Celtics

Theis expected back tonight for C's in Houston

Theis expected back tonight for C's in Houston

HOUSTON – Daniel Theis was a spectator for an NBA game this week...and he hated it.

A sore right hamstring injury kept the 6-foot-10 forward out of Boston’s 134-106 blowout win against Charlotte on Wednesday.

But after a few additional days of treatment, Theis expects to be back in the lineup for the Celtics tonight when they take on the Houston Rockets.

“I feel good,” he said prior to the team’s shoot-around on Saturday morning.

The Celtics arrived in town Friday afternoon.

Not long after landing, Theis along with a handful of other Celtics players and members of the coaching staff made their way over to the basketball court at the Toyota Center to get some work in.

“I was shooting regular; I felt fine,” Theis said. “There was no pain, no pinching or anything like that.”

Having Theis back will be huge for the Celtics as they try and combat a Houston team that’s much better now than the one that blew a 26-point lead in losing to the Celtics 99-98 on Dec. 28.

The Rockets did not have Chris Paul or Clint Capela available for that matchup.

Both are back for tonight, which will make the jobs for all of the Celtics – Theis included – a lot tougher.

Still, as we’ve seen all season, whether it’s everyone being healthy or someone needing to fill in for an injured teammate, the Celtics have consistently risen to the occasion to, at a minimum, compete at the highest level.

As Theis reflects on having a front row seat for his first NBA game as a spectator, the German forward, 25, wasn’t thrilled about not being able to participate.

But it did add on to what has been a great appreciation for all the talent that Boston has assembled and how they can lift one another up when needed.

“I’m happy we’re still winning,” Theis said. “We found a way to play both ends of the floor really well. It’s the right timing we come to Houston; they’ve won 14 in a row. So, I’m happy I’m back. I hope we win the game tonight and I help the team again.”

This season, Theis is averaging 5.4 points and 4.4 rebounds in 14.8 minutes per game while shooting 54 percent from the field – tops among all Celtics. 

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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. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: What's the ideal draft night for the Celtics?

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NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: What's the ideal draft night for the Celtics?

1:26 - With the NBA Draft finally here, it’s still a mystery exactly what Danny Ainge's Celtics are going to do, whether it’s trade up or stand pat with the 27th overall pick. A. Sherrod Blakely reveals his pipe dream for the draft as well as his top five players the C’s could realistically end up taking at 27.

6:27 - Tom Curran, Michael Holley and Danielle Trotta debate if Eric Decker would be a good fit in New England after the veteran receiver said that he’d love to play for the Patriots.

9:26 - We went to you the fans in a Twitter poll to get the scoop on who is the most entertaining team in Boston and Tom Curran and Michael Holley discuss the results.

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NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE