BOSTON -- Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Kansas forward Josh Jackson canceled a workout recently after Boston brass traveled cross-country to see him and said the team never talked with Jackson in advance of the draft Thursday.
The Celtics selected Duke's Jayson Tatum with the No. 3 pick, and Jackson went one spot later to the Phoenix Suns. Ainge vented a bit after the draft when asked if there was any truth to a rumored clandestine late-night workout with Jackson this week in Boston.
"Never talked with Josh. No one in our organization did," Ainge said. "They canceled a workout on us when we flew out to Sacramento, and they just decided to cancel it as we flew -- just [coach] Brad [Stevens] and I and [assistant general manager] Mike Zarren flew cross-country.
"So there was something that he didn't want to play for the Celtics. In spite of that, we've watched Josh for two years and we're fans. He's a terrific kid and a good player. So we tried not to overreact to those kinds of things and make a big deal of it.
"Agents and players have all sorts of motivations to get to certain places, as we've seen in the past. Remember last year, Kris Dunn didn't want to come here; we didn't hold it against him. We felt like we were just taking the player that we wanted [in Jaylen Brown last year]. And I think the same thing this time. I don't think we were trying to penalize Josh too much, but we didn't get to see him or talk to him face-to-face."
Pressed on if the cancellation left Boston considering passing entirely on Jackson, Ainge said he tried to remain calm about the situation.
"No. No. no. Well, there were thoughts, yeah, I was mad," Ainge said. "We flew cross-country. Are you kidding me? I had to get up at 4 o'clock and fly back home."
Zarren then chimed in about how the Celtics' contingent simply went to bed after arriving in Sacramento then got up early for the flight home.
Ainge, who played for the Sacramento Kings during his playing days, quipped, "There's nothing to do in Sacramento." After some laughs from the media, Ainge added, "That could get me in trouble there."
After his selection by the Suns, Jackson said he regretted "maybe a little bit" the decision to not work out for the Celtics, quickly adding he was "happy, glad to be a Phoenix Sun."
Ainge said the Celtics would have picked Tatum with the first pick if they had stayed in that spot before moving down to No. 3 in a trade earlier this week with the Philadelphia 76ers. Ainge gushed about both Tatum's scoring potential and his versatility on the defensive end.
"We liked his size and length and rebounding and shooting. [His] Intelligence [and] character," Ainge said. "There's a lot to like about Jayson. He's going to be a terrific player."
Asked about trade rumors, including whispers that the Celtics were pursuing New York Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis, Ainge said, "I don't comment on trade rumors. I will say this: It was a little blown out of proportion, but I'll just leave it at that. A lot more talk by [the media]."
Ainge also admitted that some trade talks could be rekindled in July and said, "We anticipate being very active and continuing to try to improve our roster."