This week at their practice facility, the Celtics will host prospects hoping to be drafted, along with players who are already on the team. Colton Iverson, who will be there, finds himself somewhere in between.
The Celtics drafted the 7-footer in the second round in 2013 (53d overall), but there just wasn’t room on the roster. So he headed overseas, lived in Istanbul, and played a year of professional basketball in Turkey.
Now, he’s back in the States, back in Boston for a month of workouts starting this week. He’s preparing to join the Celtics’ summer league team in Orlando, hoping that there will be a place for him when the season starts in the fall.
It won’t be easy, especially as the Celtics head into a summer of uncertainty, with the potential that the roster could look drastically different in a few months.
“All that uncertainty makes it not a certainty, but we like Colton, and we’re anxious to see him this summer,” said Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge.
Iverson would love to have a guaranteed contract, of course, but he understands the situation.
“It’s part of the business,” he said by phone before heading to Boston. “They’ve already invested a lot in me. All of last year, they’ve been in touch.
“They went out of their way to get the draft pick to get me, so I know they’re investing a lot in me. And just the fact that they invited me out for the next month to work out before summer league.
“I know they’re interested. I’m willing to go there for the next month and try to make my own spot, make them not be able to leave me off the roster next year. But that’s part of the business — you have to prove yourself.
“I could easily go to Vegas and try to impress other teams, but they’ve already invested a lot in me, so I figure it’s in my best interest to go right out to Boston right now.”
Iverson believes in loyalty, which is why, as he said, he would rather try to earn a spot with the Celtics than land on another team that might be more able to offer him an opportunity to play.
“Yeah, definitely,” he said. “I know they believe in me, all the management and coaching staff.
“I talk to [coach] Brad Stevens. I know he wants players on the team that are going to come and work hard every day and be physical and rebound and play defense. I think I can be that guy that he wants on his roster.”
The Celtics are indeed fans of his game, as director of player personnel Austin Ainge told the Globe earlier this year after visiting Iverson in Turkey.
“We bought a draft pick to get Colton last year, and we monitor him very closely and we like him and his future,” Ainge said then. “He’s a guy that we liked enough in the past to do that, so that should give you an indication of how we feel about him.”
Iverson played for the Turkish squad Besiktas, and he averaged 7.2 points and 4.8 rebounds over 17 minutes per game in 47 appearances between his Turkish season and EuroCup, according to Eurobasket.com.
Iverson, who kept a close eye on the Celtics while abroad, said one of his biggest adjustments overseas was to the European style of play, which he described as more physical.
“Playing in EuroCup last year and in the Turkish league, you go up against some really good guys, guys that have played in the NBA before and that will play in the NBA soon,” Iverson said.
“It was just a good year for me, experience-wise. I know I had my ups and downs, but I think it was just a really good year for me to get out and play a year professionally.”
The Celtics asked him to work on a variety of areas: guarding without fouling, free throw shooting, pick-and-roll defense, his footwork, expanding his shooting range. He believes he made progress.
“Free throw shooting, I struggled a little bit this year, but my shot feels better than it’s ever been,” said Iverson, who shot 49.4 percent from the line in 29 games in his Turkish season, 47.4 percent in 18 EuroCup games. “I’m hoping that this summer, I can prove to them that it can be where it needs to be.”
Iverson, who played in college at both Minnesota and Colorado State, pointed out that his overall style of play didn’t change while overseas. He’s still a bruiser — a player that Austin Ainge described this way: “No one likes to play against Colton. He sets a mean screen. He’s a really nice kid, but he walks by you and he hurts you — that’s how strong he is.”
Said Iverson, “I’m more mature, but I feel like I’m always going to be the same type of player — a physical presence, a rim protector, play defense and just be the physical presence that a team needs. I’ll always be that player.”