Celtics work out a 6-foot-11 football player


Celtics work out a 6-foot-11 football player

By A.Sherrod Blakely

The Boston Celtics take pride in the fact that when it comes to scouting players, there are very few places that they won't look for talent.

No example brings this point home more than the Celtics working out Matt O'Donnell, a 6-foot-11, 340-pound offensive tackle from Canada.

"We don't leave a stone unturned," quipped Danny Ainge, Boston's president of basketball operations. "We cover all the bases."

O'Donnell's father, Jim, told a Canadian newspaper that the tryout came about because of how O'Donnell tested at the Canadian Football League evaluation camp.

"The Celtics looked at his numbers and his athletic ability and decided it was worthwhile giving the kid a chance," his father, Jim O'Donnell, told the Barrie Examiner.

At his size and level of experience -- he played intramural basketball at Queen's University but had not played organized basketball since high school -- Ainge and the C's had no idea what to expect when they brought him in with a number of other big men hopefuls.

Most of the players the Celtics brought in for Wednesday workouts, such as Justin Harper of Richmond and Lavoy Allen of Temple, are big men who can stretch the floor with their shooting.

O'Donnell doesn't stretch the floor. He'll pound you into it.

"He was definitely the surprise of the workout," Ainge said. "He's big. Really big."

Even with the Celtics in the market to add some beef to their frontcourt, it's highly unlikely that O'Donnell made a big enough impact to where he'll be someone the Celtics would look to sign as a free agent, let alone draft.

For starters, it's pretty clear that football is not only his preferred sport, but one that O'Donnell is better suited for playing.

O'Donnell, a two-time all-Canadian football player at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and a member of the Golden Gaels' 2009 Vanier Cup team, was selected by the Saskatchewan Rough Riders with the 15th overall pick in the CFL draft last month. He was one of just two Canadian players invited to play in East-West Shrine game in January, a game that features the top senior football players in North America but primarily consists of seniors from colleges and universities in the United States.

He was supposed to report to the Rough Riders' camp on Wednesday, but O'Donnell elected to instead work out for the Celtics.

In addition to the CFL and the Celtics, O'Donnell has drawn some NFL interest.

But with the NFL lockout still in effect, undrafted players like O'Donnell are in wait-and-see mode.

"He's got to explore all his options," said Jim O'Donnell. "It's a tough spot for him. Growing up, he dreamed of playing in the CFL. But when you're getting some pro interest down there, you've got to have a look at it."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Celtics hope to rebound after being outplayed by Bulls on the boards

Celtics hope to rebound after being outplayed by Bulls on the boards

Following Thursday’s 105-99 loss to the Chicago Bulls, the Boston Celtics will be on the prowl to rebound – literally – from its first defeat of the season.

Because for all that did not go right in Thursday night’s loss, the way Boston was beaten on the boards stands out emphatically.

“They got 24 more shots than us. We only turned it over (12) times,” Celtics head coach Brad Stevens told reporters after the loss. “So that’s the obvious place they’re getting their possessions, on the glass. That’s going to be the number one thing, that has been the number one thing. It’s something we’ve talked about. We have to get better at it.”


Boston was out-rebounded 55-36 on the boards which heavily factored into Chicago’s 18-5 advantage in second-chance points.

In the Celtics' 122-117 win over Brooklyn on Wednesday, Boston won the overall rebounding battle 47-44, but had just 12 offensive rebounds compared to Brooklyn's 15 offensive boards. Despite the close margin, the Nets won the battle on the offensive glass running away, outscoring the Celtics 23-13 in second-chance points.

Stevens decided to start Tyler Zeller ahead of Amir Johnson to begin the third quarter, hoping Zeller would be a better matchup on the glass than Johnson who did not grab a single rebound in the 11 minutes of court time he got in the first half.

While Zeller did do a few good things on the glass and scoring in half-court sets, it wasn’t enough to swing the momentum Chicago was steadily gaining due to its ability to control the boards.

“I wasn’t real surprised but at the same time I knew it could happen,” Zeller told reporters, referring to Stevens’ decision to have him start the second half. “They did a good job of coming out and setting the tone. They beat us up on the boards, especially the first half. It’s something we have to get better at and continue to grow at.”

And it’s not a one-player or one-position issue, either.

Usually we think of bigs when it comes to rebounding. But Boston’s guards need to step up their rebounding game as well.

The struggles thus far have to be put in the context of this being just two games, the latter being the season opener for the Bulls who were jacked up more than usual due to it being the first game for Chicago native Dwyane Wade and ex-Celtic Rajon Rondo.

“We have to focus on boxing out,” said Boston’s Jaylen Brown. “Guards have to do a better job. Guys like me, Al (Horford), Amir (Johnson), Tyler (Zeller) ... We have to do a good job of coming in the weak side and grabbing those; just focus on it, pay more attention to detail.”