SALT LAKE CITY – Jordan Mickey had the kind of debut Monday night any second-round pick would love to have.
While the Boston Celtics are high on Mickey, he by no means is a sure thing to make the roster.
But performances like the one he delivered on Monday – 16 points, 7-for-8 shooting and three blocked shots – can go far in him securing a roster spot.
“I know what type of player I am,” Mickey said. “I know what I’m capable of doing. Not do too much; just go out there and hustle.”
He’ll need to do more of that and then some Tuesday night when the Celtics face Philadelphia which is led by Jahlil Okafor, the No. 3 overall pick in last month’s NBA draft.
Okafor has size, around-the-basket skills and an enormous reputation that’s well deserved after watching him play.
In Philadelphia’s 74-71 loss to San Antonio on Monday, Okafor had 20 points to go with nine rebounds and two blocked shots.
“With every possession he is just going to grow and grow,” said Sixers assistant Billy Lange who is coaching Philadelphia’s summer league team. “We have been preparing him. Everybody is going to come in and try and make a name for themselves against him.”
And Mickey is no exception.
But Mickey understands the best impression he can make on the Celtics coaching staff is to just continuing to grow into a more well-rounded player rather than just an undersized big who can defend and block shots.
Monday’s game against Utah showcased Mickey’s offensive skills at facing the basket and scoring, or putting the ball on the floor and dribble into the lane to finish at the rim.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens has made a point of telling Mickey that improving his face-up game would bode well for his future in the NBA.
And Mickey has made a point of heeding Stevens’ words.
“He has been a very willing listener,” said Celtics assistant coach Jay Larranaga who is coaching Boston’s summer league team. “He’s been very coachable. He’s trying to do what we ask of him.”
Being more of a face-up scorer is something Mickey said he has worked on a lot since leaving LSU.
“You have to be able to square up and score in different ways,” Mickey said. “Coach Stevens says when you square up, guys can’t touch you. And I’m quicker than a lot of guys so I definitely use that to my advantage.”
He’ll have to tonight in matching up at times against Okafor, whose play against the Spurs got better as the game progressed.
“I think I just got more comfortable,” Okafor said. “I haven’t played five-on-five since the National Championship game. Getting adjusted, getting some of the rust out … it’s a process. Hopefully I can play better next game.”
The Celtics feel the same way about Mickey who will probably have to make some on-the-fly adjustments in order to be effective.
“I feel that’s something I’m good at,” Mickey said. “At LSU, we might change the game plan up in the middle of the game. So I had to learn to adjust what coach says right then and there. I’m definitely used to that. I think that kind of helps me come into a situation where I’m not familiar with things.”