Draft to the Future


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

NBA Notes: League seems to be on upward surge in interest and ratings


NBA Notes: League seems to be on upward surge in interest and ratings

For so many years the NFL has had an almost impenetrable veneer in the way it has successfully pivoted away from a myriad of scandals that would have at the very least delivered a significant, noticeable blow to most professional leagues.

But that Teflon-tough image has taken a whacking of late with the league dealing with what has been for the most part an across-the-board ratings dip in its programming.

The NFL’s slide comes at a time when the NBA seems to be on a upward surge in terms of interest and ratings.

Kevin Durant’s decision to leave Oklahoma City and play for Golden State is a needle-mover across the NBA landscape. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are looking to defend their NBA title – a phrase no one thought they would ever hear even when James signed on for a second tour of duty – will certainly generate tons of interest.

The Boston Celtics added Al Horford to a team that many believe will be among Cleveland’s stiffest challengers, in addition to being a team that has played Golden State as well as anyone the last couple of years.

There are many hands responsible for the NBA having such a strong position on the professional sports landscape, chief among them being former commissioner David Stern.

He was in town last week as part of the Shamrock Foundation’s annual Gala.

Stern gave a rundown of what he’s been up to since passing the commissioner’s torch to Adam Silver.

He said he has been a senior advisor to a venture capital firm, counsels several start-up companies and of course a senior advisor to the NBA.

But it’s what he’s not doing – negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with the player’s union – that seemed to bring him the most joy.

“That’s when I got the least amount of sleep,” quipped Stern.

But those sleep-deprived marathon sessions with owners and union leaders, have helped bring the league to where it is today – thriving with its players and the profits both seem to be reaping.

That’s why the reports of the NBA and the player’s union being close to coming to terms on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, make a lot of sense. The NBA or the player’s union can opt-out of the current CBA prior to Dec. 15, although that’s looking less likely to happen because of what should be a new deal that better reflects the economic changes that currently exist in the NBA.

This past summer saw the salary cap in the NBA balloon to $94.14 million after having been $70 million for the 2015-2016 season.

With both NBA players and owners profiting significantly from the new TV deal, most of the changes to come about (paying players on the rookie scale more money; increasing the dollar amounts for veteran’s minimum and team exception contracts) are just common sense rule changes that have both sides closer to getting something done sooner rather than later.

And while he’s not directly involved in any of the current dealings, what he accomplished prior to retiring as commissioner certainly laid the groundwork for what appears to be a relatively smooth negotiation period.

“I didn’t project anything other than I was leaving it in the most spectacular of hands with an All-Star executive cast and they would just do what’s right for the league and they have,” Stern said.

And as far as the current talks that have reportedly been ongoing for months, Stern understands all too well that the last CBA talks which led to a shortened, 66-game season led to changes that has both players and owners feeling better about current negotiations.

“I’m proud to say the league has gotten to a very good place in terms of the player’s share, the owner’s share and where they can all see this is something that pays to keep going,” Stern said. “It’s fun to watch from a distance and not be involved.”



So much for that logjam in the frontcourt for the Philadelphia 76ers. The latest big man to go down with an injury is Nerlens Noel who recently had “minor” surgery on his left knee that will sideline him for reportedly three-to-five weeks. Keep in mind that the Everett, Mass. native missed his entire rookie season following left knee surgery, although the Sixers indicate this was an arthroscopic procedure and is considered minor. He joins No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons who suffered a foot injury that’s expected to keep him out until at least January. That means a lot of the trade rumors involving Noel (and Jahlil Okafor to a certain extent too) should cool off for a little bit.



Signing with Toronto during the offseason was supposed to be Jared Sullinger's chance at a fresh start. Unfortunately for him, things are looking a lot like they did in his early days in Boston. Concerns about his back dropped his draft-day stock from a likely lottery (top-14) pick, to falling in the Celtics' lap at No. 21. During his rookie season, he played well but had to have season-ending back surgery. With the Raptors, it appears he will miss some time early on due to a foot injury that occurred in the team's first preseason game which has kept him out of action ever since.  

“May be a little while before he comes back,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey told reporters recently. “He may get checked out just to see what else is going on.”

Sullinger’s weight was an issue during his time with the Celtics. It’s unclear what impact if any, it had on his current injury or whether it’s a factor in the injury keeping him out indefinitely. 



We have seen Metta World Peace (formerly known as Ron Artest) in lots of different basketball roles from hitting big shots to just hitting people.

But as a coach? That is reportedly being discussed by the Los Angeles Lakers brass as they try to trim their training camp roster down to 15 players.

MWP is likely on the outside of the 15-man roster now, but the Lakers still want him to be part of the organization. While it may seem a bit of a stretch at first, he does bring a wealth of basketball experience to the table, a player how has seen the highs and lows of the game in a way few players can fully understand or speak about with a great amount of credibility.



The LaMarcus Aldridge trade talk will be one of the storylines this NBA season. The Boston Celtics will continue to be discussed as a possibility, but the team to watch is the Phoenix Suns. They came close to convincing him when he left Portland for San Antonio. Phoenix provides him a team that can be built around him (which he wants), lots of shots (which he wants) and a team with no pressure on his back to lead them to major success (yup, he wants that too). … Michael Carter Williams’ stock seems to continue to tumble after winning the league’s rookie of the Year award. He’s going into his fourth season and he’s already on to his third team. … Multiple league executives believe Devin Booker is the best 20-and-under player in the NBA right now. He's good, but I'd probably take Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns.

Bradley continues adapting, improves ball-handling and court vision


Bradley continues adapting, improves ball-handling and court vision

WALTHAM, Mass. – Just like Avery Bradley comes back each season with a new element in his basketball tool box, defenses have adapted to some degree to try and counter whatever Bradley is doing a better job at.

Before it was take away the mid-range shot and make him a 3-point shooter. Now it’s run him off the 3-point line by closing out hard and fast against him.

Well, running him off the 3-point line is actually playing into the hands of two areas of Bradley’s game that have seen significant growth during the offseason: ball-handling and court vision.

Bradley’s improvement in those areas has been evident in the preseason, something the seventh-year guard hopes to continue in the regular season opener on Wednesday against the Brooklyn Nets.

“I worked on my ball-handling a lot,” Bradley said. “Instead of doing all the Kyrie (Irving) stuff that trainers have people do, I tried to focus on just one or two moves, just perfecting a few moves that I can put into my game.”

What we’ve seen from Bradley is better sense of when to attack players with his ball-handling and when to use it as a set-up to get his teammates good shots.

He attributes both to the work he has put in and just becoming an older, more wiser player on the floor.

“I’m able to make plays for my teammates because I’m a lot more confident in my ball-handling, in my play-making and my decision-making," said the 25-year-old Bradley. "I feel a lot more comfortable out there.”

While it may not seem like that big a deal that Bradley’s putting the ball on the floor more and attacking off the dribble, it’s actually really important for this Celtics team.

With Bradley now looking to attack off the dribble more, that means that the Celtics now have a starting five – Isaiah Thomas, Bradley, Jae Crowder, Amir Johnson and Al Horford – with each player comfortable and confident in their ability to take most defenders and their respective positions, off the dribble.

That makes Boston a significantly better team offensively in terms of being highly unpredictable and to a larger degree, tougher to contain.

“He’s a great defender, one of the best in the NBA,” Boston’s Amir Johnson told CSNNE.com. “But people sleep on his offensive game. He can hit the corner 3s, wing 3s, pull-up jumpers … he can pretty much do it all out there. Now that he’s looking to get to the rim more, that just makes him and our team really, much better.”

Indeed, Bradley sounds as though he plans to continue probing different ways to generate points for the Celtics.

One approach he’ll surely take is to do a better job of taking advantage of the mistakes defenses make against him, like players who try and chase him off the 3-point line.

“Me being  a better 3-point shooter should challenge me to think the game a little more,” he said. “If it’s drawing fouls … I know I should be drawing more fouls from the 3-point line. There are times when people are just running out of control at me at the 3-point line. I have to be smarter.”

Bradley added, “I worked on that this summer. It’s translated in practice, so now it needs to translate in games.”