Opportunity knocks at summer league
Their roster thin, Celtics will give Gaffney, Lafayette, Erden a good look
ORLANDO, Fla. -- When the Charlotte Bobcats take the floor for the opening game of the 2010 AirTran Summer League on Monday, their roster will include Darius Miles, an NBA veteran with eight years of service.
Miles, who nearly made a comeback with the Celtics in 2008 after microfracture surgery on his right knee sidelined him for two seasons, is attempting another run at an NBA return with Charlotte this summer.
Miles boasts 446 NBA games and 11,729 minutes played in his career. By comparison, the Celtics' entire 12-man summer roster features a total of one regular-season game of NBA experience.
Yes, the summer league is geared more toward rookies and the league's youngest players, so Boston's lack of experience isn't exactly shocking. And although a few notable names such as Miles dot the rosters of the eight teams competing here this week, you're more likely to be Googling the game's leading scorer to find out exactly who he is.
The utter lack of NBA experience on Boston's roster -- save for the 22 minutes and seven points logged by Oliver Lafayette in the Celtics' regular-season finale on April 14 against the Milwaukee Bucks, the same day both he and Tony Gaffney were signed with eyes toward the summer -- is somewhat different for Boston.
Just compare this year's roster with last summer, when the Celtics had a handful of familiar names and recent draft picks such as J.R. Giddens, Gabe Pruitt, Michael Sweetney, Robert Swift and Bill Walker, all of whom had NBA experience.
Pruitt, one of Boston's 2007 second-round picks (32nd overall), who was taken three spots before Glen Davis, is back here hoping to resuscitate his NBA career by playing for the New Jersey Nets. Boston's roster is overflowing with fresh faces, with the most familiar names likely to be Gaffney, Lafayette and this year's second-round pick, Luke Harangody (52nd overall).
Boston's top pick in the 2010 draft, Avery Bradley (19th overall), is sitting out the summer league after undergoing minor ankle surgery last week. He is expected to be ready for training camp.
With Boston's veteran-heavy roster, the natural inclination is to think that none of these youngsters has a chance to make the team. But the Celtics have only six players currently under contract. Plus, one of them is Kendrick Perkins, who will start the year sidelined by the ACL surgery he will undergo Wednesday, and another is Rasheed Wallace, the 15-year veteran likely to retire. So the Celtics have as many as nine open roster spots (one of which will go to soon-to-be re-signed Paul Pierce) they must fill by summer's end.
With that in mind, here are three things to watch as the Celtics prepare for summer league games this week:
1. Gaffney, Lafayette have jump on competition
With Boston operating with a pair of open roster spots in April, the team spent minimal dollars to bring in free agents Gaffney and Lafayette on the final day of the regular season.
Gaffney had been among the final cuts for the Lakers before the 2009-10 season, while Lafayette shined in the NBA Development League. Boston ensured first crack at their services for the 2010-11 campaign by bringing them along on a wild postseason adventure.
Having spent two months with the team and working out at Boston's practice facility in Waltham, Mass., the duo clearly have a jump on the rest of the roster. Gaffney didn't appear in any games as he recovered from ankle surgery that ended his brief pro career in Israel, while Lafayette showed some nice potential, even if the final regular-season game amounted to little more than an exhibition.
"We believe that both of these players have good potential to help us in the future, and we are looking forward to evaluating them during the summer," Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said in April.
Look for both players to get every opportunity to win a job at the end of Boston's bench, particularly at the bargain-basement salaries ($762,195) they would earn if they do make the team. Merely being in meetings and soaking up some Ubuntu on the practice court should undoubtedly set these two apart at the start of the summer.
2. The legend of Ryan Wittman
Wittman, the son of former NBA head coach and player Randy Wittman, comes with both a pedigree and a growing legend.
The website/Twitter feed "Completely True Facts about Cornell's Ryan Wittman" includes some Chuck Norris-like myths about Wittman, such as: "Ryan Wittman was signed by the Boston Celtics to help show Ray Allen how to shoot a basketball," and, "In a final effort to improve his shooting, LeBron James has asked to have an elbow transplant from Ryan Wittman."
Here's what's undeniably true about Wittman: He averaged 17.5 points per game for Cornell in his senior season, shooting a robust 42.6 percent from beyond the arc. At 6-foot-7, he has nice height for a wing player. If he gets hot in the summer league, it could raise some eyebrows given his family ties.
3. The Semih Erden era begins
While profiling three of Boston's foreign big men on the summer-league roster last week, we touched on Erden's growing lore.
As with most players selected in the back end of the draft, little was expected of Erden, the 60th overall -- and final -- selection of the 2008 draft. Keep in mind that's five spots after a guy like Kris Clack, Boston's not-so-memorable second-round selection from the 1999 draft, who never even signed with the team.
But two years overseas playing in both the Euroleague and in his native Turkey have turned Erden into a bit of a potential savior. With Boston facing a height deficiency, any 7-footer with NBA potential is going to have hype around him. All of which makes Erden possibly the most intriguing player of the summer.
Yet we have really no idea whether Erden can even play at this level. He's sacrificing quality money overseas to give an NBA career a whirl. His stats overseas -- a Darko Milicic-like 6.2 points and 5.4 rebounds per game (and, hey, Darko just got $20 million in Minnesota) -- are not eye-popping. But if Erden can be an efficient backup center who rebounds consistently, there's a chance he could stick here.
Here's a look at the Celtics' summer-league roster:
41 -- Jaycee Carroll -- G -- 6-foot-2 -- 180 pounds -- Utah State
50 -- Semih Erden -- C -- 7-0 -- 240 -- Turkey
27 -- Tony Gaffney -- F -- 6-8 -- 215 -- Massachusetts
45 -- Rodney Green -- G -- 6-5 -- 190 -- La Salle
55 -- Luke Harangody -- F -- 6-8 -- 255 -- Notre Dame
46 -- Matt Janning -- G -- 6-4 -- 198 -- Northeastern
60 -- Vyacheslav Kravtsov -- C -- 7-0 -- 270 -- Ukraine
40 -- Oliver Lafayette -- G -- 6-2 -- 190 -- Houston
58 -- Art Parakhouski -- C -- 6-11 -- 260 -- Radford
47 -- DeShawn Sims -- F -- 6-8 -- 225 -- Michigan
48 -- Ryan Thompson -- G -- 6-6 -- 220 -- Rider
49 -- Ryan Wittman -- F -- 6-7 -- 215 -- Cornell
And here is Boston's five-game schedule (all times ET):
Monday: Boston versus Oklahoma City, 5 p.m.
Tuesday: Boston versus Philadelphia, 5 p.m.
Wednesday: Boston versus Charlotte, 1 p.m.
Thursday: Boston versus Indiana, 3 p.m.
Friday: Boston versus New Jersey, noon
Chris Forsberg covers the Celtics for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.