Friday Free Throws: KG sightings; poker for Pierce

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Friday Free Throws: KG sightings; poker for Pierce

By JessicaCamerato
CSNNE.com Follow@JCameratoNBA
Welcome to the first edition of Friday Free Throws, a weekly recap of news, notes, and information that may not have made the headlines but are still worth a read.

Lets kick off the debut with a few notes on one player you dont see much about during the offseason Kevin Garnett.

Garnett was spotted last weekend in Canada, and it wasnt for the Stanley Cup Finals. Garnett was seen dining and relaxing during Montreals Grand Prix Weekend, a three-day celebration centered around the Grand Prix race.

Years after Garnett moved from South Carolina, he is still inspiring others there to hoop. Washington Wizards forward Trevor Booker held his first Tru-Ballers 5 on 5 Basketball Tournament last week in Mauldin, Garnetts hometown. Mauldin Mayor Don Godbey told the Greenville News, It was a renewal of what Kevin Garnett had started when he helped build the basketball court at Springfield Park. Trevor decided to bring it back and it was great. It was well-organized and good for the community and the citizens.

And in case you missed it during the season, Garnett is one of several athletes endorsing ZICO Coconut Water. He is currently featured on ZICOs homepage (he is the letter I) and in a promotion on their Facebook page for a free beverage. "I dont mind being the face of the coconut water boom," Garnett told CNBCs Darren Rovell in March. Theres so many people who care more and more about what is going into their body and I can help grow that awareness.

Pierce takes a gamble
Its no secret Paul Pierce thrives in high-pressure situation, but one source of preparation may surprise you. Pierce recently competed in his first World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. I think poker has really helped me develop patience and that helps me in everything I do in life, he told PokerListings.com. It helps me on the basketball court, to be more patient and to be more of a thinking player and to be smarter out there. View photos of Pierce working on his other game here.

Celtics? Lakers? Bulls? Who is the top team in the NBA?
As part of their 125th anniversary, Sporting News named their 10 Greatest NBA Teams of All Time. The Celtics made two appearances on the list at the fourth (1985-86) and fifth spots (1964-65). Top honor went to the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls and the Los Angeles Lakers were named ranked second (1971-72) and third (1986-87).

Celtics Tweet of the Week
@paulpierce34: "My 13yrs in Boston 2world series 1 NBA championship 3 super bowls know 1 Stanley cup what a place to b a sports fan"

Birthdays of the Week
Former Celtics first-round pick (11th overall) Jerome Moiso turned 33 on June 15. Moiso was drafted in 2000 and scored 35 points in 24 games during his first (and only) season in Boston . . . Allan Ray turned 27 on June 17. Ray, who played for the Celtics just prior to Ray Allens arrival, averaged 6.2 points during the 2006-07 season.

This Week in NBA History
The Celtics won their 17th World Championship on June 17, 2008 by defeating the Los Angeles Lakers, 131-92, in Game 6 of the NBA Finals at TD Garden. Pierce was named Finals MVP, Garnett proved anything is possible, and Brian Scalabrine delivered one of the most entertaining impromptu postgame press conferences ever.

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.com!JCamerato

Tanguay: Celtics should roll the dice on Dragan Bender

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Tanguay: Celtics should roll the dice on Dragan Bender

Danny Ainge recently hinted on Toucher & Rich that the Celtics were interested in drafting Dragan Bender.

And they need to do exactly that. 

No, I'm not crazy. Neither is Danny.

Drafting Bender is the Celtics' best option. As Ainge pointed out, his job is to make the move that's best for the team. Not just for the short term, but for the long haul.

Now, I can't say I've been to Croatia to work out Bender. Like many of you, I 've only seen him via the Internet.

It is easy to look at him and think he’s a project. That’s because he is. He’s 18 and, even though he's 7 feet tall, he only weighs about 220 soaking wet. He's a kid, too skinny at the moment for the NBA, and would no doubt get killed if you put in the post today.

And, like I said, I'm not crazy. I'm not committed to Bender. If  Sacramento calls and offers Boogie Cousins for any combination of picks the Celtics have, the deal should be made immediately. To a degree, I feel the same way about Jimmy Butler. However, the consensus is those two players aren't going anywhere. (And even if they are available, suppose the Lakers decide to dangle the No. 2 pick for either of them? That would make a trade nearly impossible for Boston.)

But if the Celtics keep the third pick -- and he isn't taken by either Philly or L.A. (highly unlikely) -- Dragen Bender should be Ainge's choice. And it will be the right move.

Let’s break it down.

There's just no one else in this draft with Bender's upside. Buddy Hield is a 22-year-old shooting guard who completely disappeared in the NCAA championship game. He has a shot to be a very good NBA player, but he won’t transform the organization. Neither would Jamal Murray from Kentucky. Nor Kris Dunn from Providence.

The risk for Bender is HUGE. The reward is even HUGER. Ah, that’s not a word, right? Well then, BIGGER THAN HUGE! Or HUGEST!

Bender could be that guy.

And, I also admit, he also wind up playing in Europe or Israel.

Still, Danny has to roll the dice on this guy.

Bender can handle the ball, block shots, shoot the 3, and -- like all European players -- is fundamentally sound. The issue for this kid is toughness in the low post and getting stronger. I put my money on Celtics strength and conditioning coach Bryan Doo to get him ready for NBA life.

And I'm not one those boneheads who are pushing for Bender because Kristaps Porzingis has worked out for the Knicks. One has nothing to do with the other. For every Porzingis there's at least one Stojko Vrankovic. Or Darko Milicic.

Take Bender, Danny. In two years this guy may have gained 15 to 20 pounds of muscle, learned the rigors on and off the court of the NBA, and look like the next Porzingis, Or Dirk Nowitzki or Porzingis. Then use the other two Brooklyn first-round picks, and the Celtics could be back on their way to greatness.

But if you play it safe, Danny, and don't take Bender, the Green will simply be stuck in the mud of mediocrity.  

Ben Bentil ready for opportunity to showcase his talents in the NBA

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Ben Bentil ready for opportunity to showcase his talents in the NBA

BOSTON – Opportunity.

Ben Bentil learned at an early age to recognize it and in doing so, make the most of it when it presents itself.

That’s how a 15-year-old kid from Ghana, who grew up wanting to be a professional volleyball player at one point winds up playing basketball and soccer at one of the most prestigious boarding schools in the United States (St. Andrews School in Wilmington, Del., which is where the move Dead Poets Society was filmed in 1989).

That’s how that same kid goes from being a role-playing freshman at Providence College last season, to the Big East’s leading scorer a year later – and doing so in the shadows of Kris Dunn, a high-scoring guard who is a consensus top-10 pick in next month’s NBA draft.

“I’m glad I had the best point guard in the country on my team,” Bentil, who averaged a Big East-leading 21.1 points per game this past season for Providence, told CSNNE.com. “We took advantage of it.”

And with the June 23 NBA draft on the horizon, Bentil once again finds himself in position to make the most of an opportunity that so few saw coming this quickly in his career.

“It’s been an unbelievable journey,” said Bentil who averaged 6.4 points and five rebounds per game as a freshman.

A journey that by all accounts is far from over.

Prior to deciding to stay in this year’s draft, the sophomore big man wanted to see how he stacked up against other draft hopefuls at the NBA pre-draft combine in Chicago. He took advantage of a new rule that allows college players to participate in the combine and return to college if they don’t sign with an agent.

This would prove to be yet another opportunity that Bentil made the most of.

In his first game, he had 15 points and 11 rebounds in just 20 minutes.

The next day he had 17 points and six rebounds in just 19 minutes.

Those strong performances combined with really good feedback from NBA executives at the combine and afterwards, made Bentil’s decision to stay in the draft a no-brainer.

A league executive contacted by CSNNE.com in reference to Bentil said he’s “a solid second round pick now,” adding, “and could work his way into the late first-round depending on workouts.”

A second league executive contacted by CSNNE.com via text on Tuesday morning echoed similar sentiments.

“Good second round pick,” the text read. “Could impress teams, play his way into mid-to-late 20s of first round.”

That jibes with the factors Bentil said would likely need to be in place for him to stay in the draft.

“If I know I’ll go in those ranges, I’ll probably stay in,” Bentil said.

In addition to his scoring and rebounding, Bentil also eased the concerns a number of teams had about his size.

At the combine he measured out at 6-8 ¼ with a solid 7-1 ½ wingspan. In addition, Bentil’s hand length was 9.50 inches, which tied 7-footer Dedric Lawson for the longest hands at the combine. Bentil also showed his shooting touch from the perimeter as he knocked down 14-of-25 NBA 3s taken from five different spots on the floor.

And at Providence, the Friars did a lot of switching defensively which often meant Bentil had to guard smaller, seemingly quicker players – the kind of challenge he’ll face in the NBA where teams live on a healthy diet of pick-and-roll sets.

Knowing that Bentil has the quickness to hold his own defensively on switches and the length to where being undersized won’t be as big a detriment as feared on the boards or in getting his shots off offensively, Bentil finds himself in good shape to take advantage of what should be increased opportunities leading up to next month’s draft.

Bentil worked out for five teams initially, but a representative with Octagon basketball told CSNNE.com that Bentil’s list of teams to work out for will be expanded. In addition, Octagon has a pro workout day this week with several teams (the Celtics are expected to be among them) having representatives in attendance to watch the workouts of Octagon clients.

And that will present yet another opportunity – there’s that word again – for Bentil to showcase his talents.