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Celtics hope James Young is wise beyond his years

James Young.Steven Senne/Associated Press/File

As smooth as his 3-point jumper flowed during the Celtics' scrimmage on Friday at TD Garden, James Young is still a 19-year-old rookie who missed summer league because of concussion-like symptoms.

And the organization remains unsure what to expect this season from the draft's second-youngest player, considered a potential cornerstone. A major challenge for Young is adjusting to life as an NBA player, still two years from being legally allowed into a club or to drink alcohol.

Players and coaches have commented about Young's maturity. He doesn't appear awed by his situation but there are major adjustments upcoming, including making a permanent residence in Boston merely 16 months after bolting his Rochester, Mich., roots for the University of Kentucky. He is confident the transition to a grown man's world will be flawless, and he is preparing for the change by having his godfather's son, Evan Mahone, move to Boston along with Young's mother and grandmother.

Young understands he may not have much in common with his older teammates.


"We always spent a lot of time with each other, play video games, chill, hang out," Young said of Mahone. "We don't have to go out to have fun. Me and him have that special bond, to where we can just talk about anything and have fun."

Young also realizes there will be those who gravitate to him with his newfound wealth — who don't hold his best interests.

"On social media, I stay away from all that, I check it once or twice [a week]," he said. "I just leave the rest alone. I try to block out all the bad and listen to the positive."

There is a high level of independence in Young. He wiggled away from Michigan State and Michigan and signed with Kentucky as a five-star recruit.


"I just always wanted to leave home as well because I grew up in Michigan," he said. "I wanted to explore my way and go out there and be independent without my family always around. Kentucky was a nice place for me, too. I could have went to Arizona but that's probably a little too far from home."

Young said adapting to life in Lexington, Ky., was refreshing. "It definitely was a culture shock, the fans there are crazy, probably the best fans in the world," he said. "They showed just so much love, every game, every away game. I'm really glad I went there."

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said expectations for Young are tempered.

"We don't know what we have," Ainge said. "We drafted an 18-year-old kid who just turned 19. My expectations for him aren't really high right now but we do have high expectations for him in his career. I will say that through the first couple of days, that he's been a great surprise. He's exceeded my expectations this early."

Ainge has had to become accustomed to drafting teenagers. That's the current state of the NBA. Those teenagers are looking for leadership and guidance, and Ainge has to hope those potential cornerstones seek the right mentors.

"We hold them to a high standard," he said. "The biggest things with these kids is teaching them to be pros and teaching them to be on time and to put in the work and understand what it takes to be a pro. The other stuff on the court is more secondary right now, and James and Marcus [Smart] are both doing very well right now."


Young has sought the mentorship of Jeff Green, nine years his senior. But veteran leadership is tricky. There are veterans who will adversely influence younger players in dealing with coaches, media, and teammates.

"I think there are good veterans and bad veterans," said Ainge, recalling his playing days. "There are some veterans that try to lead that are doing more harm than good, but they're actually trying to be good. Leadership comes from all types of different areas. There are other young guys that are good leaders."

The Celtics' roster turnover robbed the organization of leaders such as Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry, replacing them with younger players who are themselves still experiencing NBA growing pains.

"We have a lot of leaders, including our coaching staff, assistant coaches, all throughout, that are helping those guys have the best chance to succeed and avoid the pitfalls that many fall into," Ainge said. "We're just trying to build a championship team and this is the best way for us to do it right now, to get young talent and see if we can develop them into championship players or get a lot of good young players through the draft and trade draft picks and trade for star players. That's really our only two options."

Young is not considering his age an obstacle. "I just never look at it from an age standpoint," he said. "I just go out there and play basketball. I look at [older guys] like we are on the same court together, let's ball out together."



Bryant healthy, ready to lead Lakers’ revival

Reports out of Los Angeles indicate Kobe Bryant is healthy and beginning to resemble the player who was among the game's best when he was beset by a torn Achilles' tendon and fractured knee. This is a critical season for the Lakers, who are shying away from the Celtics' rebuilding plan of dealing aging stars and recharging through the draft. Instead they are adding aging veterans to those they already have.

So, while they waited for Steve Nash and Bryant to get healthy, they claimed Carlos Boozer off waivers and signed Jordan Hill to a two-year, $18 million deal with a team option for a third year, a contract designed to create salary cap space to become active participants in a 2015 free agent class that potentially includes DeAndre Jordan, Rudy Gay, LaMarcus Aldridge, Andrea Bargnani, Omer Asik, Luol Deng, and Marc Gasol.

General manager Mitch Kupchak also hired Byron Scott, who will be coaching his fourth NBA team and may be viewed as a stopgap until the Lakers ramp up for contention. Scott is the coach for now, and he has spent most of the past few weeks talking defense to a team that considered that part of the game optional during the Mike D'Antoni years.

Bryant was, of course, bombarded with questions on media day about his future. At 36, he has two years and a whopping $48 million on the extension he signed while he was injured.


"It's a really tough injury, I'm not going to lie. There are a lot of things going through your mind when something like that happens," Bryant told reporters last week in Los Angeles. "I just went on my grind and just kind of chipped away at it day by day, and I feel pretty good as a result."

While the Lakers aren't built to compete with the San Antonio Spurs or Oklahoma City Thunder because they missed out on premium free agents, they are more talented than last season. They added former Harvard standout Jeremy Lin, Boozer, re-signed Nick Young and Wesley Johnson, signed Ed Davis, and are welcoming back a healthy Nash. The Lakers have playoff talent, and Bryant is banking that their overlooked roster will exceed expectations.

"I think we have a lot of guys that have been kind of discarded, been forgotten about," he said. "Myself, with the injury and the age. Jeremy [Lin] and a bunch of players who other teams really felt they had no use for. So, we have that kind of attitude built into ourselves."

Scott and Bryant have bonded over the years and Scott used his television job with Time Warner Sports, the Lakers' flagship network, to re-familiarize himself with the franchise and also grow closer to Bryant. Scott openly campaigned for the job, realizing that the key to becoming coach of the team he helped win titles as a player in the 1980s was a strong relationship with Bryant.

"He agrees with me and this Laker organization that we're here for one reason only, and that's to hang championship banners," said Bryant. "Not division banners. Not anything else — Western Conference [championship banners] — you don't do that. You focus on winning championships, and I think that's very important for our young guys to understand."

Scott has challenged Bryant, first to become the defender he was during his prime years, and to return to the 20-plus-points-per-game scorer of his vintage days.

"It shouldn't be our focus at all," Bryant said about scoring. "I feel like, instinctively, we'll all gravitate to what we do best on the basketball floor. But our primary focus is to be great defensively, and that involves taking that challenge every single night and trying to get better at it every single night.

"Personally, that's really the biggest challenge, because offensively I can always dictate what I'm going to do. Defensively, it's reacting to things. That's a challenge that I really haven't had to deal with yet, so I'm really looking forward to it."

Bryant realizes the critics are louder than before. "I haven't played for quite a while, and the size of the challenge ahead of me is really forcing me to focus in a lot more than I ever have," he said. "That's a 360-degree thing. That's nutrition. That's training. That's mentally preparing. That's everything. To play at this age and through all the injuries, you have to have that commitment."


Rondo sets sights on Celtics’ season opener

Rajon Rondo said last week that he wants to be back in the Celtics' lineup for opening night, weeks before his expected return from a broken left fifth metacarpal sustained during a shower accident last month.

While doctors initially said he would miss 6-8 weeks with the injury, Rondo said during the team's media day on Sept. 29 he could miss as many as 10 weeks. According to Dr. Steven Shin, the director of hand surgery at the noted Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles, the injury is not considered serious nor should there be any lingering effects.

"First of all, it's a very common injury," Shin said. "And from what I read, he slipped in the bath. It can definitely happen from that mechanism of injury, a slip and fall or slip and falling on another object. For elite athletes, the fastest way for them to get back to playing is to get it fixed [with surgery]."

With the type of surgery Rondo received, Shin believes he should have an early range of motion with his fingers, hand, and wrist. Shin added that the fracture does not make Rondo more vulnerable to hand injuries once it has healed.

"I am sure this was just a freak accident but having this kind of break doesn't make you more susceptible to breaks," Shin said. "If he gets hit on the hand, it shouldn't bother him, as long as the hardware [placed in the hand during surgery] is in there securely. He shouldn't have any problems with it. Rarely you'll have to go in there in the future, and if he has any kind of irritation to remove the plate and screws, but that's uncommon."

Shin added, "It should take about eight weeks for him to get back to a high level of elite play. It is a common injury, from the twisting of the finger to a fall on the hand in a weird way or he hits his hand on some object."

Rondo's injury is similar to the one Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love sustained twice. The first time Love allowed it to heal without surgery, and after a second fracture, he underwent surgery.

Love sustained the first fracture in October 2012 during knuckle pushups and the second time he fractured the third metacarpal in January 2013 in a collision with Denver's Kenneth Faried.

"I anticipate that it's going to get back to 100 percent," Shin said. "I see these types of fractures all the time. I'm sure they got the bone fragment together perfectly and fixed it well to allow for early range of motion. I think he'll have a great result and be back in 6-8 weeks."

Rondo wore an arm sling to media day and said he was not allowed to participate in any physical activity for a few days. He said he didn't believe initially that the injury was serious.

"I was telling myself that it wasn't what I thought it was," he said. "I tried to grab some things that night. I waited about 30 minutes to make the call to [Celtics trainer] Ed [Lacerte]. I called Ed and he told me I could come in or I could talk to Dr. [Brian] McKeon at 7 in the morning. So I went into New England Baptist at 7 a.m., got an X-ray. He knew right away that I needed surgery right away, and I did have surgery around 11 a.m. that day."


The Charlotte Hornets perhaps set the precedent for how NBA clubs will deal with players charged with violent offenses. Guard Jeffrey Taylor, accused of domestic assault last month in East Lansing, Mich., has been banned from any team activities until his case is resolved. Taylor has a pretrial court date Oct. 8, and will be paid during his absence, but the NBA is learning quickly from the mistakes of its NFL brethren about dealing with troubled players, especially in domestic violence cases . . . The Rockets added defensive-minded assistant coach T.R. Dunn to Kevin McHale’s staff last week as the club prepares for a critical second season with the combination of Dwight Howard and James Harden. Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has been trading barbs with Mavericks over Mark Cuban, intensifying the rivalry after Chandler Parsons signed an offer sheet with the Mavericks this summer that the Rockets did not match. Cuban has criticized the Rockets for failing to win a championship under Morey’s leadership and for competing with the Mavericks for premium free agents, including Howard . . . The 2011 draft class has until Oct. 31 to agree to long-term extensions. Kyrie Irving inked his deal a few months ago, while twins Markieff and Marcus Morris, in an unprecedented move, were allowed to split a $52 million pot for four-year extensions with Phoenix. There are some intriguing players who will sign extensions or become free agents next summer, such as Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson, Charlotte’s Kemba Walker, San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard, Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris, Faried, Oklahoma City’s Reggie Jackson, Miami’s Norris Cole, and Chicago’s Jimmy Butler. The Celtics don’t have to worry about such four-year contract issues. That was the year they acquired JaJuan Johnson on draft night for MarShon Brooks. Johnson never stuck in the NBA and is now playing for Besiktas in the Turkish League. Brooks, meanwhile, has signed with Emporio Armani Milano of the Italian League . . . Celtics coach Brad Stevens will speak at Harvard’s Basketball Coaches Clinic on Oct. 25, which runs from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Lavietes Pavilion. Harvard coach Tommy Amaker has brought in esteemed coaches such as Avery Johnson, Doc Rivers, Doug Collins, and Larry Brown in the past, and now Stevens will address many local high school and college coaches. The clinic is $75 by Oct. 17 and $100 after. For registration, visit gocrimson.com. All students will be admitted with a valid Harvard ID.

Gary Washburn can be reached at gwashburn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GwashburnGlobe. Material from interviews, wires services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.