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Celtics aren't getting their hopes up

The Celtics are once again going the understated route on draft night. No big gatherings at the team's practice facility in Waltham. No parading of ex-Celtics in front of eager, star-struck season-ticket holders.

Nope, whatever drama does unfold Thursday night will do so in the team's offices at TD Garden. This is a repeat of 2010, when the Celtics went into the draft hoping to trade their pick and ended up taking Avery Bradley at No. 19 because -- wait! -- they couldn't believe he was still on the board!

That's their story and they're sticking to it.

This year, if possible, provides even less anticipation and buzz than 2010, especially with a lockout looming July 1. The Celtics are scheduled to draft at No. 25, which represents the third-lowest "first pick" of the Danny Ainge regime. The 2011 draft class is thought to be the weakest in years. The possible No. 1 pick -- Kyrie Irving -- played one season of college ball and was hurt for most of it.

But here's the history with Ainge. He has shown that a pick in the 20s is right in his wheelhouse. And history has shown us that there is still plenty of NBA-ready talent on the board in the 20s, if a team is shrewd enough to find it.

Ainge has been almost uncanny in picking in the 20s. He's had four of them and all four are still in the NBA, starting with the most successful of them all, Rajon Rondo, who was the 21st pick in 2006 via a trade with Phoenix.

Other picks in the 20s: Kendrick Perkins (27) in 2003 and Delonte West (24) and Tony Allen (25) in 2004. Two of those three have championship rings from 2008, and West was part of the deal that brought in Ray Allen.

"When you're drafting where we're drafting -- I'm not trying to put a negative spin on this, I'm trying to be realistic -- the 25th pick in the draft is probably not going to help us immediately,'' Ainge said Wednesday. "But there are some players that we think can fit our roster, fit into the personality of our team and have a work ethic that can make our team better in practice and add depth to our roster."

Year after year, there is undeniable value in the 20s. Kevin Martin of the Rockets was the 26th pick in 2004 (right after West and Allen). Roddy Beaubois of the Mavericks was the 25th pick in 2009 (and you would know a lot more about him had he not been injured for the NBA Finals). Serge Ibaka, Nicolas Batum, George Hill and Darrell Arthur went 24-27 in 2008 and all four of them are contributors on their respective NBA teams.

Ainge and his henchmen are thought to be eyeing a number of big men to replace the retired/traded/defected Shaq, Perk, Semih Erden and Nenad Krstic.

"If size is available at the 25th pick, I don't know if that's a good sign or a bad sign. But sometimes you can get lucky,'' Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Wednesday. "Danny, I've said it for years, if there's a guy there at that spot that can play, he'll find him.

"[Ainge] knows what I want, the type of player, and we do talk. But listen, Danny watches these guys all year. He goes to practices. He watches them on film. I've always said: As a coach, you don't want to come in and mess it up [just] because you've seen a guy 3-on-3 one time and you fall in love with him. I give my opinions, but I trust his guidance."

The only clunker Ainge made late in the first round came in 2008, when he selected J.R. Giddens with the final pick, 30th overall. That one just didn't work out. Giddens did some time in the D-League, was traded to the Knicks and then played briefly overseas last season. His entire Celtics career consisted of 106 minutes.

But Giddens was drafted onto a defending NBA champion with little hope of cracking the rotation. Perkins, drafted out of high school, waited a couple years before he played regularly. West, Allen and Rondo joined bad teams and got early quality time.

"We want good players and all the things factor in,'' Ainge said. "Sometimes we're looking to add more character, more toughness, more shooting, better ball-handling, better decision-making, better upside. All of those things, realistically, come into play every time we draft. [But] rarely do you see all those characteristics in one player; if they all did, then his name is Michael Jordan.

"Those are all factors that we consider. We're looking for some good people. Every team that we have is different. This year I think that we'll be able to add some good pieces to our team, but it doesn't have to be starters. We're not adding any starters, we'll add some good role players, hopefully."

Longtime Celtics reporter Peter May is a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com.