Prospects have to think on their feet

Michigan’s Nik Stauskas (right, with Doug McDermott of Creighton) was one of the combine players who sat down with the Celtics to be “grilled.” AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
Charles Rex Arbogast/AP
Michigan’s Nik Stauskas (right, with Doug McDermott of Creighton) was one of the combine players who was “grilled” by the Celtics.

CHICAGO — Quick: How many pennies are in $1 million?

NBA teams have tossed that curveball at many potential draftees during interviews at the league’s predraft combine held here this week.

“I got it right in 22 seconds,” Arizona forward Aaron Gordon said Friday. “They timed me. I made a joke to stall it so I could think a little bit more and I came back and answered it correctly.”


Creighton star Doug McDermott faced that question, too.

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“I kind of thought to myself for a little bit,” he said. “I didn’t want to get it wrong. I finally got it right.”

Duke guard Rodney Hood said he also heard that one. But why would teams ask it?

“Guess they want to see if you really went to class,” Hood joked.

Because agents prepare players on how to answer a range of questions in these interviews, team officials will ask one out of left field to keep them on their toes.


“I will say, it’s funny — today one of the teams asked me, ‘Besides marijuana, which drugs do you use?’ ” said Australian swingman Dante Exum. “And I’m like, ‘Umm, none, I don’t use drugs.’ That was the weirdest one.”

Former North Carolina star P.J. Hairston, who was most recently playing in the NBA’s Development League, said, “A couple teams asked if I had a girlfriend, but it wasn’t really crazy.”

In his meeting with the Celtics, Michigan guard Nik Stauskas was asked to draw up some plays on a board. He said he drew one that he used in college.

Which one?

“I can’t reveal that,” he joked. “I might get a call from [Michigan] coach [John] Beilein.”


Michigan State guard Gary Harris also met with the Celtics.

“They told me to draw up a few plays, some of my favorite plays from Michigan State,” he said, noting that all the plays ended with him taking the shot.

North Carolina State forward T.J. Warren was asked to do the same in his meeting with the Celtics.

“I went for an inside screen, hopefully get a switch from a point guard, get the guard to take a screen,” Warren said. “It’s a pretty unique play and my sweet spot is around the mid-range area. They thought it was clever.”

Apparently, Haverhill, Mass., native Noah Vonleh wasn’t thrown any curveballs during his interview with the Celtics.

“It was real quick and brief,” said the Indiana forward. “They told me they want me to come in for a workout and they’ve been watching me since high school. A few of the players I asked said they got some questions like that, but I didn’t get any.”

Gordon said the Celtics kept their questions straightforward.

“They just asked about my personal life,” Gordon said. “They pushed away basketball, then brought basketball back and asked questions about just certain aspects of my life.

“I got a really good vibe from the Celtics. They seem really family-oriented. They seemed like really good people that have my best interest at heart. I got a good vibe from them.”

Stauskas, who played at St. Mark’s School in Southborough, Mass., the final two years of his high school career, learned in his meeting that the Celtics have watched him for some time.

“Danny Ainge was telling me he actually saw me play a few times in high school and AAU because I played against his son,” Stauskas said.

Harris said it was nice to see a familiar face in Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who recruited Harris back when Stevens was at Butler.

“You don’t know what they are going to ask in those interviews, so the nervousness you have, but you are also excited to get that opportunity,” Harris said. “When you go in there, you just kind of relax when you see somebody you already know.”

Overall, many of the Celtics’ interviewees said they enjoyed the sessions.

“They were really nice,” Hairston said. “When we were meeting, they told me their needs and they said they needed a shooter. But my first impression was just how nice and how polite they were. And just how they asked their questions. They were very nice and straightforward.”

“The Celtics have a lot of tradition,” said Kentucky forward Julius Randle, “and it was just an honor to be talking to those guys.”

Baxter Holmes can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @BaxterHolmes.