The process is long and arduous, and eventually for the parents of Carsen Edwards, very rewarding.
Taking 3-year-old Carsen to basketball games to watch his brother, Jay, and then eventually taking both around to various tournament and camps, feeding the team McDonald’s or fixing lunches or sitting through hours of AAU games, the parents went through nearly as much exertion as their children.
So imagine draft night, after years of your son telling you he was going to be an NBA player, years of preparation and countless hours in the gym, watching him get selected in the draft.
Edwards’s parents, who raised him in Atascocita, Texas, were thrilled, surprised, and relieved when he was taken in the second round by the Celtics. It was a culmination of nearly 20 years of hard work — of their son, considered undersized in the NBA world, telling them he was going to get here.
The Celtics signed Edwards to a four-year contract, a testament to their confidence in his abilities. He will enter training camp this month with a legitimate shot to earn playing time after leading the Celtics in scoring during summer league play.
His parents, James and Carla, said they are a little saddened to lose their son to the real world — to a new city and a professional life — but they are overcome with glee because it’s a dream fulfilled.
“You put in all the work since they were this big and then he realizes his goals,” Carla said. “All your weekends are taken up and basketball turns into a year-round thing. It was just constant and you never stop, but you never think about how much time it took until you get to a certain place, when they go off to college and then you realize we’ve been doing this literally, he started when he was about 3. Only because he had a brother who was 5 and he played in a league and Carsen wanted to play with his brother.”
Some roads to the NBA are easier than others. Carsen is liberally listed at 6 feet. But he has always been a prolific scorer. But when you’re 5-foot-something son tells you he is going to play in the NBA, how do you react?
“That’s part of it, of course, we did always say, ‘You’ve got to have a Plan B now,’ ” James said. “But not even long ago, I’m saying months ago, after March Madness we believed and he believed and we believed in him; we still said you’ve got to prepare to have a Plan B. We understand there’s still so much work to be done, to make the roster, but to get an opportunity is a blessing. It’s incredible.”
Carsen was all-state at Atascocita High School and was a four-star recruit for Matt Painter at Purdue. He was a standout player during his first two years with the Boilermakers but truly splashed on the March Madness scene with a stellar tournament last spring, leading Purdue to the Elite Eight. He averaged 34.8 points and set the record for most 3-pointers (28) in single-tournament play.
“Actually when you’re sitting there you’re just trying to make sure you have the numbers to beat this particular team,” Carla said. “And then at the end when people were mentioning it, we were like, ‘Wow, really?’ He didn’t even know most of the time. All he knew was that his team needed to win. For us, it was kind of going back, we went backwards and realized, he did do that.”
What perhaps kept Carsen from being a first-round pick was his height. He’s a scoring guard, a potential Isaiah Thomas clone. Thomas was the final pick of the draft in 2011 and perhaps his NBA success has helped players such as Carsen. But his parents never mentioned Carsen being undersized.
“Size was never an issue in our house,” Carla said. “It was always toughness and stay in the moment. He never knew his size was something someone would have contention with until his second year of college. For us, it was just, ‘Can you compete?’ ”
There were days, especially during the predraft process, that Carsen doubted himself or his performance.
Said James: “That keeps recurring, the height issue. Is he big enough? Tall enough? But as my wife said, we really didn’t think about it that much.
“The good thing is he would talk to me, but with me it was, ‘Yeah dad, I’m good, I’m good,’ but with his mom she really would say something, ‘Our son’s not good.’ She’d make that return call when she was alone to find out more and find out what’s going on. And he would say maybe the workout wasn’t as good or I would have liked to do more. It’s good that he has a close relationship with his mom, so if he can’t tell me, he would definitely tell his mom. He’s still a young man. I taught him to be tough, but I think sometimes he still needs to call and tell mom things. We work as a team to try to make it work out.”
They both told their son as long as he worked hard enough to reach his NBA goals, they would encourage his passion. Carsen met that agreement.
“When he was a kid, we never had to make him practice. He set his own sights,” Carla said. “He was up and 5 o’clock in the morning going to his high school gym, working out before school. He would work out six times in a day in the gym by himself until 1 or 2 in the morning [in college]. It helped whenever he felt like he needed to work harder or when he was unsure or anxious. That’s what he wanted to do so we just supported it.”
After the Boilermakers lost to Texas Tech in the Sweet 16 at TD Garden in 2018, Edwards decided to enter the draft. After getting feedback that he would go in the second round or even undrafted, he decided to return to school. That made him more determined.
“He wrote things on his mirror, what he needed to do and what [the NBA teams] said,” James said. “I’m not going to lie when it comes to the drafting and making it to the pros. I didn’t believe it until they drafted him. You also go, ‘Man, here they go with the not-tall-enough and not-big-enough [narrative].’ He’s not a pass-first guard, so will he fit this team? So until they drafted him, that’s when we believed it was going to happen.”
Rivers has more energy than ever
Doc Rivers will return to Boston on Tuesday for the annual ABCD Hoop Dreams, during which he’ll team with Celtics coach Brad Stevens and Globe columnist Bob Ryan for the charity event at the Red Auerbach Center to benefit the Action for Boston Community Development’s youth programs.
Rivers will be entering his 21st season as an NBA head coach, seventh with the Clippers. When Rivers left the Celtics after the 2012-13 season, there was speculation that he would take a break, return to television, and eventually resume coaching. He never took that break and doesn’t have any plans to any time soon.
“Honestly, you don’t get do-overs and my last year in Boston, when I was thinking about taking a break, I still don’t know if I should have or not but I probably should have when you think back,” he said. “But that first year with the Clippers was phenomenal. But as that went on and it didn’t work as winning a title, you could make a case that it wouldn’t have been a bad time to take a year [off]. Then we get these teams the last two years and it rejuvenated me. So I am as keen on my job as I may have ever been.
“Those guys gave me life again. They gave me enjoyment. I don’t know what it was I didn’t have. We all go through this. But it’s the guys that give you that energy. What I learned is don’t let anyone take away something you love and the joy you get from that.”
Meanwhile, the lingering question Rivers will face this season is how much he’ll play Kawhi Leonard. The Raptors kept Leonard on a “load management” schedule, where he played just 60 of 82 regular-season games to prepare for the playoffs. It worked. The Raptors won the title and Leonard was Finals MVP.
But in the Western Conference, playing Leonard just 60 games may cost the Clippers playoff seeding.
“We’re going to sacrifice minutes, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to expect to lose,” Rivers said. “You remember in Boston we went on a whole three-game [trip] and I actually left Paul [Pierce] and Ray [Allen] and Kevin [Garnett] home. And we still won. You can sit players — Toronto was a great example, they sat Kawhi, but they still won games. You can never give away games, but you can absolutely sacrifice minutes played, for sure.
“It’s amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever been in involved in one conference where there are literally six teams that could win the title. I know we want to win as many games as possible, that’s No. 1, and get the best seeding as possible, that’s No. 2. But we have to be as healthy as possible, that’s No. 3, and it’s not in that order. Because one thing that I think every coach knows, it doesn’t matter what your seeding is if you’re not healthy. You’re not winning.”
Vote of confidence from an Admiral
Admiral Schofield is a Washington Wizards rookie and former college teammate of Celtics forward Grant Williams. Together they helped resurrect Tennessee basketball, a program that had been mired in controversy with NCAA violations.
The Volunteers had missed the NCAA Tournament in five of the previous six seasons before they lost to Loyola-Chicago in the second round in 2018. Tennessee responded by reaching the 2019 regional semifinal before losing in an epic overtime game to Purdue, led by Carsen Edwards. Schofield and Williams remain close, but he says that Williams is an acquired taste because of his quirkiness. Eventually they made a dynamic pair.
“He’s a very smart player. He picks up on things very quickly, high IQ. I learned a lot from him, not just him, from [coach] Rick Barnes, as well,” Schofield said. “He’s a younger guy, so he has some room to grow as just a man, but at the same time he’s beyond his years on the court.
“He’s a hard worker. He goes out and competes. He knows his strengths and his weaknesses and he is not going to get outside of himself. He’s going to do the little things consistently. And when you call his name, he’s going to be ready, so that’s one thing you can expect from Grant Williams.”
Williams has freely admitted he wasn’t the average college athlete. He encouraged his fellow Celtics draft picks to play board games during their post-draft visit to Boston. He said he seeks places in Boston to play Catan, a popular board game.
“He’s different, but at the same time you’ve got to accept that. You want to make someone feel welcome,” Schofield said of meeting Williams. “You want to make someone feel like they are part of the group, no matter what they do off the floor. His first year, it was a struggle for him because he was different. He was quirky. I saw Grant for what he was. When it comes to basketball, he’s on his P’s and Q’s, and off the floor he likes to do different things. You have to accept that.”
Schofield and Williams became close, respecting each other’s differences while bonding on the floor.
“We complemented each other in a lot of ways and we were always there for each other and communicating on the floor, and at the same time we really pushed each other at a high level and that’s why we’re here,” said Schofield.
Tennessee remains a football school, but it had three players taken in the NBA Draft last June — Williams, Schofield, and swingman Jordan Bone — and they tied the school record for wins in a season and were ranked No. 1 for five weeks.
“It was a struggle and I think one of the biggest things to motivate us was how the fans treated basketball players compared with how they treated football players,” Schofield said. “We felt just as important. We felt like we were working just as hard. We wanted to do something special and it started with the relationships that we built with each other in the locker room and cleaning up our locker room and making sure everything that was off the court translated to on the floor. The buy-in was big time.
“When you have your two best players, me and Grant, and have Jordan Bone and Lamonte Turner buying in, it’s easier for a lot of the other guys to come in and buy in, as well.”
Team Canada’s quest to reach the Olympics for the first time since 2000 will go on with just two NBA players on its roster: Sacramento guard Cory Joseph and Orlando center Khem Birch. There are currently 22 Canadian players on NBA rosters, including Minnesota’s Andrew Wiggins, Denver’s Jamal Murray, Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, San Antonio’s Trey Lyles, Dallas’s Dwight Powell, Memphis’s Dillon Brooks, and Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson. None of those players were in Team Canada’s camp. Former Celtic Kelly Olynyk was on the roster but suffered a knee bruise during an exhibition game and was pulled from competition by the Heat. Unfortunately, the renaissance of Canadian basketball has spread to the NBA but not to the national team. The Canadians were one game from reaching the 2016 Rio Olympics but lost to Venezuela for the final qualifying spot . . . The NBA showed it is serious about PED use by suspending Nets forward Wilson Chandler for 25 games for use of Ipamorelin, a human growth hormone. The oft-injured Chandler admitted in an Instagram post to using the drug but said he was unaware it was on the banned list. The NBA releases its list of banned substances to players for situations such as this, before they decide to take anything. Chandler is at the tail end of his career and wasn’t expected to help the Nets much, so it’s not a serious blow. According to the collective bargaining agreement, the penalty for performance-enhancing drug use is 25 games for the first offense, 55 games for the second, and banishment for the third. The NBA hasn’t had many issues with players using PEDs, perhaps because there is a question among players whether they would actually help them flourish in a league where elite athleticism is required. Chandler cited injury recovery as a reason for his use. Regardless, a 25-game suspension without pay should serve as a clear warning to players considering using PEDs . . . The city of Mobile, Ala., served an arrest warrant for Lakers center DeMarcus Cousins for misdemeanor domestic abuse charges. The NBA will observe this case closely, especially since an audio clip of Cousins threatening the mother of his son was released. The league will also wait for the case to be settled before making any decision, but it’s almost certain that Cousins will face a suspension when he is healthy enough to play. He could miss most of next season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered in August.
Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @GwashburnGlobe. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.