LAS VEGAS — Shaking my notebook and seeing what falls out after a busy Las Vegas Summer League …
⋅ For the Celtics, Jordan Walsh’s long-range shooting was the week’s most encouraging development. Walsh is an NBA-ready defender but fell to the 38th pick in last month’s draft partly because of his 27.8 percent 3-point shooting during his lone season at Arkansas. But the Razorbacks had a pretty congested scheme that is more common in college, and Walsh attempted just two 3-pointers per game.
In Las Vegas, the rookie took advantage of the extra spacing and connected on 11 of 27 attempts, and the Celtics wanted him to take even more. The team encouraged him to catch and shoot whenever he was open, and in the first half against the Lakers on Wednesday he pump-faked himself out of a pair of clean looks. He heeded the in-game instruction and began to fire up attempts more willingly.
“When he starts doing that, the fluidity and he doesn’t think twice about it, the game’s just going to open up for him,” Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens said. “You saw all the things he does. He’ll get some junk baskets, he’ll get some transition buckets, some rebounds, some cuts. But he’s going to also always be active defensively. The way he gets his hands on balls and swipes at dribblers and those types of things, it’s pretty unique. And he plays with great effort.
“So he just has to catch and shoot that thing constantly. It’s not going to be because we didn’t all yell at him to do it. I don’t coach anymore, but I might even say that.”
⋅ In UNLV’s Cox Pavilion, which has the feel of a high school gym, a row of courtside seats are usually reserved for dignitaries from whatever team is playing. When true stars shuffle in early in the week, often stylishly late, musical chairs ensue. When Celtics All-Star Jayson Tatum arrived during the second quarter of Boston’s opener, former Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge was bumped to a seat along the baseline.
⋅ Grant Williams was a restricted free agent this summer, meaning the Celtics had the option to match any offer sheet he signed with another team. Williams, who ultimately landed with the Mavericks on a four-year, $54 million deal after Dallas and Boston agreed to a sign-and-trade, was not a fan of the process.
“Restricted free agency is terrible, I would say,” he said. “Unrestricted, you have a good understanding of where you want to go, but restricted you’re pretty much in a waiting game. Teams may have a very big idea and perspective of what they want to do and accomplish, then they get the guys in free agency that they signed and it may change their entire plan. So it’s definitely an interesting process.”
⋅ What is Williams looking forward to most in Texas? No state income tax and golfing year-round.
⋅ With his flurry of draft-night trades and the Williams deal, Stevens has quickly restocked Boston’s coffer of assets. He added one first-round pick, six second-round choices, and a second-round swap. But Stevens reiterated that this approach should not be viewed as the start of a youth movement.
“The coach in me would tell you I don’t have a ton of interest in picking eight second-round picks,” Stevens quipped. “But eventually those are trade chips. Those are potentially good second-round picks that you can use.”
⋅ Recent Celtics coaching staffs have been light on assistants with extensive NBA playing experience. But Sam Cassell, who was hired as an assistant last month, fills the void as well as anyone. Cassell played point guard for eight teams and won three titles over his 15-year NBA career. He believes his breadth of experience will help him connect with each player.
“I’ve been every player from the best player to the 15th man on the team,” Cassell said. “I know how each player feels, so I can relate to each and every one of them: The guy who gets the ball all the time, the guy who doesn’t get the ball. I won a championship in Boston and I was maybe the eighth or ninth man. Some nights I played, some nights I didn’t play, but I was always in the game plan.”
⋅ Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla’s passion for martial arts continues to grow. On July 8, after Boston’s game against the Heat, Mazzulla attended UFC 290 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. He was flanked by his jiu-jitsu instructor, Alex Costa, and a member of team security who also follows the sport.
⋅ Point guard Dalano Banton, who agreed to a two-year deal with the Celtics last week, missed the first two games with a finger injury and struggled mightily in his debut, going 3 for 19 from the field. But it’s easy to see why Boston is intrigued by the 6-foot-9-inch point guard.
Dalano Banton was 5 for 6 inside the arc yesterday and I thought did a nice job controlling his body in the air. He knows how to use his length + fakes to find space and it widens the range/angles he can actually turn into layups.— Ethan Fuller (@ethman43) July 15, 2023
65.9 FG% within 5 feet in the G League last year pic.twitter.com/uz52KsVdzM
He’s long and he moves smoothly. On one play Friday against the Knicks, he grabbed a rebound and went end to end before using his length to flick in a running layup that New York’s shot-blockers couldn’t contest.
⋅ Celtics legend Paul Pierce attended the summer league opener against the Heat. During the game he walked over to a group of former referees sitting along the baseline who were evaluating the summer league officials. “I miss you guys!” Pierce boomed.
⋅ The NBA announced its midseason tournament last week. Regular-season conference games will count as “pool play,” so nothing will really change there. Then the top four seeds will host quarterfinal games against the next four seeds before the semifinals and finals are played in Las Vegas.
The guess here is that fans won’t really care about this tournament until the elimination rounds begin. Then it should be fun. But it’ll be interesting to see how much the idea of extra cross-country flights and time-zone changes in the middle of a season appeal to a team such as the Celtics. The event would be much less taxing for, say, the Los Angeles teams.
⋅ Jay Scrubb showed his offensive versatility and earned a two-way contract with the Celtics this week. He said he nearly signed with Boston late last season, when the team ultimately added fellow guard Justin Champagnie instead.