China's 7-foot-2 Zhou Qi an intriguing option for Celtics

China's 7-foot-2 Zhou Qi an intriguing option for Celtics

BOSTON -- With eight picks in next month’s NBA draft there’s a very good chance the Celtics will go the draft-and-stash route with a couple of international players, with the goal being for them to stay overseas and grow their game.

That makes China’s Zhou Qi (pronounced Joe Chee), who was in town last week for a workout with the Celtics, a legitimate target with one of Boston’s three, first-round picks.

Selecting Zhou with the No. 3 overall pick is not going to happen. And selecting a player to keep tucked away with the 16th pick is a bit of a stretch, too.

But taking Zhou at No. 23 is definitely something the Celtics will consider. Boston also has five second-round picks, but league executives contacted this weekend by CSNNE.com anticipate he will be taken in the latter stages of the first round.

While little is known about Zhou in the United States, the Celtics have had him on their radar for quite some time.

“We’ve known about him for a couple of years,” said Austin Ainge, Boston’s director of player personnel. “He’s probably the third- or fourth-most recognized name in Chinese basketball.

Indeed, Zhou is trying to follow a path towards the NBA that was paved by Chinese big men Yao Ming and Yi Jianlian, who were both high lottery picks (Yao was the No. 1 overall pick for Houston in 2002 while Yi was selected with the sixth overall pick in 2007 by Milwaukee).

Zhou’s stock isn’t quite that high, but there’s no mistaking he's a player that several teams with first-round picks are intrigued by.

At 7-2 1/4, Zhou’s wingspan at the NBA combine earlier this month measured an astounding 7-7 3/4. The only other player whose wingspan was greater than that at the NBA combine was Utah’s Rudy Gobert (7-8 1/2). Zhou has a standing reach of 9-4 1/2 and can touch the rim on his tippy toes.

However, Zhao’s lithe frame (he weighs 218.2 pounds, which is a little more than 10 pounds more than he weighed a few months ago) is indeed reason for some teams to give serious thought to keeping him overseas to fill out his frame for another year or two.

Despite being so skinny, teams have raved about his surprisingly nimble movement as well as his skill level.

During the combine earlier this month in Chicago, Zhou showed some his deft shooting touch by draining 14-of-25 3s taken from five different points on the floor. In addition to his scoring, Zhou is a much more athletic big man that most might expect, which can be seen in his maximum vertical leap measuring out at 31 1/2 inches.

Think about this:

The guy can practically touch the rim without jumping, and then you top that off with a vertical leap of more than 30 inches?

Boston was just one of a handful of teams the 20-year-old decided to work out for leading up to next month’s draft. 

“It was great to have him in,” Ainge said.

The Suns were another. During his workout with Phoenix, the Suns pitted him against Eric Jacobsen of Arizona State. They were looking to see how Zhou handled himself against Jacobsen, who is a 6-10, 240-pound center.

“Usually my hand is up by the ball, but I was getting up to his face and the ball was, way up there,” Jacobsen told the Arizona Republic.

Suns assistant general manager Pat Connelly was eager to get an up-close look at how Zhou handled himself against a strong center like Jacobsen.

“You can see that stuff on tape, but it’s always good to see a guy come in and get an appreciation for how a guy takes the contact,” Connelly told the Republic. “Which will be important for him going forward. He did well.”

Irving's procedure means Celtics may add player via 'hardship roster exception'

Irving's procedure means Celtics may add player via 'hardship roster exception'

With Kyrie Irving undergoing a “minimally invasive procedure” on Saturday, the Boston Celtics may look to add a player via the “hardship roster exception” that only teams that are significantly impacted by injuries, are eligible for. 

MORE - Doctor: Irving could return in 'three to four weeks'

The Celtics won’t have a clear sense of what the timetable will be for Irving’s return until after his procedure is performed. 

But it’s likely to be at least a couple weeks which at the earliest would put Irving’s return just before the playoffs. 

In order to qualify for the NBA’s hardship roster exception, at least four players must miss a minimum of three consecutive games, and later be deemed to be out for an additional two weeks. 

Gordon Hayward (dislocated left ankle) and Daniel Theis (torn meniscus, left knee) are out for the season, and Marcus Smart (right thumb) recently underwent surgery that will keep him sidelined for at least another five weeks. 

An independent doctor will determine if the extent of the aforementioned injuries as well as the recovery time for Irving, meet the two-week criteria to be eligible for the hardship roster exception. 

Once that’s determined, Boston will be given a hardship roster exception to use on a player for the remainder of the regular season but won’t be eligible for the postseason. 

If Boston does add a player, look for him to come from the Gatorade League, possibly their G-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws. 

Boston has a collection of guards who have helped fill the void left by Irving’s absence, but Boston has not been able to address the loss of Daniel Theis. 

Keep an eye on former No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett, a 6-foot-8 forward who averaged 16.0 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists for the Red Claws this season. 

MORE - Hayward gives update on rehab

Boston has a 45-day cap on the use of its two-way players with the parent team, but that limitation ends tomorrow which means guard/forward Jabari Bird and guard Kadeem Allen can earn the league minimum for every day they are with the Celtics going forward in the regular season. That can provide some depth to a Celtics team that because of injuries, can use every healthy body they can find.


Doctor: Irving could return in 'three to four weeks'

Doctor: Irving could return in 'three to four weeks'

Kyrie Irving could be back on the court in time for the Celtics to begin the playoffs.

Or not.

Irving will have what the Celts are describing as a "minimally invasive procedure" on his injured left knee Saturday. NBC Sports Boston talked to Dr. Christopher Chihlas from Southcoast Health -- who has not examined Irving but is familiar with his type of injury -- about how long Irving may be sidelined.

"A minimally invasive procedure is basically an arthroscopy," said Dr. Chihlas. "His return to play is mostly dependent on what is done . . . If it's just a cleanout, as we're being told, then -- best-case scenario -- we could see him back playing in three to four weeks."

But, he added, "it could be double that . . . depending upon what exactly is found . . . 

"The key here is the patella fracture (which Irving suffered during the 2015 playoffs). My feeling is that he's suffering a bit of the consequence of the patella fracture, which is a fracture into the knee joint . . . [He] may need to have this done periodically to get him through the rest of his career."