Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge insists Rashad McCants is an NBA player. Kevin Garnett gives him the thumbs-up as a teammate. Could McCants find a way onto the Boston roster this fall?
McCants is one of four intriguing players Boston auditioned earlier this week. He was joined at the tryout byAdam Morrison, Cuttino Mobley and Trenton Hassell. Ainge suggested it's been a revolving tour of NBA-caliber players, and he's simply practicing due diligence as the new season approaches.
"It's just part of the evaluation process," Ainge said. "You see who's in what kind of shape and where they are at. You're evaluating players, that's all part of it."
Ainge admited he liked a lot of what he saw in working out McCants, Morrison, Mobley and Hassell, but with training camp a little more than a week away, he said the team is still merely in evaluation mode.
"We're evaluating a lot of people," Ainge said. "Our roster is pretty darn full. We have to figure out are the players that we have better than what's available? That's what we're doing now."
All of this evaluation sets the stage for an interesting camp experience. After a dizzying offseason that featured 11 signings, the Celtics boast a maxed-out 15-man roster. Tony Gaffney and Oliver Lafayette -- two players signed to non-guaranteed deals on the final day of the regular season last year -- will be in the mix for a spot, too.
The Celtics expect to further flesh out their camp roster by bringing in a group of invitees. A league source indicated Thursday that Boston had already extended invites to Stephane Lasme (UMass), Jamar Smith (Southern Indiana) and Chris Johnson (LSU). Those players would be extreme roster long shots, but Ainge has stressed that the team plans to take the best 15 players out of camp, so there's an opportunity for everyone.
Ainge came away from this week's workouts offering glowing reviews, particularly of McCants and Morrison.
"I am surprised [McCants isn't on an NBA roster]," Ainge said. "He's an excellent talent. I think he's a good kid, too, and I enjoyed my time visiting with him and watching him play. He's an NBA player."
Ainge said he does value the input of his players during the evaluation process, particularly if they have played with those free agents earlier in their careers. He noted that Garnett gave both McCants and Hassell positive reviews after spending time with them in Minnesota.
The Celtics have taken an extended look at Morrison this offseason, watching a workout in Las Vegas in July, then bringing him to Waltham to audition in front of both the front office and coaching staffs.
"Adam is an NBA player," Ainge said. "He's been on a good team; won two championship rings. He simply didn't have an opportunity to play, like so many good players out there. He's a good shooter and a great defender. I think he does have a lot more to his game than we've seen in his NBA career."
The evaluation process rolls on, and expect more bodies to shuttle in and out of the Sports Authority Training Center as the Celtics look to build the best all-around 15-man roster.
Ainge hesitated to say that camp will feature more spice this year than previous years, but he did agree competition will be fierce.
"I think every camp [promotes competition]," Ainge said. "I don't know if this one will be any different. There's competition for minutes, competition for roster spots and competition to get into the rotation. The competition will be great this year."
Ainge confirmed that the Celtics have had conversations with former New Jersey assistant coach Roy Rogers about their vacant spot on the bench after Clifford Ray was not retained this season, but no deal has been consummated. Rogers spent time under then-Nets head coach Lawrence Frank, who Boston brought in as its top assistant this season replacing Tom Thibodeau.
Yahoo! Sports first reported Boston's interest in Rogers. Ray's departure was first reported by The Boston Globe.
Chris Forsberg is the Celtics reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.