WALTHAM, Mass. (AP) — The Boston Celtics have a No. 1 seed and the No. 1 pick.
And Danny Ainge is enjoying them both.
“It’s two completely different situations,” the Boston basketball boss said Tuesday night after the team won the NBA draft lottery. “One is a lot about the future, and one is in the present. This team is a lot of fun to be around this year.”
Less than 24 hours after a Game 7 victory that put them in the Eastern Conference finals, the Celtics earned the right to choose first in next month’s draft with the pick they received in the 2013 trade that sent Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets.
Owner Wyc Grousbeck was the lucky charm for a team that, despite its shamrock logo, hasn’t had such good fortune in the lottery. After having the best odds for the No. 1 pick in 1997, Boston missed out on the chance to get Tim Duncan; in 1986, the Celtics landed the No. 2 overall pick and used it on Len Bias, who died two days later of a cocaine overdose.
But now the Celtics, who will open the conference finals against Cleveland on Wednesday night, can enjoy things while also looking forward to the future.
“It’s busy,” Grousbeck said. “Game last night, Game 7, a tough Washington team. Game tomorrow against a tough Cleveland team. And now we squeeze in the lottery and win the pick. I don’t know what’s happening here. It’s pretty amazing.”
The Celtics had a 25 percent chance to get the top pick, thanks to Brooklyn finishing with the worst record in the league. Boston also got the Nets’ first-round picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018.
“And look what I leave behind for the Celts on my way out #1 pick,” Pierce wrote on Twitter, following by some celebratory emojis.
The Los Angeles Lakers got the second pick, and the Philadelphia 76ers will select third in the June 22 draft at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The draft is considered a strong one, loaded with point guards such as Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball and De’Aaron Fox.
“We have plenty of time to decide what to do, but I would imagine we’ll make the pick,” Grousbeck said. “In this day’s NBA, picks are very, very valuable. You’ve got a young person you can help mold and grow with. Bring him in before the max salaries kick in years later. Makes a lot of sense to keep these picks.”
Ainge said the lottery victory, coupled with the team’s playoff run, vindicates his decision to hold onto the pick rather than use it as a bargaining chip at the trade deadline.
“Sometimes you need to be patient. It’s hard for me to be patient. I like action,” he said. “It was hard, because it’s very tempting. A lot of people want the picks. We just didn’t think we were getting the value for it.”
AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney in New York contributed to this report.