Soft-spoken Lee looking to make big impact with Celtics

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Soft-spoken Lee looking to make big impact with Celtics

ISTANBUL There is a quiet, unassuming manner in which Courtney Lee goes about his business.

He knows he's good, but doesn't need to run down stats or run his mouth to prove it.

Instead, he just goes about his business focused on doing whatever job he's asked to do.

Lee's low-key approach is similar to another former Celtic player who, like Lee, bounced around a few times before finally finding an NBA home.

That former Celtic was Chauncey Billups, with Boston being the first of many teams to ship him out before he would eventually blossom into one of the NBA's better point guards just a few years ago with the Detroit Pistons.

Fast forward to Lee, who is hoping he'll have a similar emergence with the Boston Celtics.

Not surprisingly, Lee considers Billups a good friend who has at times doled out advice to him -- even during games.

"You know him, he's Mr. Big Shot," Lee told CSNNE.com following the C's three hour practice on Wednesday. "He's won a championship. With me coming into the league, just playing hard, doing my role . . . we've built up a mutual respect."

Lee's relationship with the Billups family goes even deeper.

When Lee played at Western Kentucky, he recalls playing against Billups' younger brother Rodney who attended the University of Denver.

And while no one will confuse their games, the way they go about handling themselves and the pressure of being in the NBA is similar.

Paul Pierce knows both players and agrees that they do share a similar demeanor.

"Courtney is pretty laid back, kind of chill," Pierce said.

But on the floor, Pierce has seen a different side of Lee that he likes . . . a lot.

Pierce views Lee as one of his more competitive teammates, based on the way he has performed in practice as well as how he has fared with other teams. And it is that side of Lee that, in Pierce's mind, makes him a good fit even though he doesn't have an outwardly strong personality.

"We want guys that produce; strong willed," Pierce said. "Those are the type of players we feel we need to win a championship."

Pierce recalls a game last season in which he was playing against Lee's former team, the Houston Rockets, and Lee asked to guard him for a while.

"He really accepts the challenge," Pierce said. "Those are the type of guys you want, veteran guys who want to step up and take the challenge."

Competing for a title was among the many factors Lee considered when choosing to play for Boston instead of another team that he says offered him more money. And it appears Lee will have that opportunity in Boston after the C's signed him to a four-year deal worth 21.35 million.

Having a long-term deal certainly puts Lee's mind at ease some, but he says having played for three teams in just four NBA seasons isn't all bad.

"There's nothing wrong with bouncing around," Lee said. "You gotta get that right feel. I feel I was in a couple right fits."

Originally drafted by Orlando with the No. 22 pick in 2008, Lee was traded the following summer along with Rafer Alston, to New Jersey for Vince Cater.

"That first year in New Jersey, they wouldn't do the trade unless I was in it," Lee said. "So I look at it in a sense, it shows I have value around this league."

Especially to the Celtics who see Lee as a player with tremendous versatility at both ends of thee court.

"Just a solid player," C's coach Doc Rivers said. "He's a really good basketball player. When people hear solid play, they think average. But he's better than average. He does a lot of things well."

He'll have to in order to make the kind of impact both he and the Celtics are looking for this season.

Blake Griffin opts out of Clippers contract, becoming free agent

Blake Griffin opts out of Clippers contract, becoming free agent

According to multiple reports, Blake Griffin has opted out of his contract with the Clippers, making him a free agent. 

Griffin is considered one of the top free agents in a class that will also include Utah’s Gordon Hayward. The Celtics have been reported as possible suitors for both players. 

The first overall pick in the 2009 draft, the 28-year-old Griffin is a five-time All-Star, though injuries have limited him over the last three seasons. 

Over 61 games, the 6-foot-10 power forward averaged 21.6 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game last season. Between numerous injuries and a suspension for hitting a member of the Clippers’ equipment staff, Griffin was limited to just 31 games in the 2015-16 season. 

Adrian Wojnarowski said recently that Boston’s reception for Clippers teammate Paul Pierce made a very strong impression on Griffin. Though there might not necessarily be a connection between the two, Griffin said on Barstool Sports’ “Pardon My Take” that Boston is on his Mt. Rushmore of NBA cities. 

Tatum's sick final workout seals the deal for Celtics

Tatum's sick final workout seals the deal for Celtics

BOSTON -- Jayson Tatum was excited about working out for the Boston Celtics. 

But he knew that, health-wise, he wouldn’t be at his best. 

TATUM SPEAKS

 
He could have easily pulled out like others had, or just told the Celts in advance so they could take it into account when they were deciding on who to take with the No. 3 pick. 
 
Instead, he kept it to himself until after his workout, focused on doing what the best in the NBA do on a nightly basis -- finding a way to play their best when at their worst physically. 
 
“I wasn’t feeling well, but you can’t make excuses,” Tatum said during an interview with CSN’s Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely. “There can be times in the future where there’s a game or playoff game where you’re not feeling well. Nobody is going to care. You have to produce.”
 
Did. He. Ever. 
 
The workout didn’t just go well.  It ranked among the best Danny Ainge had seen, which made the decision for Boston to select the 6-foot-9 forward from Duke with the No. 3 pick an easy call. 
 
Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, had an eye on Tatum all season and acknowledged he had high expectations for him to perform at during his workout in Boston. 
 
“He was better than I actually thought,” Ainge said during the CelticsTalk Podcast with Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely. “Which was hard to do, because we thought highly of him before.”
 
During the workout, Ainge saw a young man who had worked on improving his perimeter shooting to the point where it was actually one of his stronger qualities. 
 
 “As I watched him play earlier in his life  . . . what he lacked was his range shooting,” Ainge said. “He was a very good mid-range player and good passer off the dribble. But the range shooting, what he showed us in the workout here was very impressive. We had two workouts with him. And in both of them, he was one of the best shooters in this whole draft at any position, and one of the best shooters we’ve had in here for any draft.”
 
Making Tatum’s workout all that more impressive was it came with him far from at his best health-wise, something the Celtics didn’t learn of until afterwards. 
 
“He wanted to be here from the very beginning, even before we got the number one pick,” Ainge said. “He wanted to be here. He came in here and showed it. He came on his workout and was sick. He was on antibiotics, nose was dripping and he didn’t complain. And he still played and played well. That was impressive, how much he showed, how much he wanted to be here.”
 
Tatum said his mindset coming into his workout was simple.
 
“I knew the draft pick was on the line,” Tatum said. “I had to really perform and I think I did really well.”