Celtics set for their overseas adventure

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Celtics set for their overseas adventure

WALTHAM Their bags are packed, the Celtics are ready to take their show . . . overseas.

No, David Stern hasn't created an NBA team in Europe yet. The C's will leave their practice facility Monday evening and hop on their plane where they'll start a seven-day European training camp taking them through Istanbul and Milan, which includes two preseason games.

It's not the first time the C's organization has gone overseas. They went to Rome prior to their 2007-08 season, and the bond created on that trip played a big hand in their winning a championship that season.

If they take home another championship this season, well, European camps may just become required.

But Boston knows that winning a championship takes far more work than going on a field trip. The goal of the trip is to come together, and go from there.

Obviously we want to work on team chemistry," Kevin Garnett said. "Obviously we want to get better every time we step on the floor. From a basketball standpoint obviously were still getting to know each other. But its bigger than that. I think the trip to Turkey will be more social. The trip to Milan will be more for the chemistry."

When The C's traded for Garnett and Ray Allen five seasons ago, Doc Rivers needed to get his team out of the fray. They had just become the hottest thing in sports. There's less hype this time around, and Rivers isn't as high on this upcoming trip (breaking up camp to travel isn't what he wanted) but with a lot of new faces, a little team-building certainly won't hurt.

"We scheduled the Rome trip in response to all the moves we made," Rivers said. "We really wanted that trip to happen. I don't know if this one I could say I wanted it, but it's something now with all the moves I'm looking forward to it."

And you can bet the players are especially the young guys. Last year at this time, Fab Melo was in class (OK, maybe not) at Syracuse. Now, he's experiencing everything that comes with being an NBA player. Doc Rivers had bit of advice to the young guys.

"Just make sure they carry all their luggage," he joked. "Other than that, I think it's great for them because it gives them a little bit of a taste of what a long road trip would be even though we only play two games. I think everything for them is new, and this will give them when we do finally go on the road for real I think this will be a pretty good lesson for them."

But touching down in Istanbul is a lot different than touching down in any American city. Being in a foreign country far away from friends and family the team will be inclined to talk more off the court. That's one thing Rivers remembers from the last trip.

"The craziest thing is that their cellphones didn't work so they actually had to talk to each other on the bus," Rivers said. "I thought that was nice, in this new cell phone whatever generation this is. And that will be the same because of the cost of calls."

But what about when they're not on the bus or at practice? There's got to be sights to see and plenty to do. Rajon Rondo missed Fashion Week in Milan by about a week, but he said he had other things to look forward to.

"A lot of shopping," Rondo joked. "Oh, as far as a team. Well, this is a regular training camp except we'll be out of the country. We want to continue our focus as far as getting better, get better each day, work on our sets, become as good of a team we can in possibly seven days."

Celtics should roll the dice on Dragan Bender

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Celtics should roll the dice on Dragan Bender

Danny Ainge recently hinted on Toucher & Rich that the Celtics were interested in drafting Dragan Bender.

And they need to do exactly that. 

No, I'm not crazy. Neither is Danny.

Drafting Bender is the Celtics' best option. As Ainge pointed out, his job is to make the move that's best for the team. Not just for the short term, but for the long haul.

Now, I can't say I've been to Croatia to work out Bender. Like many of you, I 've only seen him via the Internet.

It is easy to look at him and think he’s a project. That’s because he is. He’s 18 and, even though he's 7 feet tall, he only weighs about 220 soaking wet. He's a kid, too skinny at the moment for the NBA, and would no doubt get killed if you put in the post today.

And, like I said, I'm not crazy. I'm not committed to Bender. If  Sacramento calls and offers Boogie Cousins for any combination of picks the Celtics have, the deal should be made immediately. To a degree, I feel the same way about Jimmy Butler. However, the consensus is those two players aren't going anywhere. (And even if they are available, suppose the Lakers decide to dangle the No. 2 pick for either of them? That would make a trade nearly impossible for Boston.)

But if the Celtics keep the third pick -- and he isn't taken by either Philly or L.A. (highly unlikely) -- Dragen Bender should be Ainge's choice. And it will be the right move.

Let’s break it down.

There's just no one else in this draft with Bender's upside. Buddy Hield is a 22-year-old shooting guard who completely disappeared in the NCAA championship game. He has a shot to be a very good NBA player, but he won’t transform the organization. Neither would Jamal Murray from Kentucky. Nor Kris Dunn from Providence.

The risk for Bender is HUGE. The reward is even HUGER. Ah, that’s not a word, right? Well then, BIGGER THAN HUGE! Or HUGEST!

Bender could be that guy.

And, I also admit, he also wind up playing in Europe or Israel.

Still, Danny has to roll the dice on this guy.

Bender can handle the ball, block shots, shoot the 3, and -- like all European players -- is fundamentally sound. The issue for this kid is toughness in the low post and getting stronger. I put my money on Celtics strength and conditioning coach Bryan Doo to get him ready for NBA life.

And I'm not one those boneheads who are pushing for Bender because Kristaps Porzingis has worked out for the Knicks. One has nothing to do with the other. For every Porzingis there's at least one Stojko Vrankovic. Or Darko Milicic.

Take Bender, Danny. In two years this guy may have gained 15 to 20 pounds of muscle, learned the rigors on and off the court of the NBA, and look like the next Porzingis, Or Dirk Nowitzki or Porzingis. Then use the other two Brooklyn first-round picks, and the Celtics could be back on their way to greatness.

But if you play it safe, Danny, and don't take Bender, the Green will simply be stuck in the mud of mediocrity.  

Ben Bentil ready for opportunity to showcase his talents in the NBA

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Ben Bentil ready for opportunity to showcase his talents in the NBA

BOSTON – Opportunity.

Ben Bentil learned at an early age to recognize it and in doing so, make the most of it when it presents itself.

That’s how a 15-year-old kid from Ghana, who grew up wanting to be a professional volleyball player at one point winds up playing basketball and soccer at one of the most prestigious boarding schools in the United States (St. Andrews School in Wilmington, Del., which is where the move Dead Poets Society was filmed in 1989).

That’s how that same kid goes from being a role-playing freshman at Providence College last season, to the Big East’s leading scorer a year later – and doing so in the shadows of Kris Dunn, a high-scoring guard who is a consensus top-10 pick in next month’s NBA draft.

“I’m glad I had the best point guard in the country on my team,” Bentil, who averaged a Big East-leading 21.1 points per game this past season for Providence, told CSNNE.com. “We took advantage of it.”

And with the June 23 NBA draft on the horizon, Bentil once again finds himself in position to make the most of an opportunity that so few saw coming this quickly in his career.

“It’s been an unbelievable journey,” said Bentil who averaged 6.4 points and five rebounds per game as a freshman.

A journey that by all accounts is far from over.

Prior to deciding to stay in this year’s draft, the sophomore big man wanted to see how he stacked up against other draft hopefuls at the NBA pre-draft combine in Chicago. He took advantage of a new rule that allows college players to participate in the combine and return to college if they don’t sign with an agent.

This would prove to be yet another opportunity that Bentil made the most of.

In his first game, he had 15 points and 11 rebounds in just 20 minutes.

The next day he had 17 points and six rebounds in just 19 minutes.

Those strong performances combined with really good feedback from NBA executives at the combine and afterwards, made Bentil’s decision to stay in the draft a no-brainer.

A league executive contacted by CSNNE.com in reference to Bentil said he’s “a solid second round pick now,” adding, “and could work his way into the late first-round depending on workouts.”

A second league executive contacted by CSNNE.com via text on Tuesday morning echoed similar sentiments.

“Good second round pick,” the text read. “Could impress teams, play his way into mid-to-late 20s of first round.”

That jibes with the factors Bentil said would likely need to be in place for him to stay in the draft.

“If I know I’ll go in those ranges, I’ll probably stay in,” Bentil said.

In addition to his scoring and rebounding, Bentil also eased the concerns a number of teams had about his size.

At the combine he measured out at 6-8 ¼ with a solid 7-1 ½ wingspan. In addition, Bentil’s hand length was 9.50 inches, which tied 7-footer Dedric Lawson for the longest hands at the combine. Bentil also showed his shooting touch from the perimeter as he knocked down 14-of-25 NBA 3s taken from five different spots on the floor.

And at Providence, the Friars did a lot of switching defensively which often meant Bentil had to guard smaller, seemingly quicker players – the kind of challenge he’ll face in the NBA where teams live on a healthy diet of pick-and-roll sets.

Knowing that Bentil has the quickness to hold his own defensively on switches and the length to where being undersized won’t be as big a detriment as feared on the boards or in getting his shots off offensively, Bentil finds himself in good shape to take advantage of what should be increased opportunities leading up to next month’s draft.

Bentil worked out for five teams initially, but a representative with Octagon basketball told CSNNE.com that Bentil’s list of teams to work out for will be expanded. In addition, Octagon has a pro workout day this week with several teams (the Celtics are expected to be among them) having representatives in attendance to watch the workouts of Octagon clients.

And that will present yet another opportunity – there’s that word again – for Bentil to showcase his talents.