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WALTHAM, Mass. – The four newest members of the Boston Celtics filed one after another into the team’s practice facility Tuesday morning. They were greeted by four green and white jerseys draped over a set of folding chairs that were positioned in front of a line of microphones.
Terry Rozier, R.J. Hunter, Jordan Mickey and Marcus Thornton each raised their uniforms to their torsos, commencing a rapid click of cameras in front of them, which captured the 2015 Celtic draftees proudly displaying their names and numbers on the back of their new gear.
They then simultaneously flipped their jerseys around. Across the breast of each top read the word “Boston,” the city that they will now call home.
The four sat down, giddy, and probably a bit nervous, as they turned their attention to the large cluster of media gathered before them. A barrage of cameras pointed at them from every direction.
But sandwiched between their new mentors – team president Rich Gotham and coach Brad Stevens to their right, and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge to their left – the four young men grew comfortable in their surroundings and expressed gratitude as they were officially introduced to the city of Boston.
“It’s a dream come true to be drafted and an even bigger dream to get drafted by the Boston Celtics,” said Mickey, a 6-foot-8 forward from LSU who was selected 33rd overall. “[They have] a great winning tradition, so I’m excited to be here.”
Boston’s 45th pick, Thornton, a speedy and high-scoring guard from William & Mary, added, “It’s something that we all worked for, for all our careers since we started playing basketball. We’re all blessed to be here and be a part of this organization.”
For Hunter, the last few days have simply been surreal.
“It hasn’t even hit us yet,” said the 28th selection, a shooting guard from Georgia State. “I guess that means it’s time to get back to work. It’s exciting that we get to start practice in a couple of days and then games after that. It’s all coming so fast.”
Coming fast, indeed. The new foursome will hit the court Wednesday morning for their first summer league workout. They’ll have two-a-day practice sessions until they leave Saturday evening for Salt Lake City’s summer league.
Ainge regards the upcoming weeks to be a vital period of time, as the players compete to earn a role in the Celtics’ rotation.
“I always say that it’s a players job to prove to the coach that he needs them,” said Ainge.
“Young players are always starting out at a disadvantage and they have to beat out veteran players, typically, for playing time and for opportunities,” he added. “It’s each one of these guys’ jobs to prove that Brad needs them.”
Ainge is hoping that all four of the new draftees will eventually develop into consistent contributors, as Boston vies for championship contention.
“We think we have four very good young men here that have good work ethics, have great desire to be great, they love the game of basketball and will appreciate their job,” said Ainge.
That job starts up immediately.
Following their introduction, the four draft picks headed from Waltham to Roslindale, Mass. for a community appearance. They assisted in a gym renovation and basketball clinic at Washington Irving Middle School.
Then, Wednesday morning, it will be all basketball business, as they tip off their first summer league practice with their new teammates.
“[We’re] just ready to work,” said Rozier, a point guard from Louisville, whom the Celtics selected 16th overall. “[We’re] excited for summer league, there’s a lot of great competition, so we’re just ready to test ourselves.”
The test begins at practice and will move on to Salt Lake City, where the Celtics will play their first game at 9 p.m. Monday night. The team will play three games in Utah before flying to Las Vegas on July 10 for a lengthy slate of games in the premier summer league.
Stevens says these next few days will provide the draftees “a great opportunity for them to learn and grow. I look at these four days as a lot more important than any of the games they’ll play in summer league. But certainly all of the next 20 days will be impactful to them moving forward.”
And with that, the Celtics’ summer officially begins.