Shelvin Mack ready if Celtics call

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Shelvin Mack ready if Celtics call

Shelvin Mack knows how to stay ready.

The Maine Red Claws guard has not received a call from the undermanned Boston Celtics, but if he does, he will be prepared to take his game back to the NBA.

Mack could be an option to fill an open roster spot following the season-ending ACL injuries suffered by Rajon Rondo just over two weeks ago and Leandro Barbosa on Monday. He leads the Celtics NBA Development League affiliate in scoring this season (19.6 ppg) and is also averaging 7.6 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game.

Mack was in Texas on Tuesday evening with the Red Claws to take on the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. While aware of the Celtics backcourt vacancies, he was focused on doing the best he could in his current situation just hours before tip off.

"I feel like it would be a great opportunity," Mack said of the Celtics, adding, "(I haven't been given any indication from the Celtics), I try not to worry about that. That's another thing I've learned throughout this process, just worry about the things you can control. I can't control how they're thinking, All I can control is just going out and playing basketball, trying to be a great basketball player and a great teammate."

At 22 years old, Mack already has NBA experience. He was selected by the Washington Wizards with the 34th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft and appeared in 64 games for them last season. He posted 3.6 points, 2.0 assists, and 1.4 rebounds in 12.2 minutes backing up John Wall.

The Wizards invited Mack to training camp this season, and although they waived him in October, they called him up from the Red Claws in December. After Mack returned to Maine in early January, the Philadelphia 76ers called him up twice. He believes there is a place for him in the pros.

"The NBA is all about finding the right situation and the right fit for you," Mack told CSNNE.com in a telephone interview. "Some guys get lucky and are able to find that early, and some guys it kind of takes a while. The D-League was the best opportunity I had. If I felt like I wasn't an NBA player, I wouldn't have three call ups so far this year, I wouldn't be on the radar for the Celtics. It's just finding the right situation that's best for you. ... With the right situation and the right team, I'll be able to show how valuable I really am."

Mack is familiar with the Celtics system through playing for the Red Claws. He embraces their fundamentals and values their team-first mentality.

"The biggest thing I know with the system is, it's not about individual stats. It's all about championships and competing at a high level," he said. "I'm a big fan of defense. Everyone can score points but a lot of things come down to effort and being able to play defense."

Mack also already knows several of the Celtics players. He has worked out with Jeff Green in Washington, D.C., played alongside Fab Melo on the Red Claws, and known Jared Sullinger for years through basketball camps. His closest friend on the team is fellow Kentucky native Rajon Rondo, who has helped him during his journey to the league.

"We work out a little bit together and he's a real good friend," Mack explained. "He tries to help me out with my game and fill me in on the process and the business."

6-foot-3 Mack compares his game to that of Chauncey Billups -- "real calm, cool, a solid basketball player that understands how to win," he explained. As a three-year member of the Butler Bulldogs, he appeared in the 2010 and 2011 NCAA National Championship games. He also won a gold medal as captain of the USA U19 World Championship in 2009.

"I'm a guy (people) can depend on who's going to come in and compete and play hard," he said. "I will do whatever you can to help the team win."

If the Celtics were to call, Mack would embrace the opportunity just as he has with the Wizards and 76ers -- "It'd be another blessing," he said. For now, though, his role is to help the Red Claws succeed in the D-League. He knows losing sight of that goal won't help him attain the bigger picture of making it in the NBA.

"I've been kind of going through this process all year," he said. "I'm just worrying about the things you can control. I see a lot of guys every year that look at message boards and read what's on the Internet and it affects their game. If it's going to happen, it's going to happen. If not, I've just got to stay ready and keep grinding."

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Gauging the stock of Thon Maker, the NBA draft's mystery man

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Gauging the stock of Thon Maker, the NBA draft's mystery man

BOSTON – There’s a certain amount of mystery surrounding most players when they enter the NBA draft.

And then there’s 19-year-old Thon Maker, the 7-foot-1 Sudan-born basketball player who successfully challenged the NBA’s rule restrictions placed on high school players entering the league.                                                  

Maker reclassified academically in 2015 but elected to stay at Orangeville District Secondary School in Orangeville, Ontario for an additional year which was later deemed a “post-graduate” year.

In doing so, he satisfied the NBA’s rules regarding draft-eligible players being one year removed from their graduating high school class as well as the league’s age requirement.

This will be the second straight draft where there will be at least one player who played their prep basketball in North American who did not play in college or professionally overseas prior to entering the draft.

Last season, the Dallas Mavericks selected Indian-born Satnam Singh in the second round with the 52nd overall pick. The 7-foot-2, 290-pound center played his prep basketball at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

To be in such select company alone makes Maker’s journey to the NBA unique.

But in this narrative, that becomes more of a footnote as Maker’s path towards pro basketball has already taken him to three different continents (Africa, Australia and most recently North America) in which he has played for at least five different institutions.

CSNNE.com spoke to two different scouts, a league executive and an NBA assistant who was among those to see him play during a Basketball Without Borders event in 2015.

Their opinions of Maker’s chances of playing at the NBA level are kind of like the places Maker has played basketball – all over the map.

“There is no way this kid should be in this year’s draft,” one Eastern Conference scout told CSNNE.com. “He’s nowhere close to being ready to play or make any kind of impact that will help a team anytime soon. He’s one of those two years away from being two years away kind of players. If you take him near the end of the second round, he’s worth it. But a first-rounder? I just don’t see it.”

Another executive with a Western Conference team offered a similar assessment of Maker.

“He’s going to have to show some things that we haven’t seen yet, in workouts,” the executive told CSNNE.com. “Every draft has a player or two that you draft because he has upside, but he’s a project. That’s Thon Maker; a project with upside, the kind of upside that you’re probably not going to really see or really be helped by for years down the road.”

A second scout added, “He’s not ready for the NBA. Not even close. But this league drafts on potential and because of that, somebody will take him. It may not be until the second round, but he’ll be drafted by someone.”

However, one current NBA assistant had a chance to see him play at a Basketball Without Borders tournament and came away with a very different opinion of Maker.

“You immediately saw the separation of talent, of God-given ability,” the assistant coach told CSNNE.com. “He’s a multi-faceted player, a willing learner.”

Originally from Sudan, Maker was discovered by Edward Smith whose guidance has taken Maker on a basketball odyssey across the globe with stops in Louisiana, Virginian and most recently, Ontario.

During each stop, Maker's potential was evident.

But most of his best work came against questionable competition, the kind of thing that tends to raise eye-brows among NBA decision-makers.

As impressed as the assistant coach was with Maker, he too wonders how the 19-year-old will fare against bigger, stronger, more seasoned competition.

"We'll find out soon enough," the assistant coach said. "He's in the draft now. His skills, the good ones and the ones that need some work, will be on display for all to see."

Maker burst on the scene as an internet sensation a couple of years ago with a YouTube video that drew immediate comparisons to former Celtic Kevin Garnett.

But as more folks began to watch him play, the flaws to his game became more pronounced.

He is a 7-1 wing player with a lithe frame whose physical strength leaves a lot to be desired. While he has shown a great work ethic according to most scouts, he doesn’t have a true feel for the game in large part because he is so relatively raw.

And maybe most telling is how he has been on the floor with other above-average competition and more often than not, has done little to stand out as one of the better players competing.

Throw in the fact that he bypassed college altogether and it stands to reason that collectively there are more questions about his game than answers right now.

In an interview with Draft Express shortly after announcing he would enter this year’s draft, Maker shed some light on his controversial decision.

“When I found out I had the opportunity to enter this year's draft it was a no brainer to me,” Maker told Draft Express last month. “I've always had the dream of playing in the NBA and I feel that I am ready.”

Maker added, “When I had the chance to enter the Draft, I started of thinking about College versus Pro. The NBA game, talent, spacing, rotations, terminology, clock and practice time is so much more different than college. I watch a lot of ball, both games and practices. I felt that if I could do this full time, it would be great. If I went to college I could not see myself not taking my academics seriously. I would want to take serious classes and do well in them. I would have to split time in my focus. My approach is to always go all out and try to be the best if I'm going to do something.”

That’s why his decision to turn pro is not something that he says he will not have a change of heart about.

Players who enter the draft can pull out as late as May 25.

But listening to Maker, that doesn’t seem to be an option he’s giving any thought.

“I'm all in,” he said. “If you're doing something you have to be confident in your choice. This process is not a game. I've played with NBA players before and their approach is business like, even though they are having fun out there.”
 
When pressed on whether he would consider withdrawing from the draft if he doesn’t like the feedback he’s hearing during the pre-draft process, Maker reiterated his position.

“As I said, I’m all in,” Maker said.

“He wants to be a star,” the assistant coach said. “He wants to be a star and I think he will be. I don’t want to put too much on the kid before he gets a chance to get out there and show what he can do. But as of right now, in my heart of hearts I feel the kid is going to be a special player.”