With West out, Wafer to see more time

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With West out, Wafer to see more time

By Jessica Camerato
CSNNE.com

BOSTON -- Just days ago, Doc Rivers called Von Wafer and Luke Harangody into his office.

He had an important message to deliver, one that was critical for the two reserves to remember during the season.

"Just stay ready," Wafer recalled.

In spite of their limited minutes, Rivers urged them to be prepared to play at any time. After all, they never knew when their name would get called.

That time came sooner than Wafer expected.

On Wednesday night Delonte West broke his wrist on a drive to the basket. Rivers projects West could be sidelined until the playoffs, leaving a gap in the Celtics backcourt.

Enter Wafer.

Wafer started the fourth quarter and played during a five-minute stretch in which the Celtics went on a critical 9-4 run. Even though his box score reads zeros in every category, he provided a necessary spark off the bench.

"Von Wafer -- his stat line's going to say he did basically nothing -- I thought his defensive energy was phenomenal," said Rivers. "It was great for Von in the locker room. Everybody was grabbing him . . . because defense' and Von' can now go together. And that's a great thing."

Kevin Garnett called Wafer "electric." Rivers watched his words of encouragement pay off.

"After the game Doc tapped me and said, 'See what I told you?' " Wafer told CSNNE.com. "So I've just got to stay ready and I'm just happy to be part of this. There's something special going on."

As Wafer helps his team fight for a championship, he is also undergoing a personal transformation.

In 2009, Wafer was kicked out of a postseason game by coach Rick Adelman for complaining about playing time as a member of the Houston Rockets.

He then left the NBA and headed to Europe, where he clashed with his coach in Greece.

Just last month, Wafer and West fought in the Celtics locker room.

Wafer, who considers himself laidback, goofy, and "a little sensitive," admits he still has a lot to learn. Now in his fifth NBA season, he is gaining a different perspective on the game.

"I'm really learning how to become a professional here," he said. "I've learned so much. People have a lot of negative things to say about me. I just didn't really know, but these guys have really taken me under their wings and they're showing me. I think I've gotten a lot better. It's just part of staying ready and being part of this culture."

Wafer has been putting in extra time practicing against Harangody and Avery Bradley. He is focused on staying ready, even if he doesn't get on the court every night.

And that is the key to investing in Celtics basketball. Wafer has a better appreciation of "we, not me."

"It's not about you, it's about us," he said. "Just stay ready because you never know what could happen. That's what they preach here and I believe in it. Everybody has one goal and whether you're playing or you're cheerleading, you've got to be ready."

Jessica Camerato is on Twitter at http:twitter.comjcamerato

Blakely: No. 1 pick isn’t necessarily the road to title contention

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Blakely: No. 1 pick isn’t necessarily the road to title contention

BOSTON – Celtics fans are slowly but surely getting over the disappointment of the team not landing the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft lottery earlier this month.
 
As cool as that would have been, the conference finals serve as a reminder that while having the top pick can be a good thing, most teams have to take a different route when it comes to getting on track towards and NBA title.
 
Of the four remaining teams in the playoffs, the Cleveland Cavaliers are the only one that has truly been elevated to their current lofty status courtesy of landing the number one overall pick (first with LeBron James back in 2003 and more recently with Kyrie Irving in 2011).
 
That means the rest of the remaining field built their way up into an NBA power relying on a combination of making wise draft picks and shrewd additions via free agency and trades.
 
So much of that has to do with leverage, something the Celtics have plenty of on all three fronts.
 
They have the potential to free up enough salary cap space to sign a pair of max players, a first for this franchise. Boston also has eight draft picks in next month’s draft (three in the first round, five in the second), the most of any team leading up to the draft since it went to a two-round system in 1989.
 
Those picks plus a roster full of really good but not great talent, gives them the kind of ammunition to pull the trigger on a trade that could add that much-needed All-Star caliber talent.
 
But it’s like a high school chemistry experiment as the Celtics try to figure out the right combinations to avoid having it all blow up in their face.
 
For now, the emphasis has to be on the June 23 draft.
 
A big part of that planning process involves figuring out what to do with the No. 3 pick, the highest selection the Celtics have had since they took Jeff Green (and traded him that night) with the fifth overall selection in 2007.
 
If the Celtics keep the pick, it will certainly bring about some controversy regardless of who they select.
 
By taking Dragan Bender of Croatia, the Celtics will be selecting the youngest player in the draft (he turns 19 in November) who may take years to develop into a legitimate contributor.
 
Selecting Providence College’s Kris Dunn, arguably the best perimeter defender in this draft, seems a bit redundant considering all the guards Boston has under contract whose strengths are essentially the same as Dunn’s.
 
Buddy Hield of Oklahoma is another option. He’s the best shooter in this draft, but doesn’t provide much other than scoring. Is that really worthy of a No. 3 overall pick?
 
Regardless of who the Celtics take with the No. 3 pick (and that’s assuming they keep it and not trade it away which is indeed an option), one thing we know for sure.
 
History tells us that if the Celtics keep the pick, he will wind up being a pretty good player.
 
In the past 20 years, the No. 1 overall pick has produced 12 All-Stars.
 
Among top six picks in that same span of time, the No. 3 selection has generated the second-highest number of All-Stars (8), while the No. 2, 4, 5 and 6 picks each had five All-Stars.
 
That’s important to note because the need to have multiple All-Stars is paramount to a team’s chances at making a deep playoff run.
 
Take a look at the four remaining teams.
 
There’s the defending champion Golden State Warriors, whose roster includes a quartet of current (Stephen Curry; Klay Thompson and Draymond Green) and former All-Stars (Andre Iguodala).
 
Cleveland’s roster includes a similar breakdown of recent (LeBron James; Kyrie Irving; Kevin Love) and not-so-recent (Mo Williams) All-Stars.
 
And then there’s Oklahoma City (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook) and Toronto (Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan) who each have a pair of All-Stars.
 
For Boston, the team's lone All-Star is Isaiah Thomas, who knows all too well that he can’t carry this team to a deep, meaningful playoff run without getting some All-Star caliber help.

The top two picks in this year’s draft – Duke’s Brandon Ingram and LSU’s Ben Simmons – are head and shoulders above the rest of the draft class, but the Celtics are in a good spot if you’re talking about adding a key piece to a potential title contender. 

Report: Ainge in Israel this weekend scouting Dragan Bender

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Report: Ainge in Israel this weekend scouting Dragan Bender

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and his son, Austin Ainge, the team’s director of player personnel, will be in Israel this weekend scouting Dragan Bender, the potential No. 3 pick in the draft, the Boston Herald reported. 

Bender, a 7-foot-1, 18-year-old from Croatia, won’t be playing in games this weekend but will be practicing for Maccabi Tel Aviv.  Bender is a bench player for Maccabi, averaging 4.3 points and 2.6 rebounds. Still, his size and potential to develop  have him projected to go as high as No. 3.

Here’s CSN’s scouting report of Bender.

Danny Ainge was in Croatia earlier this week scouting 6-11 Ante Zizic. 

 

Report: 76ers look to deal Okafor or Noel in draft trade

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Report: 76ers look to deal Okafor or Noel in draft trade

There’s a high likelihood the Philadelphia 76ers will trade Jahlil Okafor or Nerlens Noel in connection with the June 23 draft, in which the Sixers hold the No. 1 pick, ESPN’s Chad Ford reported.

The Celtics, who have the No. 3 pick, have been rumored to be willing to part with it in a deal that includes Okafor.

Ford said in an interview with Philadelphia-area radio station ESPN 97.3:

You will not see the Nerlens Noel-Jahlil Okafor pairing at the start of next season. I think that they'll gauge the interest of both players. I think that there might be a slight preference for Noel, to keep him around with the Sixers, and I think you might be right, there might be a slight, better value for Okafor out on the market, but I think everyone agrees that that combination of those two players doesn't necessarily work.

The Sixers are expected to choose LSU’s Ben Simmons or Duke’s Brandon Ingram with the top pick.  Ford and Marc Stein also reported Philly’s willingness to deal Okafor or Noel in this ESPN article. 

As a deal with the Celtics for the No. 3 pick, Ford told 97.3:

Absolutely…If I was Philadelphia, it would be done tomorrow. I don't know if Boston would do it, but for Philadelphia, 100 percent. That would allow them to actually I think bring in another guard, an elite guard, whether that's Kris Dunn or Jamal Murray, and suddenly now you've got a very, very bright future. I think that's an easy call for the Sixers if Boston would do it.