CHICAGO -- Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens reaffirmed what's often been echoed at this week's NBA Draft Combine: The real work is being done behind the scenes as teams conduct private interviews with potential draftees.
"The best part is the interviews," Stevens said Thursday afternoon as the first day of on-court activity concluded at Quest Multisport. Stevens and the Celtics' personnel staff, which included president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, assistant general manager Mike Zarren, director of player personnel Austin Ainge and director of scouting Dave Lewin, were set to race back to a nearby hotel for the second day of player interviews.
"That’s my own personal opinion. You know a lot about these guys as players and we’ve seen them play, I've seen them play in previous years. It’s good to see their growth, a year later. But our staff has seen them play over and over, so the basketball stuff is good, but there’s not as much that’s unknown out here right now. But getting in those rooms and interviewing, I think it’s good, even though you only get 30 minutes."
Without tipping the team's hand on its interview tactics, Stevens said Boston's approach might differ by prospect, but the end goal is the same.
"Each interview is its own, [but] I think what you’re trying to figure out are very similar things," said Stevens. "What makes that person tick? Why do they play the game? How do they see themselves fitting into the NBA?"
Truth be told, the on-court portion was a bit perfunctory, though Boston's personnel staff dutifully observed the entire six-hour morning block as prospects went through basic hoop drills by position. Observers still walked away more disappointed in the fact that the likes of Australian point guard Dante Exum did not partake in the on-court activities than raving about anything they did see.
Stevens noted how it's hard to judge a player on a series of on-court drills when teams have scouted prospects for months or even years in advance of the combine.
"I think we’ve got a pretty accurate assessment on most of these guys, individually, prior to today," said Stevens. "I don’t think you learn a ton. But I think you can glean a few things about different guys and watching their work and seeing if they’ve improved, seeing their bodies as they come in, and conditioning is such a big factor at this time."
The Celtics had private interviews lined up with top attending prospects like Exum and Noah Vonleh (our friends at CelticsBlog compiled a list of all the prospects that had acknowledged pending interviews with Boston).
Stevens apologized as he checked his phone while conducting a media interview at the end of Thursday's activities, then craned his neck looking for Danny Ainge. The Celtics had their first interview of the day approaching and, given the importance of those half-hour sessions, Stevens didn't want to be late.