Fresh faces draw a crowd
NEWPORT, R.I. -- The life of an NBA rookie is not always glamorous.
As the Celtics broke after a two-hour practice session Wednesday afternoon at the Rodgers Recreation Center on the campus of Salve Regina University, Boston's freshest faces were ordered to the front of the huddle to serenade Austin Ainge, head coach of the the Maine Red Claws, with a (less-than-enthused) rendition of "Happy Birthday."
Then, as the veterans got in a quick stretch, maybe put some shots up and headed for the sidelines, the younger players were herded together for a spirited 4-on-4 game that quickly drew a crowd, including Ainge and his father, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge.
For some of the guys in camp, this could be the biggest stage they'll get to show their worth. Boston already boasts a maxed out roster with 15 guaranteed contracts, and for those battling to get in (or those trying to hold onto jobs at the end of the bench), these pickup games can be important to their future.
Wednesday's action featured Green -- Von Wafer (12), Mario West (46), Stephane Lasme (47) and Semih Erden (86) against White -- Tony Gaffney (27), Luke Harangody (55), Jamar Smith (40) and Chris Johnson (45) -- in a game that often featured more scrappiness than baskets.
Wafer and second-round draft pick Harangody probably made the best impressions, each taking a turn carrying play in the early going, and making consecutive buckets for their teams. Defense seemed to carry play or, at the very least, a lack of referees (other than director of player development Tyronn Lue barking from a chair on the sideline) led to a more physical game and, therefore, diminished offense.
From the sideline, the Ainges, two parties with heightened interest in the younger players, watched much of the action (as did a handful of players who wandered over). A recent change in the NBA Development League allocation rules allows Boston to slide as many as three of its camp cuts to Maine, provided they'll sign an NBDL contract. For the player, that gets a foot in the door of the organization, while the Red Claws get a boost in talent with a free agent who might otherwise have tried to cash in overseas.
While Harangody and Erden, both with two-year guaranteed deals, are probably safe on Boston's 15-man roster, guys like Gaffney (non-guaranteed contract) and West (who spent the better part of the past three seasons with the Hawks) are trying to muscle their way past Wafer for an NBA job.
Rookie guard Avery Bradley also watched from the sideline. While he was able to get on the court for limited skeleton work with the third unit at the the end of the session, he remains sidelined during contact and high-intensity drills to allow his ankle to heal from surgery in July.
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