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Ainge gives reasons for contract decisions on Young, Olynyk

James Young’s future as a Celtic will depend on the third-year pro’s continued development.Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports/File 2016

WALTHAM — There is a large dry-erase board attached to a wall in the Celtics’ practice facility that lists recent team records in various drills and shooting contests. Celtics third-year wing James Young added his name to two of those marks Monday night when he returned to the gym by himself on the same day he learned that the Celtics had declined to exercise his contract option for the 2017-18 season.

With president of basketball operations Danny Ainge watching, Young tied team records in the “star drill,” in which a player makes as many baskets as he can from two spots on the court in one minute, and in the “championship drill,” in which a player must make three 3-pointers, two pull-up jumpers, and two layups as quickly as possible.


Getting your name added to a dry-erase board will not result in a new contract, but moments like that are the ones that have given the Celtics hope.

“With James, with that fourth year, we just want to wait and see how he progresses in this third year,” Ainge said Tuesday. “It’s a big year for James, but I really like where he is. As a person and a player, he’s made great strides and is becoming more of a pro all the time.”

Ainge said that Young was at the gym from 7 to about 9 p.m. Monday, long after Boston’s practice had ended. During that time Young and Ainge also sat down and discussed the team’s decision not to pick up the $2.8 million 2017-18 option.

Ainge made it clear that it does not mean Young’s time in Boston is finished. The Celtics could still sign him — for no more than the salary he was slotted to receive in his rookie deal — but before even reaching that point, they will need to see more.


“I mean, listen, James has plenty of examples of guys it was a great blessing to not get their contract extended, right?” Ainge said, meaning that Young could perform well and earn a hefty payday elsewhere. “So I think he understands it. He gets it. He understands it’s an important year regardless of whether we did or we didn’t. So, yeah, he took it in a good way.”

Young averaged 2.2 points and 1 rebound over 60 total games in his first two NBA seasons. Last Monday, he was relieved to learn that he had made the final roster, beating out R.J. Hunter for the 15th and final spot. Now he is staring at yet another challenge.

“It’s just more motivation, I guess,” Young said. “I have to keep getting better.”

Celtics coach Brad Stevens said that with another likely high first-round pick coming next season, and recent first-round picks Ante Zizic and Guerschon Yabusele playing overseas, it was important to maintain some roster flexibility.

“But [Young is] trending in a direction where we want to have him around,” Stevens said. “And we’ve always wanted to have him around. We just have so many numbers from a draft picks standpoint that’s not here, that we have to maintain some flexibility.”

The Celtics also were unable to agree on a contract extension with fourth-year forward Kelly Olynyk. Ainge said he met with the 7-footer’s agent Monday, as the sides tried to finalize a deal before the midnight deadline.


Ultimately, though, maintaining salary-cap flexibility that will allow the Celtics to pursue a maximum-contract free agent remained the top priority.

“If we didn’t have max cap flexibility next summer and the possibility to land a superstar-type player, an All-Star-caliber player, it might have been different in our negotiations,” Ainge said. “But because we still are there, with where we are in cap management, there was no reason to rush into it.”

Olynyk, who will become a restricted free agent at season’s end, is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and has yet to play this season. Ainge said he would like to see Olynyk return and get through this season healthy, but he said the lack of an extension agreement was mostly due to the desire to keep the chance for a big strike realistic.

“Once we sort of use that flexibility, we may not have it again,” Ainge said. “So there’s two ways to look at that. You see a lot of teams that are just going and signing extensions with players they have and sort of closing that door on that flexibility, but we’re not there yet. I think, as an organization we want to maintain that flexibility, and Kelly is part of our long-term plan as well.”

.   .   .

Celtics guard Avery Bradley left Monday’s practice because of a sore right shoulder, and was scheduled to be examined by the team doctor, Brian McKeon. Stevens said Bradley has been experiencing shoulder soreness this season and added that it was unclear whether he would play against the Bulls on Wednesday. Bradley had surgery on both shoulders after the 2012 season.


Bulls thumbnails

■  When, where: Wednesday, 8 p.m., at TD Garden.

■  TV, radio: CSN, WBZ-FM (98.5).

■  Scoring: Jimmy Butler 20.7, Dwyane Wade 16.0, Taj Gibson 14.7.

■  Rebounding: Taj Gibson 9.7, Nikola Mirotic 7.3, Robin Lopez 6.3.

■  Assists: Rajon Rondo 8.7, Wade 3.7, Isaiah Canaan 3.0.

■  Head to head: This is the second of four meetings. The Bulls defeated the Celtics, 105-99, last Thursday in Chicago.

■  Miscellany: The Bulls are scoring 113.7 points per game, most in the NBA . . . The last time the Bulls opened a season 3-0 was 1996-97, when they finished 69-13 and won the NBA championship . . . Chicago’s 31 3-pointers are the most through three games in franchise history.

Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.