Medical concerns may result in Denzel Valentine falling to Celtics

Medical concerns may result in Denzel Valentine falling to Celtics

BOSTON -- The days leading up to the NBA Draft just wouldn’t feel right if there wasn’t some highly regarded player being red-flagged for a potential pre-existing injury that results in their stock falling a bit.

The first signs of trouble often scare off teams. But the Boston Celtics certainly aren’t one of them.

We've seen the slide of some players in past drafts due to medical concerns play into the Celtics’ hands, and that may happen again on Thursday.

An MRI of the right knee of Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine during last month’s pre-draft combine in Chicago has led to concerns from NBA teams about its long-term durability. That could result in a potential lottery pick -- he had been considered a top-14 player prior to those reports -- becoming available for the Celtics with the No. 16 or 23 pick.

In addition, Kentucky’s Tyler Ulis reportedly has a hip issue that might result in him falling to the latter stages of the first round or potentially into the second.

Valentine, a 6-foot-6 wing forward considered one of the most versatile players in this draft, doesn’t seem overly concerned about the reports.

"I guess some teams are worried about it," Valentine told MLive.com recently. "But all I can do is take care of what I can control. I'm asymptomatic, I'm healthy."

Valentine played four years at Michigan State, missing just four games to injury in that span. And those four games came as a senior due to a left knee injury.

“It's really irrelevant to me, but the doctors and everything, they've got to do what they've got to do, because they're investing a lot of money," Valentine said.

Valentine added, “I'm healthy right now, I have workouts, I've been going about my business no problems."

Some have compared Valentine’s knee issue to what afflicted former Indiana Pacers All-Star Danny Granger. While Granger wound up playing 10 NBA seasons, injuries limited him to just 76 games total in his last four seasons.

While there’s certainly a higher risk in drafting Valentine than some other prospects, he may very well be an option to consider at No. 16.

In 2012 the Celtics selected Jared Sullinger with the 21st pick of the first round, knowing at some point he would require back surgery. His rookie season was limited to 45 games (5 starts) before undergoing season-ending back surgery. Upon his return to the lineup the following season, the 6-foot-9 Sullinger would become one of Boston’s most effective big men. His back wasn't a major issue in his play or his availability.

This past season Sullinger appeared in a career-high 81 games (73 starts, which was also a career high) while averaging 10.3 points with career highs in rebounds (8.3) and assists (2.3) per game.

Austin Ainge, Boston’s director of player personnel, said there are a number of factors and voices that go into a decision to draft a player whose medical history has been red-flagged as a potential problem.

“We do it in tandem with the medical group and Dr. [Brian] McKeon,” said Ainge, referring to the Celtics’ team doctor. “He has a good track record. He’s got a lot of good people who help him. We sit together and talk.”

While not getting into specifics, Ainge said the medical information that gets out in the media is just a small fraction of what the various teams know about the medical history of draft prospects.

“Everybody has something,” Ainge said. “It’s weighing their potential play versus their potential medical risk. Doctors have different opinions just like scouts have different opinions with those things. We’re all doing the best job we can to make the most educated guesses."


Isaiah Thomas isn't ruling out return to Celtics

File Photo

Isaiah Thomas isn't ruling out return to Celtics

Isaiah Thomas back in green? Maybe there's a chance after all.

The former Celtics guard, now with the Lakers, started a Q&A session on Twitter and was asked whether he'd consider returning to Boston this offseason. This was his answer...

That's not a no.

Thomas has had a rough go of it since leaving the Celtics. His brief tenure in Cleveland didn't go according to plan, and things haven't gotten a whole lot better out in L.A. The 29-year-old is averaging 15.3 points per game just a year after averaging 28.9 with Boston.

Let the speculation begin.


Horford not making any excuses after C's rough outing vs Pelicans

Horford not making any excuses after C's rough outing vs Pelicans

Al Horford understands that there’s plenty of blame pie to go around following Boston’s 108-89 loss to New Orleans. 

Considering how Pelicans stud Anthony Davis dominated the game on so many levels Sunday night, Horford was quick to acknowledge his role in the loss. 

“[Davis] was able to get behind our defense a lot,” Horford told reporters after the loss. “Some mistakes on my end; gotta give him credit. He dominated tonight. I’ll definitely take the blame for that.”

Davis finished with a double-double of 34 points and 11 rebounds, a total that would have been higher if not for the game being so lopsided which allowed Davis to head to the bench early in the fourth. 

MORE - Blakely's stars, studs, and duds from C's-Pelicans

And Horford’s struggles defensively were just as problematic on offense as the five-time All-Star tallied just six points on 3-for-11 shooting to go with four rebounds and three assists. 

Boston has been a team whose collective sums have fueled their success. 

But Horford understands he has to be a high impact performer, a job that’s even more vital when key starters like Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness) and Jaylen Brown (concussion) are out as well as top reserves Marcus Smart (right thumb) and Daniel Theis (torn meniscus). 

And by Horford’s own admission, he just didn’t bring it on Sunday at a level to give him and the Celtics a legit shot at winning the game.

“Defensively we had too many breakdowns,” Horford said. “And the game got away from us in the second half. So there’s no excuses. I didn’t give us a chance, either; missing a lot of looks offensively. I just need to be better.”

And he’ll have to be if Boston (47-23) is to get back on track with a win on Tuesday against a talented Oklahoma City squad led by Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. 

At full strength, the Thunder would be a significant challenge for the Celtics. 

But having a roster with a number of key players out with injuries, it becomes even more imperative for Boston’s top players to elevate their play. 

And as you scan this Celtics roster and examine those who are healthy enough to play, it’s clear that Horford more than any other Boston player, has to find a way to become more impactful.

Certainly, more points and rebounds would help. 

But as we’ve seen time and time again with Horford, often his greatest contributions to winning games don’t necessarily show up in the final box score. 

That being said, a six-point, four-rebound game doesn’t cut it. 

Horford has to be better, something he knows better than anyone. 

“I’ll definitely look at the film and see how I can be better individually,” Horford said. “The good thing about the NBA, is we have a chance to play on Tuesday. Hopefully we’ll learn from this game and be ready to go Tuesday at home.”