Some thoughts and nuggets as this shortened Celtics’ offseason nears its end . . .
⋅ The diverging team-building approaches of former president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, and current one Brad Stevens, have become increasingly apparent. Ainge collected piles of draft picks from other teams and preferred to use his own choices to unearth potential prospects. Meanwhile, after trading away next year’s first-round pick to the Pacers in the deal that brought Malcolm Brogdon to Boston, Stevens has surrendered the Celtics’ three first-round choices from 2021-2023 in trades.
Stevens’s preference to focus on experience is even extending to the end of the bench. He has fortified the training camp roster by adding several veterans who have not reached their potential, but could still be young enough to tap into it.
Forward Noah Vonleh, 26, the ninth pick of the 2014 draft, averaged 4.9 points and 5.1 rebounds over seven NBA seasons before spending last year in China. Forward Bruno Caboclo, 26, who was taken 11 picks after Vonleh, played 105 NBA games over seven seasons and starred in Brazil last year. Wing Justin Jackson, 27, was drafted 15th overall in 2017, has played for six NBA teams over six seasons, and was a member of Boston’s summer league squad last month. Two-way contract player Mfiondu Kabengele, 25, is a former first-round choice, going No. 27 in 2019.
These players will mostly battle for the final spots on the roster, but Stevens clearly values their age and experience and wants a closer look. If nothing else, they’ll offer some sturdy camp competition.
⋅ If Brodric Thomas, who was on a two-way contract last season, and veteran Denzel Valentine are added to the training camp roster as expected, that would leave Boston two guys short of the camp maximum of 20. A league source said that the final tweaks would probably not be made until early September. Training camp will begin Sept. 27.
⋅ All-Star Jayson Tatum has stayed busy during his abbreviated summer. He held kids’ camps in Boston and St. Louis, attended the weddings of NBA stars Draymond Green and De’Aaron Fox, and on Saturday night played in The CrawsOver, a Seattle pro-am league run by former NBA standout Jamal Crawford.
It was a star-studded game. Tatum was paired with LeBron James and Hawks star Dejounte Murray, and they faced a team that included the top two picks of June’s draft, Paolo Banchero and Chet Holmgren, as well as former Celtics star Isaiah Thomas. Tatum was primarily guarded by Banchero, a fellow one-year Duke product, and drilled a handful of 3-pointers while facing admittedly light defense. But the game was called off about midway through the second quarter because of condensation on the floor.
⋅ The Celtics’ schedule was released Wednesday, and two excessively long road trips stood out. Typically, Boston’s western excursions involve teams from, well, the Western Conference. But the Celtics have a six-game, 10-day trip that also includes games against the Nets and Raptors, and a six-game, 11-day jaunt that includes a detour to Atlanta. One league source said that national television obligations are to be blamed for the unusual setup.
⋅ Last winter, co-owner Steve Pagliuca led a group that purchased a majority stake in Italian soccer club Atalanta, and he has tabbed a familiar and trusted voice to lend a hand. Celtics assistant general manager Mike Zarren recently traveled to Bergamo, about 30 miles northeast of Milan, to meet with club staff about how it tracks player data and statistics.
“Steve just thought it would be good for me to meet with them and see if there’s any advice to give,” Zarren said. “I’m a soccer fan, but not a soccer expert. The thing is, so many of the challenges of running a sports team are the same across the board. Like, the actual numbers you’re looking at might be different, but how you set up the infrastructure and think about which things to analyze with the front office and coaching staff, that stuff is all very common.”
Zarren said the brief trip mostly served as an introduction, but some of Atalanta’s brass might come to Boston to get a closer look at the Celtics’ approach next fall, when European soccer is paused during the World Cup.
⋅ Forward Grant Williams checked in with forward Jaylen Brown after rumors sprouted about Brown potentially being involved in a trade for Nets star Kevin Durant. He’s confident that Brown will be unaffected.
“It’s one of those things you can’t really be discouraged by,” Williams said. “I feel like we love JB, everyone here in Boston, everyone on the team. And it kind of shows how valuable he is, the fact that a top-10 player in the world [could be traded], and you’re the focal point?”
League sources have insisted for weeks the Celtics have not had any real discussions of substance with the Nets about Durant, and they’ve communicated with Brown about the situation frequently.
“[Brown is] going to take it with a competitive mindset, too,” Williams said. “I think that he’s going to come back with a chip on his shoulder and I love that, because I know how he responds and he’s going to be very, very, secure, because he’s secure in himself.”