ORLANDO -- For 60 selections, he waited for his phone to ring, and even when last month's NBA draft ended, Phil Pressey was certain that call would come.
Pressey knew there was a very real chance he wouldn't be picked when he elected to forgo his senior season at Missouri in April to enter the draft. But given his connection to the Boston Celtics' franchise and a strong pre-draft workout in Boston in late May, he remained confident he'd have at least one opportunity to earn an NBA job.
Sure enough, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge phoned moments after the draft with an invite to join Boston's summer league squad in Orlando.
"I talked to Danny Ainge [after the draft], who said they were really into bigs in this draft, and they couldn't get another pick," Pressey said. Boston traded up to the 13th pick to select 7-foot forward Kelly Olynyk, then bought a second-round pick to land 7-footer Colton Iverson.
Generously listed at 5-foot-11, Pressey is a high-energy playmaker who compensates for his lack of size with defensive tenacity. His father, Paul, served on Doc Rivers' staff from 2004-07 and Pressey spent his early high school years in the Boston area when the family lived in Waltham, Mass.
Now, Pressey hopes the summer league will be his ticket back to the region. The Celtics are thin on backup ball handlers, which was made obvious last season after Rajon Rondo's season-ending ACL tear, and Pressey would provide a low-cost option with plenty of upside.
During Tuesday's 93-63 throttling of the Detroit Pistons, Pressey started at the point and finished with 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting with four assists over 25 minutes.
"Right when I got the job, I sent a text message out that night, and [Pressey] called me within a minute after I sent him a text," new Celtics coach Brad Stevens said.
"I like Phil. There are some things that Phil can certainly get better at. He will; he will work hard to do it."
Let's start with the positives: Pressey is a pass-first guard whose speed helps create cracks in the opposing defense and allows him to get out front in transition. He's also supremely confident in his abilities, as his bold decision to leave Missouri showed.
Pressey felt he had an excellent workout in Boston against some other top guard prospects (including Miami's Shane Larkin, who went 18th in the draft, and Baylor's Pierre Jackson, who went 42nd). His relationship with Ainge dates back to the days he'd visit the HealthPoint gymnasium with his father, and Pressey confidently boasts now, "Danny Ainge loves the way I play. He just wants me to go out there and do what I did in college."
The negatives? Pressey knows he has to limit his turnovers after giving the ball away nine times in the first two games of summer league. The disorganized nature and patchwork rosters haven't helped his cause, but Pressey knows he's been too erratic thus far.
Heck, one no-look pass caromed off this reporter's laptop on press row on Sunday (to be fair, we were wide open), and Pressey understands that better ball security could increase his job security.
"All of this is new to a lot of these players out here; the speed of the game is a lot faster, guys are a lot faster and a lot more athletic. It's going to take a game or two to really get adjusted to this," Pressey said. "Just playing more and getting a more comfortable feel for the NBA style is only going to help me out."
Pressey played NBA-caliber defense on Monday, making things tough on Pistons second-round draftee Peyton Siva, which helped Boston open a 21-point lead early on and cruise to a 30-point triumph. Despite being undersized, Pressey has the speed to harass most ball handlers.
Assistant coach Jay Larranaga, who is running the summer league squad and led the Celtics' pre-draft workouts, wants to see Pressey find more consistency.
"He's shown me what I saw [during his pre-draft visit] and I really liked his workout," Larranaga said. "He competes, he's athletic, he defends, he creates for his teammates, he can make shots. Those young guys, you have to become more consistent in all that, you have to stay disciplined and learn NBA defensive rules and flow of the NBA game. But I think he's playing really well.
"Phil's going to compete, there's no question about that. I think he has the size and speed and toughness to compete with a lot of the guards in the NBA. But that is a question that people will have -- if he can show it on a daily basis. He plays with a little bit of a chip on his shoulder, and it's fun to watch."
The Celtics have made no promises to Pressey beyond summer league and, with a roster that will be at overflow capacity once a pending trade with the Brooklyn Nets is consummated later this month, roster spots could be at a premium.
But Boston could sure use a guy like Pressey, and he's hoping to force the issue. It would seem likely that, if he's still available, Pressey would be a prime candidate to compete for a guaranteed roster spot at training camp in late September.
"[Summer league is] a great opportunity for me to show what I can do," Pressey said. "I like my chances" to eventually make the roster.