Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge told reporters Thursday night he never spoke with Josh Jackson in advance of the NBA draft and that a cancelled workout indicated he didn't want to play for the reigning Atlantic Division champions.
"Never talked with Josh," Ainge said, according to MassLive.com. "No one in our organization did. They cancelled a workout on us when we flew out to Sacramento, and they just decided to cancel it. It was Brad [Stevens] and I and [assistant general manager] Mike Zarren flew cross country. So there was something that he didn't want to play for the Celtics.
"We try not to overreact to those kinds of things and make a big deal of it. You know, agents and players have all sorts of motivations to get to certain places, as we've seen in the past. You remember last year Kris Dunn didn't want to come here. We didn't hold it against him."
Ainge's complete comments can be viewed below:
A week before the draft, ESPN.com's Chad Ford cited conversations with league sources that indicated Jackson's camp didn't want to pursue a future with the Celtics because his path to playing time wouldn't be as direct compared to other top-five destinations.
That hard-line approach paid off, and it landed Jackson with the Phoenix Suns at No. 4 overall. The Celtics, on the other hand, pivoted to former Duke forward Jayson Tatum one pick earlier.
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"We would have picked Jayson with the first pick," Ainge said, according to the team's official Twitter account. "We felt the draft was very even at the top."
"We like his size, length, rebounding, shooting, his character," he added. "There's a lot to like about Jayson. He's a terrific player."
A starting gig may not be in the cards for Tatum right off the bat, but polished scoring prowess should allow him to carve out a role off the bench alongside 2016 No. 3 overall pick Jaylen Brown.