ORLANDO — Enjoy drama? The NBA offers plenty, especially with speculation regarding where LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony will play next season.
“As far as watching free agency, it’s hilarious,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Thursday, where his team is playing in the NBA’s summer league. “Is that the best way to put it? I just sit back and enjoy it.”
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge also finds the media coverage to be rather amusing.
“I see every one of you [reporters] following your Twitter nonstop trying to follow everything going on in free agency,” Ainge said. “I haven’t really been worried that much about it. That’s going to work out. We just focus on what we need to do and try to get the Boston Celtics better.”
Stevens was hired last summer, a process that consumed him to the point where he wasn’t all that involved in free agency for the Celtics. This year, the former Butler coach has contacted several players.
“This is unique because when you draft somebody, you choose them, they play on your team,” said Stevens. “Free agency is more like college. It’s more like college recruitment and those types of things.
“But there’s still a lot of things that you can’t do just because we’re all tied by whatever our salary cap restraints are, our roster restraints, if we have positional needs or don’t — all those different things. I’m probably not as caught up in all the talk, but again, it’s fairly entertaining to pay attention to.”
Stevens and Tyler Zeller, the team’s new center acquired in a deal with Cleveland, go way back. They know each other from when Stevens coached at Butler and recruited Zeller’s brothers, Luke and Cody.
“I probably knew Tyler the least of the three,” Stevens said. “I recruited Luke when I was an assistant. I actually didn’t recruit Tyler because I didn’t think we’d have a chance to get him, but the youngest one, Cody, came on the visit with Luke, so we had known each other since about fifth grade, so then I really tried to recruit Luke. I know their family really well.”
Tyler, a 7-footer, went to North Carolina.
Stevens also knows Marcus Thornton, the former Brooklyn Nets guard who came to the Celtics via the three-team deal in which Zeller was acquired.
Stevens and Thornton faced off in the first round of the 2009 NCAA Tournament. Thornton scored a game-high 30 points for LSU as the Tigers dispatched Stevens’s Bulldogs “basically single-handedly,” Stevens said.
They’ve already discussed that game, too.
“I told him I wouldn’t hold it against him,” Stevens said with a smile.
Smart the star
Marcus Smart scored a game-high 19 points, including 12 in the fourth quarter, as the Celtics improved to 3-1 in summer league play by beating the Orlando Magic, 76-67, at the Magic’s practice facility.
Smart, the No. 6 overall pick in this year’s draft out of Oklahoma State, made 5 of 14 shots, including 2 of 9 from 3-point range. He made 7 of 8 free throws.
Celtics forward Kelly Olynyk (rest) didn’t play.
The Celtics will play the Indiana Pacers at 10 a.m. Friday in their final summer league game here.
Dairis Bertans, a Latvian guard playing for the Celtics’ summer league team, said he did not suffer serious injuries when he ran face-first into the stanchion under the basket during a game Wednesday.
Bertans was taken off the floor on a stretcher to a local hospital, where he had a CT scan. Bertans didn’t play Thursday and isn’t expected to play Friday.Baxter Holmes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BaxterHolmes.