Celtics

Danny Ainge: Jayson Tatum 'was never gonna end up in Phoenix' in 2017 draft

Danny Ainge: Jayson Tatum 'was never gonna end up in Phoenix' in 2017 draft

Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge isn't afraid to take risks, but he was pretty confident his team would be able to select Jayson Tatum in the 2017 NBA Draft.

The Celtics won the draft lottery that year, but they decided to trade the No. 1 pick to the Philadelphia 76ers for the No. 3 pick and a future first-rounder. Even with two teams ahead of them -- Philadelphia at No. 1 and the Los Angeles Lakers at No. 2 -- Ainge liked his chances of Tatum being available when Boston came on the clock.

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Ainge was on Thursday's episode of "The Lowe Post" podcast with ESPN's Zach Lowe, and the C's exec was asked about that trade. Here's the exchange:

Lowe: When did you know, and why did you know, that you wanted to trade down in the (2017) draft? How did you know, and when did you know?

Ainge: “That's a question I can’t answer, honestly. I can't answer that question for lots of different reasons. But I do think there was a time, for lots of different reasons, that we had our eyes set on Jayson Tatum. We were very confident that Philly was taking Markelle (Fultz) and that Lonzo (Ball) was going to L.A. We were very confident in that assessment.”

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The Suns had the No. 4 pick that year, and their head coach at the time, Earl Watson, said in a recent story by The Athletic's Jay King that he wanted Phoenix to draft Tatum. The Suns, of course, would've had to trade up to make that happen if the Celtics were going to pick Tatum third overall. Watson told King that "ownership chose Josh Jackson." Phoenix did take Jackson at No. 4, and he's no longer on the team. 

“There was a story that came out this week about Jayson going to Phoenix. Jayson was never gonna end up in Phoenix," Ainge told Lowe. "Even if he didn’t come in for that second workout with us days before the draft in Boston, we were still going to take Jayson Tatum."

It all worked out for the Celtics. Tatum made the 2020 NBA All-Star Game and has become one of the league's best two-way players in just his third season. He looks like a future superstar -- if he's not already -- and the best player from the 2017 draft class.

Ainge has made some great trades in his career running the Celtics, but this move to acquire Tatum and another lottery pick definitely ranks among his best.

How Pacers star Victor Oladipo skipping NBA restart impacts Celtics

How Pacers star Victor Oladipo skipping NBA restart impacts Celtics

The Indiana Pacers' best player won't participate in the NBA's restart in Florida later this month.

The 2019-20 season is set to resume at Walt Disney World Resort, where 22 teams will play eight seeding games before a normal four-round playoffs with eight teams in each conference is played. 

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The Pacers are one of the nine Eastern Conference teams participating in the restart, and in an interview with Shams Charania of The Athletic, Oladipo explained his decision not to go to Orlando.

“I really want to play, and as a competitor and teammate this is tearing me apart,” Oladipo said, per Charania. “I feel like I’m at a great place in my rehab and getting closer and closer to 100 percent. With all the variables, from how I have to build my 5-on-5 workload back up, to the increased risk of a soft tissue injury which could delay my rehab, and the unknown exact set up of the bubble, I just can’t get my mind to being fully comfortable in playing. I have to be smart and this decision hasn’t been easy, but I truly believe continuing on the course I’m on and getting fully healthy for the 2020-21 season is the right decision for me.”

The Celtics and Pacers are not scheduled to play each other in the seeding games phase, which begins July 30. So, how could Oladipo's absence impact Boston? Let's break it down.

Playoff seeding
The Celtics will enter the restart as the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference with a 43-21 record. The Pacers are 39-26 and 4.5 games behind the C's. Indiana played well without Oladipo this season, but it's hard to envision a scenario where it doesn't fall to the No. 6 seed during the eight seeding games format. The Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers are tied for the No. 5 seed, and a healthy Sixers team bolstered by the return of All-Star point guard Ben Simmons should finish ahead of Indiana going into the playoffs. The Miami Heat are fourth in the East standings and have a two-game lead on the Pacers. Unless the Heat collapse, they should be able to hold the No. 4 seed. 

Therefore, it's very possible we could see a Celtics vs. Pacers first-round series in the No. 3 vs. No. 6 matchup. In fact, most projection models have the Celtics and Pacers squaring off in Round 1.

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Playoff matchup
The Celtics and Pacers played in the first round last season and Boston swept Indiana in four games. It wouldn't be surprising if the same scenario unfolded in 2020. The Celtics are a deeper and more talented team. They are actually the only club with three players averaging 20 or more points per game. The Pacers have zero players averaging 20-plus points. Boston also ranks higher than Indiana in points scored per, points allowed per game, rebounds per game, steals per game and blocks per game. The Pacers, when Oladipo is unavailable, don't have a go-to scorer who can create his own shot late in games. In the last game the Celtics played before COVID-19 halted the season, they beat the Pacers 114-111 in Indiana. The Pacers nearly pulled off the win late, and Oladipo scored 27 points on 9-for-16 shooting (5-for-7 from 3-point range).

In the overall playoff picture, it's so important for the Celtics to at least finish with the No. 3 seed. This could set up the easiest possible path to the NBA Finals. The Celtics wouldn't have to play the first-place Milwaukee Bucks until the conference finals if they finished as the No. 2 or No. 3 seed. A path to the conference finals that includes a Pacers team without Oladipo in the first round and a tough-but-winnable second-round matchup against the Toronto Raptors is a favorable one for Boston. It's a much better route than having to play the Philadelphia 76ers in Round 1 in the No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup and then see the Bucks in Round 2.

What's it like playing without fans? Celtics' Brad Wanamaker shares his experience

What's it like playing without fans? Celtics' Brad Wanamaker shares his experience

Playing without fans will be a brand new experience for many NBA players when 22 teams descend on Walt Disney World Resort in Florida later this month to resume the 2019-20 season.

Boston Celtics point guard Brad Wanamaker actually knows what it's like to not play with fans in the crowd.

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Wanamaker faced the situation in high school and while he was playing professionally overseas. 

"I played a few games overseas where we couldn't have fans because of some violent things fans did in previous games," Wanamaker said Friday in a video conference call. "So they banned fans because some fans got in fights before (the game). And also in high school I played a few games with no fans because the team that was our rival, the year before we played each other in the championship game and a big riot broke out after the game. So the next year we had to play with no fans. AAU basketball is very similar to this situation, too. I guess once the ball tips off it feels normal."

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What's it like playing with no fans? Wanamaker stressed the need to bring your own energy to the court because you won't get any boost from the crowd.

"It's self motivation, in a way, because you don't have the fans to get you going on a highlight play or something, so you really have to be strong within the team," Wanamaker explained. "I think we have a good team here, and I think we have a good bond. I think that would be to our advantage.

"But it was definitely different. You couldn't get hyped for certain plays as you usually get. The energy was different in the crowd. Your own energy you have to bring. We're human -- you're not always up to par to playing in the games sometimes and you need little things to get you going. Sometimes the fans help out with that. Here it's got to be your teammates that you lean on more."

Wanamaker is confident the Celtics have a strong enough team chemistry to help pull each other through any challenges that await them in Orlando.

"It's very unique. We all cheer for each other," Wanamaker said of the team's bond. "We all want each other to do well, whether we're playing the bulk of the minutes or somebody else. As you've seen throughout the season, we're constantly cheering each other on, and giving each other advice throughout the game. Obviously there are egos on a team, but ours don't stand out as much because everyone wants to see each other win and do well. That's another advantage for us."

Training camps for the 22 teams are expected to begin late next week, with the first seeding games taking place on July 30. The Celtics' first seeding game is set for July 31 against the first-place Milwaukee Bucks. Every seeding game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Boston.