Celtics

Bill Russell, Kobe Bryant post messages to Gordon Hayward

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Bill Russell, Kobe Bryant post messages to Gordon Hayward

A couple of NBA legends - one old school and one more modern-day - were among the luminaries wishing Gordon Hayward well after his gruesome ankle injury in the Celtics' season opener in Cleveland on Tuesday night.

Celtics legend Bill Russell tweeted his best wishes to Hayward on Twitter and future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant posted a message to him on Instagram.

Be sad. Be mad. Be frustrated. Scream. Cry. Sulk. When you wake up you will think it was just a nightmare only to realize it’s all too real. You will be angry and wish for the day back, the game back THAT play back. But reality gives nothing back and nor should you. Time to move on and focus on doing everything in your power to prepare for surgery, ask all the questions to be sure you understand fully the procedure so that you may visualize it in your subconscious while being operated on and better the chance of it’s success. Then focus on the recovery process day by day by day. It’s a long journey but if you focus on the mini milestones along the way you will find beauty in the struggle of doing simple things that prior to this injury were taken for granted. This will also mean that when you return you will have a new perspective. You will be so appreciative of being able to stand, walk, run that you will train harder than you ever have. You see the belief within you grow with each mini milestone and you will come back a better player for it. Best of luck to you on this journey my brother #mambamentality always.

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Hayward went down about five minutes into his first regular-season game with the C's and is awaiting surgery for an ankle dislocation and fracture at New England Baptist Hospital.

New Celtics teammate Kyrie Irving and the player Irving was traded for, Isaiah Thomas, also posted Wednesday in the aftermath of the injury. 

WE ALL got you brother, No matter what. @gdhayward 3/23 🔺👁☘️

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Take your pick: Celts expected to stay where they are in NBA Draft

Take your pick: Celts expected to stay where they are in NBA Draft

BOSTON -- The starting point isn't quite what it has been the past couple of years, but the intent on draft night -- find an impact player -- remains the focus for the Boston Celtics.
 
They come into tonight's draft with the 27th overall pick, a steep fall from having the No. 3 overall pick in each of the last two drafts. 
 
Boston used those selections on Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, respectively. 

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Both had strong rookie seasons, with Brown being named to the NBA's All-Rookie second team in 2016-17 while Tatum came one vote shy of being a unanimous selection to the league's All-Rookie first team this past season. 
 
Finding another Brown or Tatum so late in the first round tonight isn't likely to happen, which is in part why the Celtics are one of the more prominently mentioned clubs that is looking at possibly moving up in the draft. 
 
Boston has what you might call a balanced portfolio of options that can be packaged together to entice teams to make a deal. 
 
In addition to Sacramento's first-round pick next season (likely to be in the top five), the Celtics also have a number of talented players still on their rookie deals who could potentially be included in a deal to move up the draft board. 
 
But all indications up to this point is that Boston will stand pat at No. 27, a draft slot that has produced some talented players in recent years. 
 
Last season, Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma was taken with the 27th overall pick. He was among the NBA's top scorers among rookies which was one of the keys to him landing a spot on the NBA's All-Rookie First Team. 
 
Other notable standouts taken with the 27th overall pick include Larry Nance Jr. (2015), Bogdan Bogdanovic (2014) and all-star Rudy Gobert (2013).

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All of those players live in the frontcourt, which in past years has been fertile ground for teams picking near the end of the first round. 
 
But this is a different kind of draft, one that's top-heavy on bigs. Which means the talent pool around where the Celtics will be picking, is littered with perimeter players in all shapes, sizes and skill sets. 
 
And while the Celts would love to add a player who can step in and contribute right away, they know that's a tall order considering where they are picking relative to a roster that's already one with lots of youth playing in prominent roles. 

"We do have a lot of guys under contract for next year and a lot of our young guys have seen significant minutes," Boston's Austin Ainge, director of player personnel, told NBC Sports Boston. "That experience matters. I don't think that we're going to not use our pick because of that. We're going to try and get a good player that's a good fit, whether it's using that pick or trading it depending on the opportunities given us."

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Danny Ainge has established a good track record of getting the best player available

Danny Ainge has established a good track record of getting the best player available

The last couple of years have answered the question of whether Danny Ainge can draft. When making his first choice in 2016 and 2017, he was higher on his guy than most. In both cases, he was right. 

No major publication considered Jayson Tatum the best player last year; Ainge would have taken him No. 1 but was able to trade down because the Sixers were trading up for Markelle Fultz and the Lakers for some reason wanted to sign up for the Lonzo Ball life.

Jaylen Brown at No. 3 in 2016? You remember the boos, and you can understand why they happened. Fans were confused. If they'd been checking nbadraft.net like we all did, they expected him to be the ninth pick. 

Yet in both cases, Ainge and Co. were clearly right. Holding a high pick with no consensus option awaiting him, they wound up with the best player available. 

What's more impressive is that they've also done it later in the draft, and the further down the board you go to make your first pick, the easier it is to take a guy who won't amount to anything, let alone prove to be the best possible selection. 

That's what the Celtics did three years ago with Terry Rozier at No. 16. At the time, Bleacher Report Senior NBA writer Howard Beck deemed that selection the "biggest reach" of the draft; at the very least, the Celtics were heavily criticized for taking him where they did.

Go look at that draft and the players who were selected after Rozier. Would you rather any of those guys over Rozier? Maybe Josh Richardson? Maybe? Probably not, though? 

Now, here's where we need to note that the 2015 draft, for as good as it looks now for the Celtics, could have greatly derailed what's been an excellent rebuild. As the legend goes, Ainge intended to trade a whole lot to get from No. 16 to No. 9 in order to select Justise Winslow, who just had a worse third NBA season than Rozier. 

How badly did Ainge want to move up? According to ESPN's Chris Forsberg that summer, Ainge offered Charlotte "as many as six draft picks, including four potential first-round selections," only to have the deal rejected. Keep in mind that the Celtics still had three Brooklyn picks (which would turn into Brown, Tatum and Kyrie Irving) at that point. 

At any rate, the basketball gods saved Ainge from himself and he followed it up by making the right selection. The latter has happened three straight years now. 

Before that, the Celtics looked more human at the draft. Using 2010 as the cutoff (they didn't have a first-round pick in 2009, so 2010 seemed like a good place to keep it semi-recent), the Celtics have had their fair share of not-quite-misses-but-not-quite-home-runs. The Marcus Smart pick (No. 6 overall in 2014) could have been better spent on Dario Saric. Jared Sullinger (21st overall in 2012) could have instead been Draymond Green (No. 35). Three picks after the Celtics took JaJuan Johnson at 27 (via New Jersey), the Bulls took Jimmy Butler.

Of course, there's no more devastating "what if?" to play than looking back at 2013, when the Celtics got Kelly Olynyk at No. 13 (via Dallas), only to later learn they'd passed on the best player in that draft (Giannis Antetokounmpo). 

Yet that three-year run on not getting the best player has been sandwiched by stronger drafting. In 2010, the C's' selection over Avery Bradley at No. 19 proved to be the best pick they could have made. 

The Celtics are slotted to pick at No. 27 Thursday, a spot that promises very little, though they've got more than enough ammunition to move up. Even if they get whoever proves to be the best NBA player of the guys on the board, there's no promise that said player will have much of an NBA career. Their last three top picks have shown that if they do jump up, they'll get the right guy. 

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