The Celtics have not drafted a player in the first round in the last three years, so their Las Vegas summer league roster during this time has been predictably sparse. But Boston is putting together a team with some interesting prospects this year.
According to a league source, the summer squad is expected to include 7-foot-1-inch Polish center Aleksander Balcerowski, who averaged 9.2 points and 3.4 rebounds for Gran Canaria last season in Liga ACB, Spain’s top pro division. Boston has been keeping tabs on the 22-year-old Balcerowski for several years and tried to add him to their summer squad last season.
The source said the Las Vegas roster is also expected to include 29-year-old NBA veteran Mychal Mulder, who averaged 11 points per game as a rookie with the Warriors in 2019-20; guard Jay Scrubb, a 2020 second-round pick who had two-way contracts with the Clippers and Magic; and forward Justin Bean, who averaged 10.2 points and 6.9 rebounds for the Grizzlies’ G League affiliate last season.
Forward Jordan Walsh, who was selected with the 38th pick in Thursday’s draft, will also be on the squad, along with Celtics 2022 second-round pick JD Davison, Celtics guard Justin Champagnie, and Maine Celtics guard Kamar Baldwin, with a few other spots potentially to be filled this week.
The team will be led by Celtics assistant coach Tony Dobbins.
▪ The Celtics are not able to offer center Kristaps Porzingis a two-year, $77 million contract extension until July 6. But when the three-team deal for Porzingis was being finalized last week, there was nothing stopping Porzingis’s camp from expressing its desire to be in Boston long term; according to a league source — and they did.
⋅ When the Celtics traded Marcus Smart to the Grizzlies in the Porzingis deal, it obviously reconfigured Boston’s roster, but it was probably an even more significant loss for the Celtics’ media crew. Smart was the most candid and honest player on the team, and when he was fired up about something he was never shy about sharing. Our notebooks will miss him.
⋅ Arkansas assistant Anthony Ruta, who coached Walsh with the Razorbacks last season, believes the 6-7 forward’s playing style will endear him to Celtics fans.
“I’d say his defense and his athleticism and his rebounding translate directly into the NBA right now, and he just plays so hard,” Ruta said by phone Sunday. “The fan base is going to wrap their arms around him right away, because he’s a guy who’s going to dive on the floor for a loose ball and do the little stuff that will impact winning.”
Ruta recalled one massive offensive rebound by Walsh late in eighth-seeded Arkansas’s 72-71 upset over top-seeded Kansas, the defending national champion, in the second round of March’s NCAA Tournament.
“He helped us win multiple games just by playing hard and fighting for loose balls,” Ruta said. “The bigger the stage got, the more responsibility Jordan was given, especially on the defensive end of the floor, having to lock down really good players night in and night out. He did a tremendous job.”
Ruta said Walsh is an underrated passer, and that he should continue to improve as a perimeter shooter.
“He’s excited and enjoying every minute of this, but also coming in realistic,” Ruta said. “He knows he’s stepping into a really good organization. He’s just looking for an opportunity to show what he can do.”
⋅ So what really caused the Celtics’ initial trade, that would have sent Malcolm Brogdon to the Clippers in a three-team Porzingis deal, to break down? League sources said it was mostly just a matter of bad timing.
Brogdon struggled during the conference finals against the Heat with a right forearm strain, and he could still undergo surgery to repair the issue. But the Clippers, sources said, did not back out of the deal because of alarming news on this front. There just wasn’t enough time to complete Brogdon’s full physical exam. And with Porzingis’s midnight deadline to activate his $36 million player option looming, along with the fact that the deal would involve selections in Thursday’s draft, Los Angeles decided to pull back.
A league source said that even if Brogdon undergoes surgery, he’s expected to be back in time for the start of the regular season.
⋅ Porzingis sat out the final six games of this past season for the tanking Wizards, so his final appearance came March 28, when he erupted for 32 points, 13 rebounds, and 6 assists in Washington’s surprising 19-point demolition of the Celtics. Not a bad final impression.
⋅ Several people close to Smart said he was blindsided by last Wednesday’s trade. One told me Smart was asked if he wanted to cancel his annual summer basketball clinics for kids in Texas and Boston this week so he could regroup after the sudden life changes.
Smart’s response? “Absolutely not.”