Draft to the Future

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Draft to the Future

Remember the trade deadline?

Yeah, you remember. This past March, the NBA trade deadline approached these parts amidst more hype and speculation than at any point in recent memory.

We knew that Danny Ainge was ready to make a move. We knew that Danny Ainge was trying to make a move. And because Danny Ainge is Danny Ainge we knew that he was willing to move anyone. So as the deadline arrived, we took a deep breath, stocked up on canned goods, told friends and family that we loved them and braced ourselves for the end of the world . . .

Then, we all looked like idiots. Like a crazy cult, huddled around waiting for an asteroid that missed Earth by five million miles.

The deadline hit, and the Celtics disappeared. They backed off their reportedly relentless pursuit of a trade and settled on standing pat. And while the reviews were mixed, the results taught us an important lesson about Boston's vice president of basketball operations.

Sure, hell exhaust every option to make a deal no one's off limits! but hell never make a trade just for the sake of making it. At the end of the day, he understands value, he's confident in his own perception of value, and has no problem walking away if that value isnt reciprocated.

Would Danny Ainge trade his own mother? Yup! But only if he gets a better mother in return.

And that brings us to last night: The NBA Draft

The most hyped and rumor-ridden draft in recent Celtics memory. And while no one was expecting a deal on the level of what could have come down at the deadline, we were expecting something.

There was alleged interest in Josh Smith and OJ Mayo. Familiar tweets about how the Celtics were aggressively trying to move up, perhaps in polarizing pursuit of Austin Rivers.

Thats Danny, we thought. Up to his old tricks.

And he was. Theres no question that Ainge spent most of yesterday, and the better part of the last few weeks, in a frantic attempt to move up and improve the Celtics situation. I mean, what else would he be doing? Thats his job. But again, much like with the trade deadline, nothing clicked. The Celtics stood pat. Leaving them with the 21st and 22nd picks and the rest of us with an even greater excess of canned goods.

In retrospect, thats all easy to understand. But in real time, the moments leading up to the picks were pretty hectic.

It all started when New Orleans took Rivers off the board at No. 10. Not a surprise, but a necessary development in helping all of us officially eliminate the possibility and make a graceful landing back on Earth.

It escalated when the Rockets nabbed Royce White at 16. Man, that hurt. Regardless of all the indecision that awaited on draft night, I was pretty confident that the C's would find a way to emerge with White wearing Green. (Then again, I'm the same guy who said they wouldn't draft Fab Melo). I'd already fitted White for a jersey. I'd already nickname him "Royce da 6'8." I'd already carved out a spot on my mantle for his multiple Sixth Man of the Year Awards (not sure why he'd be giving them to me, but that was the plan).

Just like that, he was gone.

At 17, Dallas Mavericks selected Tyler Zeller (of the Zeller brothers), but not before Ric Bucher broke onto the scene with an important announcement: Dallas has traded Tyler Zeller to . . . He paused just long enough for me to scream at the television: "Damn it, Bucher! Spit it out!" . . . the Cleveland Cavaliers. OK, so no Zeller. Now who's left: Nicholson? Sullinger? Melo? Terrence Jones?

Yeahhhh, Terrence Jones: Intense, athletic, solid rebounder, great hands. Cool name.

I typed "Terrence Jones" into YouTube just time for . . .

David Stern: "With the 18th pick in the (BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!) 2012 NBA Draft, the Houston Rockets select . . . Terrence Jones."

Gah! Morey! He's officially that shrewd dude in your fantasy league who you hate drafting anywhere near. Who you just know is going to steal your pick and break your heart at least once every couple rounds.

Last night, Morey broke Boston's heart twice. In one round.

At 19, Orlando and their new GM Rob Hennigan (a protege of OKC's Sam Presti) nabbed Andrew Nicholson from St. Bonaventure another guy who Boston had rated high.

I don't know about you, but I feel like the NBA was a much better place for the Celtics when the rest of the teams were run by idiots. But now between guys like Morey, Presti and their forthcoming spawn, the league is getting smarter. It's a pretty exciting development, but last night was an enormous pain in the ass.

OK, pick No. 20 and at this point it was all about Jared Sullinger. The one guy who you knew the Celtics would take if he was still around. But there was one pick to go. Time for a little more heartbreak?

David Stern: "With the 20th (BOOOOOO!) pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, the Denver Nuggets select"

Some French guy!

I'm sure Mickael Pietrus was crushed, but the rest of us breathed a sigh of relief. The Celtics got a Sullinger, and even though he wasn't the best-case scenario when the night began, all things considered, he was the right pick.

Sure, he's not a great defender. He's not explosive or all-that-athletic. He may not have many SportsCenter Top 10's in his future. But he can play basketball. He's NBA ready, and even if back problems derail his career five years from now, if he can give the Celtics two or three years of consistent and immediate impact so that they can squeeze every ounce out of this KGPierce era it will be enough.

I heard Donny Marshall lamenting the Sullinger pick on CSN's post draft show because Sully (are we calling him that yet?) doesn't run the floor or play above the rim. But I can live with that. So he can't run with Rondo? That's fine. Between Bradley and likely Jeff Green, Rondo will have plenty of guys to run with. And anyway, how much do we think that Sullinger will even play next year? Maybe 15 minutes a game? For that, I'll forfeit a little athleticism for a guy with a boat load of talent and understanding of the game.

But what about a boat load of talent and little understanding of the game?

That's where the Celtics went at No. 22: Fab Melo.

I'm on record saying that I wanted Perry Jones there not to mention, I tweeted out a few weeks back that the Celtics were unimpressed after working Melo out but all that being said, I understand where they're coming from with Fab. Even if they weren't entirely impressed with the workout, the raw talent is still there, and at some point the risk is worth it. He's an athletic seven-footer, and in today's NBA, those guys are few and far between. If you've talked to the kid, have faith in what you heard and the people you'll put around him, then why not take a chance? The Celtics did, and I'm looking forward to watching him develop.

One thing though: It's clear that the C's are NOT messing around with Melo. That despite any and all perceived problems, they won't take it easy on him. "I dont know what we project him as, but we have to treat him the Celtics way, and show him how to work," Doc Rivers said after the draft. Before adding, "I have a feeling Melo's first practice could be rough."

So, that's how it's going to be. They're going to put Melo through the ringer, really test the limits of what this kid can handle. And in the process, they'll create two very distinct possibilities: This will either end really well, or really badly. There's no in between.

We'll just wait and see.

Yes, wait and see. That's the theme of all things Celtics for the next few days, while we await word from Kevin Garnett.

At this point, I think we all believe that he's coming back, but our assumptions mean nothing. It's time for answer. For the Celtics to finally know what they have, so they can get their ducks in a row for what will be an undoubtedly interesting off-season.

No doubt we'll find ourselves right back in the midst of non-stop rumors. Talk of Danny Ainge frantically trying to do this, or offering his entire team for that. You can already see the tweets: "Sources close to the situation say that the Celtics are burning up the phone looking to make a splash in free agency."

If you can't, then it's time to wake up, because while Draft Week was chock full of speculation, in reality the speculation season has only just started, and knowing Danny Ainge, you know the Celtics will be right there.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Ainge: Isaiah Thomas visiting hip specialists, no decision yet on surgery

Ainge: Isaiah Thomas visiting hip specialists, no decision yet on surgery

BOSTON – The last 2 1/2 games for the Celtics have come without Isaiah Thomas (right hip) and it has certainly been a factor in Boston trailing Cleveland 3-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals heading into tonight’s must-win for the Celtics to keep their season alive.
 
There have been rumors that if the series with Cleveland were closer, maybe that would lead to a return to the floor for Thomas.
 
“No. No way. He’s done [this season],” Danny Ainge, Celtics president of basketball operations, said on 98.5 the Sports Hub’s "Toucher & Rich" show this morning.
 
Ainge said there’s still swelling in the hip, and it probably won’t go down enough for doctors to make a determination whether surgery is needed for another couple weeks.

Thomas was in New York City earlier this week visiting a hip specialist. He's expected to consult with at least two more before making a decision as to what's the best course of treatment.
 
“Everybody agrees if there’s anything that needs to be done to it surgically, it helps...if the inflammation goes down,” Ainge said. “The recovery [time] would be quicker.”
 
The injury initially occurred on March 15 against Minnesota.
 
Ainge said he didn’t become too concerned about it until after Thomas re-aggravated it in Game 6 of the second-round series against Washington and was questionable to play in Game 7.
 
“I was worried going into the Cleveland series that he was nowhere near himself in Game 1 or 2,” Ainge said. “And Game 2 in the second quarter it was clear he was in a lot of pain. No way we could go out and allow him to play the second half.”
 
Boston was blown out 130-86 in Game 2. In the first half, Thomas had two points and six assists, while missing all six of his shots from the field.
 
Ainge said there was “a lot” of irritation and inflammation around the affected joint in Thomas' right hip.
 
“It had gotten worse from the MRIs he had before,” said Ainge, who added that it would have been “irresponsible to allow him to play anymore.”
 

Danny Ainge says Lonzo Ball has declined pre-draft workout with Celtics

Danny Ainge says Lonzo Ball has declined pre-draft workout with Celtics

BOSTON -- Like most NBA executives, Danny Ainge loves to get as much intel on players before picking them as he can.  
 
And with the No. 1 overall pick, Ainge knows he has to do all he can to absolutely get this one right.
 
That’s why any thoughts he had of drafting Lonzo Ball are likely out the window after the talented UCLA guard refused to work out for the Celtics.
 
“We tried to get him in for a workout and he politely said no,” Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, said on 98.5 the Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich show.
 
Lonzo Ball’s desire (or his dad Lavar Ball’s desire; hard to say who in the Ball camp wants him in L.A. the most) to play for the Los Angeles Lakers is one of the worst-kept secrets leading up to next month’s NBA draft.
 
And with the Lakers holding the No. 2 pick in the draft, turning down the Celtics only increases the likelihood of  Boston passing on him and instead drafting University of Washington star Markelle Fultz.
 
“It’s not ideal,” Ainge said of Ball's decision to decline working out for Boston. “Listen, we’ve drafted guys that wouldn’t come in for workouts before. It’s not the end of the world. We’ve watched them play a ton. We have a lot of information on them. Sometimes players don’t want to come in, not because they don’t like you, they see our roster. They think they would prefer to go to another team.”
 
The Celtics, like most teams, have been mum publicly as to who they would take in the draft. But all indications at this point in the process are pointing towards them selecting Fultz with the top overall selection.
 
And the fact that Ball, the projected number two pick even before the draft lottery order was established, refuses to work out for Boston will only increase the likelihood that Fultz will be a Celtic and Ball and his camp will get their wish which has always been to don a Los Angeles Lakers jersey.