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Danny Ainge Explains Interest in JaVale McGee

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Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge likes JaVale McGee's game. Barry Chin/Globe Staff

UPDATE, 2:29 p.m. The Celtics could not reach an agreement with JaVale McGee, according to a tweet from the Boston Herald's Steve Bulpett.


The Celtics have signed a few reclamation projects in the midst of rebuilding during the past couple seasons. Free agent center JaVale McGee appears to be on the verge of joining that list.

ESPN's Jeff Goodman was first to report on Thursday that the Celtics are close to agreeing to terms with the seven-footer on a deal that lasts through next season. Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge appeared on 98.5 The Sports Hub's Toucher and Rich program shortly after the Goodman report surfaced and confirmed the two sides were close to a deal.

"I probably shouldnít touch on that yet since itís still in the works, but that report is accurate," Ainge said.

While Ainge wouldn't go into specifics on the signing, he did touch on McGee as a player and what he hopes to see from him in Boston.

"Javale is a long, athletic guy," Ainge said when asked for a scouting report on McGee. "We donít have that type of player. Above the rim, heís an offensive and defensive player. Heís been paid a lot of money in our league. Heís had some injuries, but he hasnít lived up to his potential yet. Weíre hoping that he can under Bradís tutelage. I think heís in a good place emotionally and mentally. I think he really wants to get his career on the right path."

Ainge also had some interesting remarks on why McGee has struggled for consistency throughout his seven-year career thus far.

"I think that JaVale being a young kid coming in out of college, thereís a lot of growing pains with a lot of young kids," Ainge said. "They donít go about it right, they donít go about their careers correctly. They are into the NBA lifestyle, as opposed to being a pro, and working, and trying to improve yourself, and have a long lasting career. Iím not sure whatís gone on with JaVale and why he hasnít reached his potential. I know he has a lot of potential, and I do think coaching personalities, team philosophies, team style of play and opportunity are usually what it takes for young kids to succeed."

McGee, 27, was traded from the Denver Nuggets to the Philadelphia 76ers at the trade deadline a couple weeks ago, with the Nuggets having to include a future first-round pick in the deal as incentive for the Sixers to take on his $11.7 million salary for this season.

The big man has been hampered by injuries during the last two years, including a lengthy recovery period from a broken left leg. Overall, he's played just 28 combined games in the past two seasons, making the sizable four-year, $44 million contract he signed back in 2011, an albatross.

The Sixers waived McGee on March 1, despite owing him $12 million in salary for next season, the final year of his deal. He cleared waivers earlier this week, which allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent. McGee will still receive a large percentage of his sizable $12 million salary from the Sixers after being bought out, so it's likely the Celtics will only have to pay him the league minimum, or slightly above it upon signing him.

McGee is averaging 8.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per contest over 382 career games. He's averaged just 4.6 points per game in 23 games this year for Philadelphia and Denver.

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