Mery Andrade’s enthusiasm is difficult to ignore. Sitting in the second row of the Celtics’ bench during their opening summer league game against the Miami Heat, Andrade rises during a defensive possession and screams commands.
When reminded about her passion, Andrade smiles and mentions that she’s actually tempered her emotions since her playing days at Old Dominion. Andrade has carried that desire from her playing days in the WNBA and overseas into coaching, and she’s spent the past four seasons as an assistant coach with G League Birmingham, the affiliate of the New Orleans Pelicans.
Andrade, 47, is spending the summer as a Celtics coaching intern, getting an opportunity to serve on another staff during her offseason, with the hopes she’ll eventually become an NBA head coach.
Eventually the NBA will hire its first woman as head coach and teams are adding women to their staffs. The Sacramento Kings named former Duke guard Lindsey Harding head coach of their G League affiliate in Stockton, Calif. Women are making their strides and Andrade is preparing for her opportunity.
“When I was playing, everybody but me knew I was going to coach because of my intensity, because of my love for the game, because of how much I was a student of the game,” Andrade said. “I already had the tag as the coach on the floor, so it was a natural thing to do.”
During her years playing with Lucca in Italy, the team’s assistant coach was fired midseason and Andrade assumed those duties in addition to being the starting guard. Andrade retired in 2015, then became an assistant coach with the University of San Diego’s women’s team before joining the G League.
Andrade’s goal is to coach in the NBA and the newer generation of players are more receptive to different coaching voices. They have just as much respect for Andrade for her WNBA and international career as they do their male contemporaries.
“I’m not going to lie, I think the first year because there was not a lot of women coaching, especially in the first two weeks [of the G League], they tried to test you,” Andrade said. “But I noticed they did that with everyone because they didn’t know me. And I’m not going to come in the gym and be like, ‘Google me.’
“But then after two weeks, they listened and it’s very rewarding. And I’ll tell you the truth, with players nowadays because they know about the WNBA and see a lot of games and players they’re supporting, I think players are a lot more supportive with women in coaching. I think most of the time, it’s not the players.
“It’s an environment that’s still learning and, until you have a woman on your staff, you’re not going to know every day how players or staff will work together. That’s why it’s important to open those doors. For players right now, it’s more normal than unusual and I think we are going in the right direction.”
The Celtics have yet to complete their coaching staff. The club most recently had a woman on staff in 2019-20 with former WNBA All-Star Kara Lawson before she accepted the women’s head coaching position at Duke University. Andrade has the experience to join an NBA staff and is hoping this internship of sorts with the Celtics will boost her chances of becoming a full-time assistant.
“I want after my career as a coach that people, when they talk about me, is how many lives I touched, how good of a coach I was without putting the label ‘woman,’ ” she said. “Yes I am a woman but I don’t say, ‘You are a really good male coach.’ You are just a really good coach. That’s my goal, to touch as many lives as I can.”
Andrade said she is thoroughly enjoying this opportunity. She loves the game. She loves teaching and it’s difficult to contain her enthusiasm, and quite honestly, she shouldn’t have to.
“All the energy, all the camaraderie, I just love it,” she said. “This is the example I give to my guys: imagine when you were young and you had a basketball and you played all day. And then you grow up and you get an education out of it, and then after that you have an opportunity to still do what you did when you were 12 and now you’re getting paid for it.
“To me, I always felt that I was very blessed and I was very thankful, and the way I can show my gratitude, put my emotions and put my everything into it and see what happens. At my age, I’m still chasing my dreams, I’m still doing what I love. How many people can say that in the world?
“The dream is the NBA. The dream is to go as far as I can and enjoy it while I do it.”
THE NEXT STEP
Poole eager to move on after trade from Warriors to Wizards
The Warriors made the decision for Jordan Poole. They essentially chose Draymond Green over the rising shooter by trading him to the Wizards for an aging Chris Paul, then signing Green to a four-year, $100 million contract extension.
Trading a 24-year-old for a 38-year-old is unprecedented in the NBA, but this situation was unprecedented. Green punched Poole during a preseason practice last year and was fined but not suspended. Poole played the season but performed far below his previous level and the Warriors decided the two couldn’t play together.
Also, Poole had issues with shot selection and felt as if he had eclipsed aging veteran Klay Thompson in the rotation. The Wizards sought an opportunity to get a young scorer to pair with Kyle Kuzma and made the deal.
The Wizards have an intriguing core that includes former Memphis guard Tyus Jones and first-round pick Bilal Coulibaly from France.
“It’s really cool to see Kuz flourish in D.C., opening up his game and becoming the player that he is, being able to get the opportunity,” Poole said. “I’m so glad Kuz is back to have that duo. He knows the lay of the land. It will be awesome to play next to him.”
Poole would not specifically discuss the incident with Green nor was he going to criticize the Warriors on the way out. But he appeared excited about the chance to lead a club and escape the shadow of Stephen Curry, Thompson, and Green.
“It was good,” he said of his four seasons in Golden State. “Got a ring. Was able to do some life-changing stuff, met a lot of amazing people. Being able to learn what I did there, apply it not only to real life but the basketball court. It’s something I look forward to do.”
When asked again about Green, Poole looked forward.
“We’re in Washington now,” he said. “Playing with Kuz is a great duo. Being able to really flourish, expand your game, and help a new team, lead an entire group of guys, it’s a challenge that we’re up for. We’ve got a new front office and a lot of people who are invested. Everybody is locked in and wants to be here and start something that can be special.
“I was able to learn a lot in my first four years in the league at a very high level and I’m thankful for that. And you take those things that you learned and you apply it to a new situation and a new team. Being a leader, it comes with challenges.”
Poole said his agent told him of a potential trade on draft night, so he expected the deal. He had just signed a four-year, $120 contract extension the prior year and was considered a cornerstone to succeed Curry, Thompson, and Green, along with James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga, and Moses Moody. Now Poole and Wiseman are gone.
“I wasn’t behind the scenes; I was just the one who got the call,” Poole said of the trade. “Basketball is amazing; you get to hoop and have fun and have an impact on the youth and other people. The world knows what type of player that I am, an electric player, the knowledge I can apply to my game, continue to get better, learn how to play with my teammates. You get to lead an entire new culture and bring the work ethic that I’m known for.
Scrubb showing interesting potential
This Celtics summer bunch wasn’t as talented as years past. That’s what happens when the club trades all of its first-round picks and lines the squad with second-rounders and journeymen. But the team has played hard under coach Tony Dobbins and rallied for a victory Wednesday against the Lakers.
One of those players involved in the run was Jay Scrubb, a 22-year-old swingman who has had two-way contracts with the Magic and Clippers. Scrubb is trying to make the unusual jump from junior college to a permanent NBA role and the Celtics can see his potential.
Scrubb agreed to a two-way contract with Boston, multiple league sources told the Globe’s Adam Himmelsbach on Saturday night.
Boston had two two-way contracts to utilize — the new collective bargaining agreement added one from the previous deal.
It’s apparent Dobbins already has built a strong relationship with Scrubb, trying to encourage him to have more confidence and gain more consistency. Scrubb did not play Division 1 basketball. He entered the 2020 draft out of John Logan Junior College and was the 55th overall pick by the Nets and eventually was traded to the Clippers.
Scrubb spent two years in the Clippers system, signed a two-way contract, but his second season ended after foot surgery. He joined the Magic’s G League team last season, signed a second two-way contract, but was waived June 5.
Scrubb has an appealing skill set, plays with passion and bravado, but also tends to get down on himself after mistakes, thinking scouts and other teams are scrutinizing his every move.
“Just my ability to showcase that I can do everything,” he said of the summer opportunity. “I can score, come out and defend, guard their best player, play hard. Put my teammates in situations where I can get them better. It’s not just about scoring anymore. I’m showcasing everything.
“That’s the biggest thing for me, showing that I could be a versatile defender. I can come in and do more than scoring. Whatever role they need me to be in, really.”
Dobbins has pulled Scrubb aside several times for encouragement. One time he told Scrubb, “I need you,” when the Celtics were trying to make a late run against the Wizards. Another time he benched Scrubb with the express purpose of having him observe the game before reinserting him for the stretch run.
Scrubb is listening attentively, trying to improve and show the Celtics he’s worthy of a long-term investment.
“The talent is clear,” Dobbins said. “I told him my goal was for the whole league to know how special he is. He hasn’t been in Boston for a long time but he has a great personality. And I told him I just want to help him show the entire league that personality and just the energy that he has, the ability that he has and the consistency that he’s working to have each day as a young player, as he tries to carve out a role in the league as an everyday NBA player, and take advantage of opportunities for minutes.
“So for me it’s easy to build that bond because he wants to improve. He talked about what he’s committed to doing and what his goals are for the two weeks that he’s here and I committed to him that I will do everything I can to help him with this role that I have. I’m really excited about trying to help him do that because the talent is there and he wants to improve and he wants to get better.
“A player comes in that gym with that attitude and I’m obligated to do everything I can to help him with it. It’s something I’m excited about doing because he’s a great young man.”
MORE ON CELTICS
Dobbins could have expanded role on coaching staff
Dobbins has worked feverishly with players such as Jaylen Brown over the past few years and his stock is rising, especially as he flourishes with the summer league coaching opportunity. Perhaps the best thing to happen to Dobbins was the departures of Ben Sullivan, Mike Moser, and Aaron Miles from the coaching staff, which opened more opportunities. Dobbins is quiet and understated but has grown in Brad Stevens’s coaching system, and he should have an expanded role on the staff this season.
The Celtics summer roster is not star-studded, but the emphasis has been getting minutes for players such as second-round picks Jordan Walsh and J.D. Davison, and also Justin Champagnie, who is on a nonguaranteed contract for next season. Champagnie will earn $50,000 if he’s on the Celtics roster Aug. 1 and another $350,000 if he makes the opening night roster, so summer league is crucial to how he will fit in the team’s future.
Another intriguing player who may have an opportunity for a two-way contract is mammoth center Udoka Azubuike, a third-year player from Kansas who was a former first-round pick of the Jazz. Azubuike played 68 games over three seasons with the Jazz, spending most of the time with their G League affiliate.
Because of his size and ability to score around the basket, Azubuike (6 feet 11 inches, 270 pounds) is an intriguing prospect who could flourish in the Celtics’ system and provide young depth in the frontcourt. Dobbins has been using Azubuike and Polish product Olek Balcerowski at center and both have had their moments.
There are several former NBA players looking for contracts and some conducted private workouts in Las Vegas this past week to boost their chances. One intriguing player is former first-round pick Harry Giles, whose career has been beset by injuries and inconsistency. Giles, when healthy, could be a difference-maker in the frontcourt but, because of knee problems, he has always been a question. There is a Celtics connection with Giles being a close friend of Jayson Tatum. Giles attended several Celtics playoff games. The Celtics would consider adding Giles to their G League Maine roster and allowing him to build his way back to the NBA. The question is whether Giles, who did not play in the NBA last season, is looking for a standard NBA deal or a training camp invitation. Former Celtic Isaiah Thomas also conducted a workout. Thomas last played for the Hornets and served as a backup point guard and mentor to LaMelo Ball, but he was not re-signed. The Hornets chose to add Dennis Smith Jr. Former All-Star John Wall’s Las Vegas workout was considered uneven by some NBA scouts. Wall apparently could have been in better shape but is telling teams he’s willing to accept a backup role. Wall was traded by the Clippers to the Rockets last season, where he was immediately waived. … Another free agent looking for work is veteran guard Austin Rivers, whom the Celtics have shown interest. Rivers, who played with the Timberwolves last season, is looking for more than a mentor role. Rivers is likely one of those players who will be squeezed out of the free-agent market and seeking an NBA minimum contract. Most of the clubs with available salary cap space have used their mid-level exceptions, meaning there will be a slew of free agents — such as former Sacramento guard Terence Davis, ex-Washington guard Kendrick Nunn, former Piston Hamidou Diallo, and ex-Pelican Willy Hernangomez. The most impactful free agent on the market is ex-Mavericks center Christian Wood, who looked as if he would cash in on a lucrative contract, but some NBA teams are wondering whether Wood is a starting center on a quality team or just a backup.