WALTHAM, Mass. – If you forgot about Colton Iverson, it’s OK.
Iverson was the player the Boston Celtics bought their way into the second round to pick in the 2013 NBA draft, shortly after their first-round machinations netted them Kelly Olynyk. The two 7-footers were Danny Ainge’s first draft haul of the post-Doc Rivers era.
If we were to issue draft grades, Ainge’s 2013 report card would read, “Incomplete.”
Olynyk survived his up-and-down season with the Celtics while Iverson was broken in overseas, playing with Besiktas of the Turkish Basketball League. Iverson is back in the States again, rejoining the Celtics’ summer league team for next week’s tournament in Orlando, Fla. He and 12 other players participated in their first summer league practice Tuesday at the Celtics’ practice facility.
As far as second first impressions go, the 7-foot, 255-pound center left a big one on draft mate Olynyk.
“He didn’t get any smaller,” Olynyk marveled Tuesday.
Although Iverson went abroad before the regular season started, he was not forgotten around the Celtics’ offices. Celtics assistant Jay Larranaga, who returns as the team’s summer league coach, got a gleam in his eye talking about the Colorado State product.
“I thought Colton had a really good summer last year,” Larranaga said. “Everybody really took to him. He plays with incredible intensity and physicality and he’s continued to show that. We’re excited to have him for another summer and help him continue to develop.”
Iverson looks trimmer than he did last offseason. That could be because different rules in the European game all but eliminate low-post play, forcing Iverson to become more mobile and adept in mid-range. He noted the strides he had made with his footwork in the last year.
Iverson still has his trademark nastiness in the post, though, which is why he believes this could be the year he achieves his dream of playing in the NBA.
“I knew when I got drafted last year, there was a pretty good chance I’d have to go overseas,” Iverson said. “So I was here working, trying to impress and doing everything possible to make the team, but I knew there was a slim chance, just with their roster.
“This year, I think there’s a little bit better chance and I know the opportunity is all mine to take. If I just come out and show what I can do in the summer league, it’ll really help. I’m just coming along with a different mindset that it’s mine for the taking and it’s all up to me.”
From a purely basketball standpoint, Iverson might be one of the top big men under the Celtics’ control at the moment. But they have close to $6 million combined committed to Joel Anthony and Vitor Faverani for the coming season and three power forwards — Olynyk, Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger — who took minutes at the five last season.
There is no doubting the affection for Iverson on the part of the Celtics. Teammates and coaches still speak glowingly of his tenacity, which they hope to see more of in Orlando — and which Iverson promises to deliver. If he ends up hearing disappointing news again this fall, it won’t be because he didn’t leave it all on the court.