Including Paul Pierce, Jermaine O’Neal and Nate Robinson, who all inked new contracts last week, you’re probably looking at about seven. That means the Celtics still have a lot of work to do, and it makes you wonder, will Luke Harangody make the team?
A few weeks ago, you might have thought it was a longshot. Harangody was buried at the bottom of this summer’s draft class, selected No. 52 overall by the Celtics out of Notre Dame, and that didn’t bode well for his future in the NBA. The last five No. 52 picks before Harangody went by the names of Axel Hervelle, Guillermo Diaz, Taurean Green, Darnell Jackson and A.J. Price, and you haven’t seen any of those guys logging major minutes in an NBA arena lately. Harangody’s chances didn’t look much better.
But if you doubted the fight in this four-year member of the Fighting Irish, you probably had to eat your words once you saw the performance he put up down in Orlando in his first week of summer league action. Harangody was a beast in the middle for the Celtics, leading the way for the ragtag group of youngsters in green. He made a big statement with his first taste of NBA action.
Yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking. It’s only summer league. The game’s don’t mean a bloody thing, and the players generally don’t need it to polish their resumes. For a star like John Wall, a game in July is meaningless — we already know what he’s capable of, summer league success or not.
But for a guy like Harangody, July is an opportunity to prove that he belongs with the big boys in the NBA.
And given his chance, Harangody sure proved it.
The beefy power forward averaged 16.6 points and 6.8 rebounds in his five games down in Orlando, leading the Celtics’ summer squad in both categories by a country mile. With the Celtics’ other draft pick, Avery Bradley, sidelined by a sprained ankle, it was up to Harangody to be the star of the summer, and he delivered. Harangody produced numbers that put lottery picks Derrick Favors, Evan Turner and Gordon Hayward to shame. No. 52 is starting to look like a steal.
Summer league numbers don’t mean everything, but they do mean enough for Danny Ainge and the Celtics to take a flyer on Harangody as the 12th man off the bench for Doc Rivers this winter. That much, he’s earned.
And given the Celtics’ current roster, we just might see Harangody play a few minutes here and there this season.
Kendrick Perkins will be out for a long while with torn ligaments in his knee. Jermaine O’Neal thus moves into the starting lineup, and Glen Davis is the one reliable big man guaranteed to come off the bench. Shelden Williams is off to Denver, Brian Scalabrine remains a free agent and Rasheed Wallace has at least one foot out the door. The C’s are too far over the cap to consider any more outside hires. If they need another big, and they do, it appears that Harangody would be their guy.
We’ve seen before with this Celtics team that injuries have a way of opening doors for others. One man’s setback becomes another’s opportunity. When Davis broke his thumb at the beginning of last season for example, Williams saw plenty of playing time in the fall. When Kevin Garnett missed the 2009 postseason, a bulk of his minutes fell to Davis and Leon Powe.
With Perk sidelined, the future is unclear. But it looks like a safe bet that not only will Harangody make the team, but he’ll see a decent chunk of minutes thrown his way over the first couple months of his NBA career.
NESN.com will answer one Celtics question every day in July.
Monday, July 19: Will Avery Bradley be an impact player?
Wednesday, July 21: Are the Lakers still the team to beat?