it was a good idea to get some of the team’s younger players on the court.

“It was good to play some 3-on-3,” said Stevens who added that it was good for their conditioning since a lot of the running at this point involves trying to get the starters and the likely rotation players as acclimated and familiar with one another as possible. “We try to do that occasionally even through the season just to get everybody up and down.”

TURNOVERS? WHAT TURNOVERS?

Five practices in the books and there’s only one thing that really has stood out to the eyes of Isaiah Thomas.

It’s turnovers.

Apparently the Celtics haven’t committed too many thus far.

“We haven’t turned the ball over as much as teams usually do the first couple of days,” Thomas said. “We’re trying to learn the system, trying to get everybody familiar with what we do. But we’ve been playing well together. Guys are playing hard. Guys have gotten better, worked on their game.”

Ball-handling will be one of the areas to watch during the preseason as the Celtics look to find a replacement for Evan Turner (Portland) who has been one of the team’s best ball-handlers the past couple of seasons.

The Celtics were middle-of-the-pack last season with 13.5 turnovers per game which ranked 14th in the NBA.

Low turnovers often serve as a common trait among playoff teams. Just last season, eight of the top-nine teams in fewest turnovers committed, were in the playoffs.