Giddens and Walker may help champs in first year
BOSTON -- An athletic guard with a troubled past and a physical forward with a history of knee problems are the newest players the Boston Celtics hope will help them. The chances seem slim that J.R. Giddens or Bill Walker will do that as rookies on a championship team.
Don't rule it out, though -- not with the success general manager Danny Ainge has had in his six drafts with the Celtics.
"He's the hardest-working guy in the business," coach Doc Rivers said after Thursday night's draft. "He goes to games. He goes to practices. He misses tons of our games to do that. So Danny did his job throughout the playoffs and was very prepared for this."
Ainge became executive director of basketball operations in May 2003 after the Celtics were swept by New Jersey in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
In that year's draft, he obtained the rights to Kendrick Perkins, who had been taken by Memphis. In 2004, he drafted Al Jefferson, Delonte West and Tony Allen in the first round. The next year brought Gerald Green in the first round and Ryan Gomes in the second. In 2006, he acquired the draft rights to Rajon Rondo from Phoenix and Leon Powe from Denver.
Last year he took Jeff Green of Georgetown with the fifth pick, then sent Green to Seattle in a deal that brought Ray Allen and the draft rights to Glen Davis. And Rivers thinks guard Gabe Pruitt, last year's second-round pick, should contribute next season.
"We've done a nice job, Danny really more than me," Rivers said. "The thing I love about Danny -- I've said this for three years now -- he knows the system that I run. He knows what I like to do on offense. He knows what I like to do on defense. And he goes out and tries to find the best player to fit that and not just the best player available.
"I think that's why we've been pretty successful in the draft."
When the Celtics -- with the second worst record in the NBA in 2006-07 -- got only the fifth pick in the lottery last year, Ainge focused more on using his young players to add veteran stars rather than waiting for them to work together.
West went to Seattle in the trade for Ray Allen on draft night. Jefferson, Gomes and Green were part of the package that delivered Kevin Garnett on July 31.
Allen and Garnett, together with Paul Pierce, Rondo, Perkins and a strong bench, delivered the Celtics' 17th championship and their first since 1986.
The Celtics drafted the 6-foot-5 Giddens from New Mexico with the 30th and final pick of the first round. They obtained the draft rights to the 6-foot-6 Walker of Kansas State in exchange for cash after he was chosen with the 47th pick by Washington.
Both face big obstacles in trying to make an impact as rookies, especially since Rivers said he'd like to bring all his players back. James Posey is expected to opt out of his contract, but could re-sign, and Eddie House, Tony Allen, Scot Pollard, P.J. Brown and Sam Cassell can be free agents. Brown is leaning toward retirement.
"The best guy's going to win the job," Rivers said. "If Giddens comes in (and) he plays well, he'll probably play for us."
Giddens is a strong defender with good offensive skills. But he's had behavioral problems.
In May 2005, he was stabbed in a bar fight after his second season with Kansas, and pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor battery charge. Then he transferred to New Mexico, where he was suspended twice in his first season there. But the Celtics are optimistic that he matured under new coach Steve Alford last season.
"I'm confident that he's a good kid," Ainge said. "The team we have will make him better. He's not as mature as I would like to see, and he's not as disciplined as our guys are, but they will help him to achieve both things."
Giddens feels he's grown in recent years.
"I was just a young guy, immature, made some bad decisions," he said. "Now that I'm older, I feel I can do a lot better."
Waker was sidelined after just six games of his freshman season with a torn ligament in his left knee. In a workout this month with the Golden State Warriors, he had a right knee injury that will require surgery. It's expected to keep him sidelined for three weeks.
"He can be the player he has been with the right treatment," Ainge said. "A couple of years ago, he was mentioned in the same breath with the same kids who are in the lottery now."
Boston's other pick Thursday night, center 6-foot-11 Semih Erden, is signed for next season with his team in Turkey. That would give him a year to develop and improve the slim chance he has of ever playing for the Celtics. He was drafted with the 60th and final pick.
(Copyright (c) 2008 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)