The 'Celtic way' starts with mentoring at the top

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The 'Celtic way' starts with mentoring at the top

BOSTON It wasn't that unusual to watch the Boston Celtics play this season and see Avery Bradley peppering Ray Allen - the man he replaced in the C's starting lineup - with questions before, during and after games.

If you continue to scan the C's sideline, rookie forward JaJuan Johnson could at times be found soaking in every syllable uttered by Kevin Garnett during time-outs, a player that Johnson would like to someday succeed one day as the Celtic's starting power forward.

Keyon Dooling is a 12-year veteran who won't hesitate to drop a few knowledge bombs on rookie guard E'Twaun Moore who has spent most of this season fighting for minutes as a backup guard, along with Dooling.

As much as you have a Celtics team full of young - and not so young - guys that want to play, there is an ever-present mentoring dynamic at work that players believe has been one of the secret weapons to their success this season.

Players believe it helps explain why they have been able to overcome what has been a season's worth of injuries and unexpected setbacks to be where they are now, Atlantic Division champions about to begin their postseason journey with a Game 1 first round series matchup at Atlanta on Sunday.

"Not playing, it's easy to bea cancer," said Celtics forward Marquis Daniels, who has been in and out of the C's rotation this season. "You could easily be like complaining, moaning, whining, but we got some great young guys on this team. We (veterans) don't want to put bad fruits in them; you want give them a good foundation so that they can have something to lean on. I stay after everyday to get a workout in. I make sure E'twaun and JaJuan staying, and make sure they stay in shape."

Back when the Celtics were struggling just to get to the .500 mark earlier this season, C's coach Doc Rivers consistently talked about his team in the kind of glowing terms that were in stark contrast to their record at the time.

"I like our spirit," Rivers said. "We're showing resolve. You can see the camaraderie; it's just a good group, a good group to coach. And the future will say how good we are as a basketball team. But they're a good group to coach, and I'm a coach, so that's good."

And the mentoring is done on many levels.

There's the in-game stuff such as offering tips on how to handle different on-the-court situations. And then there's the stuff that you seldom see or hear about, such as Kevin Garnett spending time after a rare practice this season, working one-on-one with Ryan Hollins.

Hollins, who had a chance to play in pick-up games in California with Garnett and Paul Pierce this past summer during the NBA lock-out, doesn't take for granted the time that Garnett has spent with him.

"It's huge," said Hollins, who signed with the Celtics last month after being released by the Cleveland Cavaliers. "You got somebody like that in your corner. It's him, in the back of your mind, whether he's saying something or not. His attention to detail, preparation for the game, the teammate that he is it rubs off and really helps."

Hollins is just one of the many young players that Garnett has been a mentor of sorts to this season.

One of the first to latch on to the ways of Garnett was Johnson, whose lanky, lithe frame and ability to stretch the floor with his perimeter shooting is in some ways similar to Garnett's style of play.

Said Garnett: "I'm not a force-feeder, but when I do see him struggling with things, I do give him advice. I do encourage him (Johnson) to speak up a little more because I can't read minds. And use the guys in here. I always tell him that you have a lot of guys in here with a lot of different experiences. You should get to know them. When I do have the young boys on the plane, when I have them individually, I just like to talk to them about just life, this league and the journey and all that. So I open up to them a little bit from that standpoint; just about NBA life; it can be difficult for young guys.

"I don't think it's enough veterans out here on teams, all the teams, to say, to speak and guide some of these young guys and let them know how important hard work is. Having a work ethic, love for the game, respect for the game, respect for yourself, respect for your family, those things. I'm sort of that on this team. I like to always make sure the young guys understand that, as players that come before you, you gotta respect that."

And it's not just the players working with players, either.

Following a recent practice, Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations, was on the floor providing a few pointers to Johnson.

"I just enjoy learning," Johnson said.

Fortunately for Johnson, he's surrounded by a long list of willing teachers - something that isn't necessarily the case with most teams.

And those lessons taught, players agree, begins with the Big Three of Garnett, Pierce and Allen.

This is Dooling's sixth NBA team, and he has never seen a trio of leaders such as the C's Big Three who have led both by their work and their word.

"It's just been a phenomenal experience," Dooling told CSNNE.com. "It's good that these young guys get to see those guys, these high-caliber guys come in here and really get their work in. Because if they can come in and do it, you (as a younger player) should be doing 10 times more."

That certainly has been part of what has driven Bradley, who has emerged as one of the NBA's most improved players this season.

"He wants to get better," Rivers said. "He genuinely wants to get better, and our older guys appreciate that."

Even guys no longer with the team still play the role of mentor.

Bradley recalls a conversation he had recently with Jermaine O'Neal who underwent season-ending wrist surgery last month and has since been waived by the C's to make room for Sean Williams.

When O'Neal was with the Celtics, he would often tell Bradley about his struggles early on his career when he wasn't playing much in Portland, and how he was determined to make the most of his opportunity once he was traded to Indiana when he finally had a chance to play.

With Bradley's emergence, he finds himself having similar conversations with players like Johnson.

"Me and him were in kind of similar situations," said Johnson, referring to himself and Bradley. "We talk about it a lot."

Said Bradley: "I help people out just like Jermaine and those guys helped me out, telling me their stories."

Today, Bradley is a starter having unseated a future Hall of Famer (Allen) in the process who is, when healthy, still one of the most lethal shooters in the NBA.

Ainge sees the mentoring dynamic of the Celtics as being a collection of all involved - players, coaches and the front office - recognizing that none of them can achieve greatness without the help of the others. And that involves teaching - and having players willing to learn which hasn't always been the case with the Celtics.

"We're patient with young guys, as long as young guys want to be taught," Rivers said. "It took me about a year of coaching to realize potential with character turns out to be good player. Potential with no character turns out to be the guy that keeps being traded. You get impatient with that, where you try to get a guy to be a better player, and they can't get out of themselves; they're so much into themselves, they're unteachable."

Yes there is indeed teaching that goes on with mentoring. But more than anything, it's about being professional - something that all of the C's veterans take great pride in.

"Being a professional is something you don't have a choice; something you have to do everyday," Garnett said. "Along with Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, those guys are true professionals. They are great examples of that. When you're consistent with something, that's what you are and that's what we've established here."

Celtics work out Finney-Smith, five others on Wednesday

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Celtics work out Finney-Smith, five others on Wednesday

WALTHAM, Mass. – The Boston Celtics brought in six players for workouts on Wednesday. Here’s a glimpse at each player, all of whom are considered potential second-round selections or prospects likely to go undrafted.
 

Dorian Finney-Smith

6-8, 220, Florida

Position: Forward

Summary: Was second-team All-SEC by coaches and third-team all-conference by the AP. Led Gators in scoring (14.3) and rebounds (8.3) for the second and third consecutive seasons, respectively.

Projected draft status: Second round.

 

Quincy Ford

6-8, 225, Northeastern

Position: Guard/Forward

Summary: Averaged 16.4 points, 7.0 rebounds while shooting 34.8 percent on 3s. Underwent season-ending back surgery that sidelined him for the 2013-2014 season. Bounced back with a pair of solid seasons, the last of which earned him a spot of on the NABC All-District Second team as well as the All-CAA Second team.

Projected draft status: Late second, undrafted.

 

Marcus Georges-Hunt

6-5, 216, Georgia Tech

Position: Guard

Summary: Averaged 16.7 points, shooting 45.4 percent from the field while dishing out a team-high 3.3 assists per game. Has a knack for getting to the free throw line, evident by him ranking 13th in free throws made and 18th in free throw attempts.

Projected draft status: Undrafted, maybe late second round.

 

Sheldon McClellan

6-5, 200, Miami

Position: Guard

Summary: A transfer from Texas, McClellan averaged 16.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.6 assists for Miami this past season while shooting 50.4 percent from the field and 40.6 percent on 3s. Has a lot of tools that are intriguing to the NBA, but consistency and decision-making are areas of uncertainty about where he’ll eventually land.

Projected draft status: Second round pick.

 

Mike Tobey

7-0, 260, Virginia

Position: Center

Summary: Turned a few heads during Portsmouth Invitational when he averaged 12 points per game. Appeared in all 37 games this season with Virginia, but only had seven starts. Shot a team-best 60.1 percent from the field and was second on the team with 22 blocked shots.

Projected draft status: Undrafted.

 

Jameel Warney

6-8, 260, Stony Brook

Position: Power forward

Summary: The best player in Stony Brook history, Warney was a double-double machine this season in which he averaged 19.8 points and 10.8 rebounds to go with 3.0 blocked shots. An Honorable mention All-American, Warney was the America East Player and Defensive Player of the Year. Does not have much of a face-the-basket game but does provide a nice strong presence defensively.

Projected draft status: Second round to undrafted.

Draper: Better financial option for Durant to stay in OKC one more year

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Draper: Better financial option for Durant to stay in OKC one more year

A. Sherrod Blakely and Kyle Draper discuss the chances the Boston Celtics land Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler or DeMarcus Cousins.

Celtics begin working out draft prospects Wednesday

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Celtics begin working out draft prospects Wednesday

BOSTON – The Celtics’ practice facility will become a basketball port-of-call in the coming weeks as some of the best young talent passes through, all with the goal of doing their best to impress the Celtics’ brass.

Austin Ainge, the Celtics’ director of player personnel, said Boston will begin working out players on Wednesday with the first group consisting of six players - two guards, two forwards and two big men.
 
“We’ll put them through a lot of different situations,” Ainge, who declined to identify the six players working out on Wednesday, told CSNNE.com. “We’ll see how bigs are at guarding guards, and guards defending bigger players, some of the roles they would have to play if they were Celtics…We’ll get a good look at what they can do in a lot of different scenarios.”
 
With eight draft picks [three in the first round and five in the second], the list of players making the rounds will likely be longer than usual.
 
Ainge said he anticipated the Celtics will work out 80-100 players, which is slightly more than they usually do.
 
“With trades, you just never really know,” Ainge said. “So we try to work out players all the way through 60.”
 
Speaking of trades, Ainge anticipates the Celtics will be on the phone more than past years because they have so many picks and, by all indications, do not plan to use them all.
 
If Boston can’t package some of their picks to acquire more talent, the Celtics will look even closer than usual at drafting players from overseas with the intent that they don’t join Boston’s roster for a couple of years.
 
Because Boston has so many picks, you would think they would be in position to be more selective than past years when it came to who they brought in for workouts.
 
“With our picks, it is in a player’s best interest to work out for us,” Ainge acknowledged. “But for us, we want to see as many players as possible so that we can draft the best fit, the best player that’s available.”
 
The draft lottery later on May 17 will determine exactly where the Celtics will be selecting with the pick they acquired as part of the Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce trade with Brooklyn in 2013.
 
Boston acquired three picks as part of the trade. They used the first one to draft James Young two years ago.
 
This past season, Brooklyn (21-61) finished with the third-worst record, which gives Boston a 15.6 percent chance that the Nets pick it receives will be the No. 1 overall selection. 
 
If Boston lands one of the top-two picks, a workout with LSU’s Ben Simmons and Duke’s Brandon Ingram – the consensus top-two players in this year’s draft – is likely. And if the Celtics wind up with the No. 2 pick, they might work out Dragan Bender who is the top overseas prospect in this year’s draft.
 
In addition to the Brooklyn pick, which will be no worse than the sixth overall selection, Boston has another pair of first-round picks (16th and 23rd overall), along with five second-round picks (31st, 35th, 45th, 51st and 58th), at their disposal.