NEW ORLEANS — With nine first-round picks over the next five years, the Celtics will be deeply involved in the draft, probably more than at any period in their history. So new NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s plan to increase the minimum draft age could affect the rebuilding of the Celtics.
In the months before taking over as commissioner, Silver expressed his dissatisfaction with the current rule that allows players one year removed from high school to become draft eligible. It prompted an influx of college freshmen entering the draft, referred to as “one and dones,” a term the NBA privately despises.
Silver would like to increase age by a year, meaning most draft prospects would play at least two years in college. Celtics guards Avery Bradley and Jerryd Bayless and forwards Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries all left college after one season.
“So the 20-year-old minimum age limit was something we had on the table in the last round of collective bargaining,” Silver said. “And when we compromised on a deal, well into what should have been our season, we agreed to park certain issues and return to them. And the age limit was one of them.
“It is my belief that if players have an opportunity to mature as players and as people, for a longer amount of time, before they come into the league, it will lead to a better league. And I know from a competitive standpoint that’s something as I travel the league I increasingly hear from our coaches, especially, who feel that many of even the top players in the league could use more time to develop even as leaders, as part of college programs.”
The NBA and NCAA have yet to collaborate on a uniform system for players entering the draft. The NCAA moved up the deadline for players to declare because the longer waiting period affected the next college season, causing coaches to complain.
Perhaps the NBA and Players Association agreeing to extend the minimum draft age by another year will appease college coaches.
“I think it would have the same impact on college as well,” Silver said. “I think ultimately this is a team sport; it’s not an individual sport. And we have seen it in international competition, for example, too, where teams of players that have played together for a long time have enormous advantage over teams comprised of superstars or players that come together over short periods of time.
“So I think from a college standpoint, if those teams could have an opportunity to jell, to come together, if those players had the benefit to play for some of these great college coaches for longer periods of time, I think it would lead to stronger college basketball and stronger NBA ball as well.”
Bryant on hand
Kobe Bryant was named an All-Star starter, but was unable to play following December knee surgery after a collision with Memphis guard Tony Allen. Bryant would not set a timetable on his return, but did say he plans to play this season. Various NBA observers, including Lakers legend Magic Johnson, said Bryant should sit out the season and get completely healthy for the 2014-15 season.
“It’s coming slowly,” Bryant said before the East’s 163-155 win over the West. “I’m optimistic coming out of the break that I’ll have some improvements once I get back to LA, do a couple of followups and then go from there. But it’s been a slow process.”
When Bryant, 35, was asked whether he thinks he’ll make another All-Star team, he said, “I hope so. When you’re playing at the All-Star Game, that means you’re one of the best players in the world. Obviously it’s a big goal of mine to be there. But it’s tough coming here, though. Normally when you come, the competitive juices are already flowing. Now it’s looking at it from a different perspective. You also get a chance to soak it in a little bit.”
Point men The combined 318 points was an All-Star record, snapping the previous mark of 303 set in the 1987 game in Seattle. The 163 points for the East also was a record for one team. The West scored 155 in 2003 . . . With 38 points, Kevin Durant increased his All-Star Game scoring average to 30.6, tops for an All-Star . . . Blake Griffin set an All-Star record with 19 field goals on his 38 points. He did not attempt a free throw. Wilt Chamberlain converted 17 field goals in the 1962 game . . . Veterans who were looking for some rest were obliged as Dwyane Wade (12 minutes), Dirk Nowitzki (8 minutes), Joe Johnson (10 minutes), and Tony Parker (11 minutes) made appearances, but gave way to younger players in the fourth quarter.
Celtics great Bill Russell, who celebrated his 80th birthday Wednesday, was honored at the annual Legends Brunch.
All-Star point guard Chris Paul, who spoke at the brunch, said Russell would be on any team he would compile.
Moreover, when asked to name his Mount Rushmore of all-time greats, he named Russell along with Johnson, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan.
“That’s impossible to do four though, man,” Paul said. “Come on, that’s crazy.”
Like old times
James Harden was named a starter on the Western Conference team, replacing Bryant. He teamed with ex-Oklahoma City teammate Durant for the first time since Harden was abruptly traded to the Rockets during training camp in 2012. “It will be great to play with him again,” Durant said. “Like old times.” . . . The NBA is attempting to compile a lineup of players to participate in an August game in Johannesburg. The NBA has beefed up its efforts to popularize the game in Africa. The efforts have been spearheaded by Thierry Kita, who helped out on the Celtics coaching staff a few years ago, and Amadou Fall, a former NBA executive.Gary Washburn can be reached at email@example.com.