BOSTON (CBS) — Aaron Gordon was back in Boston on Thursday, but this time it was a business trip.
Gordon, who has been linked to the Celtics with the sixth overall pick in recent reports, was in town last month for his sister’s graduation from Harvard University. He was seen on the Red Line catching a few Z’s, with a basketball in hand, and a photo of his nap soon went viral, leading to speculation that he was in town to meet with the Celtics’ brass.
Gordon said he was on his way to dinner with his family that night, and he did not talk to the Celtics until recently (that photo is also his Twitter picture, just to show you his sense of humor). But on Thursday, he finally got the chance to show the team his game in person, as the 6-9 forward worked out with a handful of other draft hopefuls at the team’s practice facilities in Waltham.
When asked about the reports that say the Celtics are eyeing him early in the first round, Gordon said he hopes those rumors are true.
“I’m excited. We’ll see. June 26th — a lot of things are going to happen from now until then, and even on that day,” he said, already with a firm grasp that anything can happen on draft night. “But I’d be happy. Really, I’m just excited to be drafted anywhere.”
The Arizona product, who is the youngest prospect in this year’s draft class, said he had a good workout alongside Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Syracuse’s C.J Fair and Jerami Grant. He was known in the college game as a freakishly athletic forward with a solid defensive game, but one who still doesn’t have much polish on the offensive end of the floor. Gordon said he hopes he dismissed some of those preconceptions on Thursday while showing off the other intangibles that have him projected to be a high lottery pick.
“I can shoot free throws better. I can do that now,” he joked, being a 42-percent free throw shooter in his one collegiate season. “And just to re-establish what has gotten me to today; athleticism, defense, intangibles and being a high-character guy. Everything else, shooting is coming along really well.”
With school now a thing of the past, Gordon said he has more time to focus on his output on the offensive end, mainly his jump shot.
“Just little tweaks to it and understanding how to shoot. Once you understand how to shoot and what you need to do, you can self-coach and then it’s repetition,” he said. “You can shoot a million shots but if you’re shooting it the wrong way you’re never going to get better. I think I know how to shoot the right way and now I’m just adding on.”
When asked what his best assets are on the floor, Gordon was quick to respond with “versatility” and “defense.” Gordon’s versatility has a few teams wondering where he’ll fit in on the floor, either at the four or on the wing, but he says teams shouldn’t be concerned at all.
“Teams get this misconception that I’m caught up at a position. I’m not caught up on a position, I’ll come in and play any position you want me to play and guard any position you want me to play,” said Gordon.
Celtics director of player personnel Austin Ainge said following the workout that he thinks Gordon could play anywhere on the floor.
“I think he’ll be able to guard almost every position on the court, and that’s really his strength,” said Ainge. “I think he’ll be able to do some things like guard point guards, then switch onto the bigs in pick-and-rolls and do some creative things like that, because he’s very versatile and athletic for his size.”
Gordon is also praised for having a high basketball IQ, which he says comes from his early days as a point guard.
“When I was younger I played point guard, and you have to be really smart to play point guard. Then it’s just stuck with me, wherever I was on the court,” he said. “Being a teammate, that’s part of having a basketball IQ, knowing how to kind of tug at people’s emotions to get the best out of them, knowing where to be on the floor and knowing what the coach is going to say and maybe getting a jump on it. Being at the right place at the right time, it helps.”
With his smarts on the floor and versatility all around it, it should come as no surprise that Gordon’s favorite player growing up was Magic Johnson.
“I loved how he could control the game, and he broke the foundation of what basketball is really about; that the guards have to be little and the bigs have to be big,” said Gordon. “I like how creative he was and he brought a lot of flash to the game.”
The Celtics were the fourth team Gordon has worked out for, along with the Lakers, Kings and Jazz, and he has one more scheduled with the Orlando Magic. After that, he’ll play it by ear and see if any other teams want a closer look ahead of the June 26th draft.
But a confident Gordon already knows what he’ll bring to any team who drafts him.
“I’ll come in and brings wins,” he said confidently.
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