Thursday, June 12, 2014
Gordon back in Boston for C's workout
By Chris Forsberg
WALTHAM, Mass. -- Before Kevin Love stole the spotlight, Aaron Gordon was Boston's most famous visiting hoopster.
Gordon, in town last month for his sister's graduation from Harvard University, got caught napping -- ball in hand -- on a red line train after a local workout. The cell phone photo went viral, as did speculation that he was here to meet with a potential future employer in the Boston Celtics.
That meeting with the Celtics didn't happen until Thursday, when Gordon went through his official pre-draft workout with the team. Gordon was part of a six-player workout, one that included fellow potential lottery pick Doug McDermott, and the Arizona forward did his best to state his case for being selected by Boston when it chooses at No. 6 in this month's draft.
Gordon was asked about reports that suggest Boston is eyeing him among the crowded power forward types that should be available early in the draft (ESPN Insider Chad Ford has the Celtics taking Gordon in his latest mock).
"I hope [it's true]," said Gordon. "I’m excited. We’ll see. June 26th -- a lot of things are going to happen from now until then, and even on that day. But I’d be happy. Really, I’m just excited to be drafted anywhere."
The 18-year-old Gordon, who confirmed his status as the youngest player in the draft when a reporter mentioned his youthful status, was short but firm when queried about what separates him from players like Julius Randle and Noah Vonleh, some of the bigs expected to be available when Boston picks at No. 6.
"Versatility," said Gordon. "Defense."
Celtics director of player personnel Austin Ainge confirmed that assessment after watching Thursday's workout.
"I think Aaron’s biggest strength is his versatility," said Ainge. "I think he’ll be able to guard almost every position on the court, and that’s really his strength. He’s a great defender and he handles the ball pretty well for his size. And he’s going to have to continue his shooting, but he’s a worker and I think he will."
Gordon got up some post-workout shots and showcased what looks like an improving jumper (making a series of top-of-the-arc 3-pointers as part of his shooting drills). Gordon said he's spent time since the end of the season working on his free throw shooting, overhauling his mechanics, and believes shoring up that aspect of the game will strengthen his entire offensive arsenal.
"A lot of what was happening throughout the season is, I would get on a roll, then I’d get to the free throw line and it would kinda cool me off a little bit," said Gordon. "Whereas now, if I get to the free throw line, it’s just reestablishing what I can do from the perimeter. It’s keeping me on a roll."
He acknowledges that there's a big difference between improving his shooting in an empty gym and doing it against NBA competition. But he gushes confidence while balancing the pros and cons of being the youngest guy in the draft.
"You don’t wear a little number around your chest. When you’re on the court, age doesn’t matter," said Gordon. "Nobody knows how old you are, nobody cares how old you are. I just try to carry myself with the utmost maturity and show that I belong out there. And even thrive out there."
Here's maybe the only part that's might be tough for Celtics fans to embrace about Gordon: His favorite player growing up was Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson. After McDermott relayed how he often watches game film of Larry Bird (and there was that Sports Illustrated cover remake of Larry Legend), Gordon couldn't help but admit that he marvels at the way Johnson redefined the game for big men.
"I loved how [Johnson] could control the game. He kinda broke the foundation of what basketball is really about -- how guards have to be little and bigs have to be big," said Gordon. "I like how creative he was with the basketball, he kinda brought a lot of flash to the game."
Gordon is hoping to bring that same sort of flash when he arrives in the NBA. At 6-foot-8, he's a bit of a tweener, but Ainge noted he can see him playing both forward positions (maybe starting as a small forward, then shifting to the power forward spot as he bulks up). What's undeniable is the freak athleticism and a high basketball IQ that stems from his time as a point guard growing up. And there's his defense -- Gordon appears ready to step in from Day 1 and defend any position on the court.
"Teams get this misconception that I’m caught up on a position. I’m not caught up on a position," said Gordon. "I’ll come in and play any position that you want me to play and I’ll guard any position that you want me to play."
Added Ainge: "I think he’ll be able to do some things like guard point guards, then switch onto the bigs in pick-and-rolls and do some creative things like that. Because he’s very versatile and athletic for his size."
This was Gordon's fourth pre-draft workout. He's also auditioned for the Lakers, Kings, and Jazz, and has at least one more workout remaining with the Magic before he'll evaluate whether to add more stops.
Despite his visit to Boston last month, he admitted that he's not particularly familiar with the city. Gordon did note, "I know it’s a great city and my sister has raved about it."
And that photo of him asleep on the train? He got a good chuckle out of it when it found its way into his Twitter mentions.
"It was real funny. I don’t know if I saw the next day or later that night, but it was really funny, because it was like, ‘Woah, that’s me,'" said Gordon.
There's a good number of locals who hope it's not the last time they spot him on the train in these parts.