WALTHAM — Doug McDermott lifted his head and looked around Thursday, scanning the Celtics’ 17 NBA championship banners hanging on the walls of the team’s practice facility.
“It’s unbelievable,” the Creighton forward said after his predraft workout with the team. “I want to get my phone out and take some pictures.
“This is a franchise everybody grows up watching. My grandparents, my dad, this was always their team.”
McDermott, too, grew up watching the Celtics, especially tapes of Larry Bird.
But as McDermott climbed the NCAA’s all-time scoring list during his four years in college — passing Bird and eventually reaching fifth place with 3,150 points (517 shy of Pete Maravich’s record) — the comparisons between him and Bird soared.
There was a Sports Illustrated cover in March, a remake of a famous 1977 Bird cover with McDermott in his place.
When approached by Sports Illustrated about the idea, McDermott said, “I thought they were crazy. I didn’t want to disrespect Larry like that, but I think it was a cool idea just to show some people that were around in that time, maybe, just a flash from the past.
“I’m glad that I was the one chosen to be able to do that, but obviously there’s never going to be another Larry Bird. It’s cool to kind of have a tribute to him with that cover.”
Both are sharp-shooting, tall forwards who played for mid-major Midwestern schools, but McDermott wishes the comparisons would end there.
After all, Bird is a three-time NBA champion, three-time NBA Most Valuable Player, 12-time All-Star, and member of the Hall of Fame.
“It’s really not fair,” McDermott said. “I don’t think you can compare anyone to Larry Bird. There’s not going to be another one.
“It’s good to have a guy like that for everyone to look up to, all these young guys, myself included, because it’s the best of the best right there — him, Magic [Johnson], Michael [Jordan]. You can’t compare guys to those three, I don’t think. I just take pieces of his game and try to apply it to mine.”
Because of the comparisons, McDermott has often been viewed through the prism of Bird rather than just being judged on his own.
“We’re each our own players,” McDermott said. “People get really caught up in the comparisons — your height, your weight, what you look like, stuff like that. I think people just need to focus on what this guy can bring to the table to our team to win, and those comparisons will be put aside.”
Austin Ainge, the Celtics director of player personnel, agreed that the Bird comparisons are tough for McDermott.
“Larry obviously was one of the best ever,” Ainge said. “But Doug is a good player, had a great [college] career, and I know he’ll make shots at the NBA level. So he’s got a bright future.”
As for McDermott’s workout, Ainge said McDermott lived up to his nickname, “Dougie McBuckets.”
“He made a lot of them,” Ainge said. “The guy’s a great shooter.”
Randle is cleared
Despite new reports that Kentucky forward Julius Randle will likely need foot surgery after the June 26 draft, the Celtics said they have received “full clearance” to work out Randle during a solo session here Friday.
The 6-foot-9-inch Randle is projected as a top-10 pick, but Yahoo Sports reported that Randle could need surgery for precautionary purposes to remove a screw put in place after he fractured that foot in high school.
Yahoo reported that the procedure could keep Randle sidelined 6-8 weeks, but that he could be cleared by training camp in the fall.
“I’m not going to talk much about that,” Ainge said. “But it’s something that we’ve certainly read and are aware of and been checking out. But he will work out for us [Friday] and has full clearance.”
Randle disputed the Yahoo report on Twitter, writing, “No disrespect but check with the actual source next time before you put something like that out there. I never do this but it was brought to me and it’s crazy how people put stories out there and have no clue what they’re talking about.”
Along with Randle, the Celtics are also scheduled to host Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart, Michigan guard Nik Stauskas, Michigan State guard Gary Harris, and UCLA guard Zach LaVine Friday.
Smart, Stauskas, and Harris are all potential candidates at the No. 6 pick, while LaVine may be an option at No. 17.
Ainge said Memphis guard Geron Johnson tied the all-time record in the Celtics’ notorious three-minute drill at the end of predraft workouts. The record for the drill known around the league as “The Boston Marathon” was set last year by Northeastern guard Jonathan Lee, who ran 29½ lengths. Of Johnson’s performance, Ainge said, “That was very impressive. He’s really fast. And in great shape. It was very, very impressive, because it was a hard workout.”