WALTHAM, Mass. — Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers has been excused from the team’s draft room this year so he can concentrate on more pressing matters.
“He’s heading to New York with Austin,” general manager Danny Ainge said Wednesday, “which is where he should be.”
Rivers has a dual role at this year’s draft: He’s not only helping Ainge figure out what to do with two first-round picks in the NBA draft, he’s also the father of a potential pick. Austin Rivers, a guard at Duke who declared for the draft as a freshman, is projected as a top 10 pick in Thursday night’s draft.
Ainge said Rivers doesn’t seem like a nervous dad.
“He’s in a happy place,” Ainge said at the team’s workout facility. “He’s loose and laid back and playing golf.”
The Celtics will pick 21st, 22nd and 51st in this year’s draft. Because Rivers has watched his son play against many of the prospects in high school and college, the coach probably knows more about this year’s draft class than any other.
But he’ll be offering his opinions by phone.
“It will be just like he’s in the back room here,” Ainge said.
Ainge may be the rare NBA GM who is telling the truth when he says he plans to take the best player available: With only four players under contract — Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley and JaJuan Johnson — “we need everything,” Ainge said.
The Celtics might not be able to get an impact rookie without trading up. But Ainge is hoping he can get lucky with another late pick like Rondo (21st overall), Delonte West (24th) or even Ryan Gomes, who was the 20th pick in the second round before he was traded to Minnesota as part of the deal that brought Kevin Garnett to Boston.
They might also need to replace Garnett, who is a free agent this summer. The Celtics have talked to him about coming back, and Ainge said Garnett appears to be deciding between returning to Boston and retiring.
“We’re having conversations with Kevin, but we don’t have any answers on whether he’s coming back or not,” Ainge said. “I don’t think it will happen quickly.”
Until the former NBA MVP decides, the Celtics are on hold. Teams cannot discuss contracts with free agents until Sunday, but Garnett is an exception because he is eligible for an extension.
“The sooner we get Kevin done, the better it will be for us, and the sooner we have an idea of the direction we need to go,” Ainge said, adding quickly: “We don’t want to rush him. We don’t want to pressure him. You guys know Kevin.”
Guard Mickael Pietrus, who was working out at the facility on Wednesday, said he has been in touch with Garnett but mostly talked about the Euro 2012 soccer tournament. They have a bet on the outcome: Garnett picked Germany, and Pietrus has Spain.
“We just talk about soccer right now because I don’t want to get into his business,” said Pietrus, who is also a free agent. “Hopefully, I’ll collect my bet on Sunday when he comes here to sign his new contract.”
Ray Allen is also a free agent. He has attracted interest from the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers, among other teams, and Ainge would also like to have him back.
“I think Ray’s open to coming back,” Ainge said. “I have a feel of where his head is.”