Celtics

Celtics

WALTHAM, Mass. – For most of training camp, R.J. Hunter and James Young have played it cool when asked about their shaky status with the Celtics heading into this season.
 
Both have talked about not letting it affect their friendship, which according to multiple team sources, is true.
 
But when it comes to the pressure of having your basketball future thrown into total chaos within the next 48-72 hours, that’s a different story.
 
Prior to practice Friday, Danny Ainge – the man who will decide their basketball fate – spent time talking with each of them on the sidelines, doing his best to keep their spirits up at a time of uncertainty.
 
The Celtics have a number of players whose basketball futures were in a similar state of limbo.
 
Amir Johnson was taken in the second round of the 2005 NBA draft by the Detroit Pistons with the 56th overall pick.
 
It was a veteran team that afforded Johnson few opportunities to prove his worth.
 
“All I tried to do was learn as much as I could in training camp, and pick up things as quickly as possible,” Johnson told CSNNE.com. “When you’re a second round pick or undrafted, you have to do all you can to make a good impression.”
 
Isaiah Thomas echoed similar sentiments.
 
Thomas was the 60th pick – the last player selected – in the 2011 NBA draft, putting the odds of him just making an NBA roster slim to none.
 
Since then, he has become an All-Star who is easily the best player ever selected at that point in an NBA draft.
 
But like Hunter and Young, the pressure of not necessarily knowing your basketball fate can be worrisome.
 
“It’s tough not knowing, but at the end of the day all you can do is be the best at whatever they ask of you,” Thomas told CSNNE.com. “If it’s running a play, run that play the best way you know how. If it’s going to get a cup of water, be the best at getting that cup a water. It’s all about leaving your all out there. If you do that, you can live with the results because at that point, you did all you can do.”
 
Outwardly, both Hunter and Young have adopted that approach to the training camp which they knew going in would likely end with one of them being waived or traded.
 
And while each has shown noticeable growth through training camp, neither has done enough to separate themselves good or bad.
 
Most of Hunter’s bright moments have been balanced with struggles or inconsistencies.
 
Ditto for Young, who is headed into his third NBA season, while this will be Hunter’s second.
 
Ainge, the C's president of basketball operations, does not take the decision he and his front office has to make lightly. He is more than aware that the player he waives could potentially turn out to be a better pro than the one he keeps.
 
And this decision could potentially come back and haunt the Celtics if he doesn’t get it right.
 
As much as we talk about the players feeling pressure, Ainge and his staff are under a bit of pressure too when you consider both Hunter and Young were players he picked in the first round of their drafts.
 
And both players at the time were considered draft-night steals because each had been projected to go higher than where the Celtics picked them.
 
But at this point, neither has made a significant impact in the NBA, which is why both are on the cusp of being waived.
 
That said, they have done enough to where those flashes of strong play have given Ainge and his staff reason to pause and with that, make what all agree will be a well thought-out, difficult decision.
 
“Sometimes guys just cut themselves. Sometimes guys just win jobs, overwhelmingly win it,” Ainge said. “The guys that are in question have all played really well. I guess that’s refreshing. I’m happy for them that they are all playing well under the stress and pressure of trying to make a team and make a roster. I’m proud of all of them.
 
And when asked about having to cut a former first-round pick, Ainge responded, “there’s a lot of first-round picks that don’t make it in the NBA. So I feel confident, pretty comfortable that all of our guys are still going to be playing in the NBA.”