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Brewer, Thornton are impressive

Workout pleases the Celtics' brass

WALTHAM -- The usual pablum followed the first predraft workout at the Celtics' practice facility yesterday.

Suffice to say, executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge and coach Doc Rivers liked what they saw from Florida forward Corey Brewer and Florida State forward Al Thornton.

Rivers praised the "great instincts" shown by Brewer. Meanwhile, the players enjoyed the competitive atmosphere.

"I felt really good about this workout," said Brewer, who along with Thornton worked out for the Sacramento Kings Tuesday in Orlando, Fla. "This one was more competitive. We did more two-on-two, one-on-one stuff. I wanted to show that I can score a little bit and that I play hard all the time. I'd rather have it more competitive. That's my personality."

Added Thornton: "I know Corey is not going to back down. He's going to bring it. It's going to be fun and it's going to be very competitive [playing against him]. He's a Florida guy, so you know it's going to be competitive."

The Celtics also sized up Russian forward Nikita Shabalkin and South Carolina forward Brandon Wallace. Florida's Joakim Noah and North Carolina's Brandan Wright are scheduled for workouts next week, and the Celtics' brass will travel to see Georgetown junior Jeff Green in the near future. Add Yi Jianlian to the group of players the Celtics are focused on for the No. 5 pick in the NBA draft June 28. Ainge said yesterday the team has narrowed its list to six players.

Ainge and Rivers traveled to Los Angeles Wednesday to watch a workout featuring Yi. According to Ainge, the Celtics have seen Yi play more than a dozen times for either his Chinese pro team or the Chinese national team. Watching Yi run through predetermined drills was far from ideal, prompting Ainge to joke about the workout.

"It was a good workout, Yi against a chair or a coach," said Ainge. "That's how some of those workouts are beautiful. The chair played good defense a couple times . . . I saw Yi play three times at the end of the season this year and I've studied almost every game he's played that we have tape of, so I feel like I have a good feel for him."

Yi is not the only prospect placing restrictions on how and where workouts take place. Count Kansas's Julian Wright and Brandan Wright among those ranks, too.

"Different agents have different philosophies of this whole process," said Ainge. "We have some ideas of what we'd like to see in a workout and how we'd like to structure them, but the agents don't see things that way. We've got to go see Jeff Green, which is understandable. He's still very seriously considering going back to school and doesn't want to incur the expenses. Yi's agent doesn't think it's in his best interest to go against other players. Brandan Wright really doesn't want to go against other players. Julian Wright doesn't want to play against other players.

"I don't know who's driving those things. I think there's a difference of what you have to gain and lose. It's business decisions. Some agents have had great success not working out against other players. Some feel there's a need to do it."

Brewer and Thornton seemed unafraid of competing against each other. At one point, the Florida-Florida State rivals dived headlong after a loose ball in the corner. Brewer and Thornton thought competitiveness during the workouts brought out their best basketball, though Thornton wished he shot better. Thornton had a tough task facing a top defender such as Brewer.

"I take a lot of pride in my defense," said Brewer, who models his play after Detroit's Tayshaun Prince and Dallas's Josh Howard. "That's what's gotten me to where I am today, to have a chance to actually get drafted this high. If you want to play, you've got to learn to do something. When I was a freshman in high school, I wanted to play and my coach was always stressing defense. I knew the only way I was going to get on the court was if I played defense."

Rivers said strong defense will lead to playing time, though he recognizes the difference between the college level and the NBA level.

"I would prefer a guy that can help me now," said Rivers. "I keep hearing that potential, upside word. I'd take the guy that can help me now. We would love a guy that can walk on the floor and help us now, but there might be a guy out there that we see and say, 'You know what, it's worth waiting.' And that may happen."

Shira Springer can be reached at springer@globe.com.

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