scorecardresearch
CELTICS NOTEBOOK

Celtics have rooting interest in lottery: Minnesota

Andrew Wiggins (left) was a bright spot in an otherwise lost season for the Timberwolves.
Andrew Wiggins (left) was a bright spot in an otherwise lost season for the Timberwolves.(Jim Mone/AP)

When the Celtics stumbled through a slow start this season and traded away guard Rajon Rondo and forward Jeff Green, they seemed destined for the NBA draft lottery. But then they uncoiled their surprising run to the playoffs, meaning they will not be counting Ping-Pong balls Tuesday night.

If you are a Celtics fan who is eager to have a rooting interest in the lottery, you might side with the Timberwolves, who have a 25 percent chance of securing the No. 1 pick.

The Celtics will receive Minnesota’s first-round pick in 2016 if it falls past No. 12, so the better that team is next year, the better it is for Boston. And having the No. 1 overall pick this year would make the Timberwolves better next year.

Advertisement



On the surface, ascending from worst to, well, 13th worst, would seem unlikely, given that Minnesota went 16-66 this season. But the Wolves have a young, talented roster that was ravaged by injuries. Center Nikola Pekovic played just 31 games, leading scorer Kevin Martin played just 39 games, and 2013 first-round draft pick Shabazz Muhammad played just 38 games.

If Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins teams up with a No. 1 or No. 2 overall selection and the Timberwolves can avoid injuries, they could make a significant turnaround. And they don’t need to become title contenders for the Celtics to nab their first-round pick; the choice just has to fall somewhere between 13th and 30th.

If the Timberwolves end up with a top-12 pick next year, the Celtics would receive their second-round choices in 2016 and 2017.

Smart on rookie team

Celtics guard Marcus Smart was named to the NBA’s All-Rookie second team. Smart averaged 7.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 3.1 assists in 67 games this year. He established himself as an excellent defender and drew raves for his physical, gritty play.

Advertisement



“He is a great instinctive defender, but I think he picked up the schemes and became an outstanding defender,” president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said recently.

“He got even better than he was at the beginning of the year. Offensively, he’s come a long way, too.”

Smart, selected by the Celtics with the sixth overall pick last June, received 28 first-team votes and 82 second-team votes. First-place votes are worth 2 points, so Smart’s total of 142 points was the most of any player on the second team.

The first team included Wiggins, Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic, 76ers forward Nerlens Noel, Magic guard Elfrid Payton, and Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson. Smart was joined on the second team by Minnesota’s Zach LaVine, Brooklyn’s Bojan Bogdanovic, Denver’s Jusuf Nurkic, and New York’s Langston Galloway.

Learning to lead

Even though he is only 24, guard Avery Bradley is the longest-tenured member of the Celtics, having just completed his fifth season. He said he took his corresponding leadership role very seriously.

“It was difficult at times because of my age, and some guys were older,” Bradley said Monday. “But they would look up to me and want me to speak up.”

It took me a while, but I think [it helped that] the coaches gave me confidence to go out there and reminded me every single game that your teammates look up to you, so you have to lead by example.”

You can’t ever show any weakness, and what they mean by that is having a bad attitude.”

Advertisement



Bradley learned valuable leadership lessons by studying Celtics veterans such as Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

Pierce, 37, was reinvigorated in these NBA playoffs, helping the Wizards to the Eastern Conference semifinals. He has a player option with the Wizards next season, but could opt out and become a free agent.

“Paul’s an amazing guy and an even more amazing player,” Bradley said. “I would love for him to be a part of the Celtics again. I mean, I don’t really know what’s going to happen. I’m pretty sure every team in the NBA would love to have Paul Pierce on their team. I just wish the best for him.”

Fitness message

Bradley, guard Chris Babb, and assistant coach Jay Larranaga were at the Roxbury YMCA Monday to celebrate the completion of Sun Life’s four-week “Fit to Win” program, focusing on the physical fitness and wellness of Boston elementary school students.

Larranaga said the cause holds special meaning because his younger brother was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at the age of 7.

“The more you can do to combat that with diet, with exercise, with getting the right amount of sleep, I think it’s really important for the kids to learn that early,” Larranaga said.

“For us to be a part of that educational process, I think, is great.”