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Rookies are welcomed additions

Celtics were happy to pick their spots

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Baxter Holmes
Globe Correspondent / July 2, 2008

WALTHAM - The newest additions to the Celtics stood at center court at the team's practice facility yesterday. They held crisp white jerseys and wore crisp green hats and smiled wide for their first pictures as professional athletes.

Beneath them was the team's famous logo and above them were the banners of the championship teams, and there was a new addition in the corner - No. 17 from the Celtics' championship this season.

That banner was introduced yesterday, as were guard J.R. Giddens (the 30th selection in last Thursday's NBA draft), center Semih Erden (60th), and swingman Bill Walker (taken 47th by Washington but acquired by Boston for cash).

Their roads to Boston were certainly unconventional.

Character issues have dogged Giddens since his sophomore season at Kansas; injuries have plagued Walker's career; and Erden didn't figure to get drafted since he didn't work out for any teams and is still under contract overseas.

General manager Danny Ainge said these circumstances played a role in the players being available when it was the Celtics' turn to pick.

"We think these players were drafted lower than what we had them rated," said Ainge. "They all had unique circumstances."

Giddens and Walker share the distinction of being highly touted in high school but neither lived up to those expectations.

After his sophomore year at Kansas, Giddens - a McDonald's All-American in 2003 - was involved in a fight outside a campus-area bar in which he was stabbed in the right calf. He transferred to the University of New Mexico and, after sitting out the 2005-06 season because of NCAA rules, finished his career with the Lobos, averaging 16.3 points and 3.1 assists his senior season.

Yesterday, Giddens said "the past is the past," but he said five years in college have helped him.

"I feel like my body and me being older and the wisdom I have will help me play better at this level," said the 23-year-old Giddens.

Giddens said he believes he can help the defending NBA champions.

"Even though I'm coming to the best team in the world, I still have to have confidence in my game," Giddens said. "I don't think I'd be here if they didn't feel like I could help them."

Walker was as highly touted as any of the players drafted ahead of him. Scout.com and Rivals.com ranked Walker one of the top 10 high school basketball players in the 2007 class, but injuries hindered his career.

He tore his anterior cruciate ligaments - one in each knee - at Kansas State and he suffered a minor knee injury at a predraft workout in June at Golden State.

Walker will undergo surgery today at New England Baptist Hospital and expects to be in rehabilitation for 3-4 weeks.

"Right now I'm going to be around the best trainers, the best strength and conditioning people," Walker said. "I'm already learning things about my body that I hadn't learned before. The health issue is no longer going to be a concern for me."

Ainge said the Celtics had coveted Walker leading up to the draft.

"We were determined to try and get Billy to play in a Boston uniform," Ainge said, adding that the knee injury probably hurt Walker's draft status.

Erden has one year remaining with Fenerbahce Ulker Istanbul in Turkey.

Erden's interpreter said the 7-foot-1-inch center "definitely wants to come to the NBA."

Because of surgery, Walker will miss the team's summer camp that runs today through Saturday.

Ainge said he would consider sending Giddens and Walker overseas depending on what happens in free agency, saying both players have yet to be invited to October's training camp.

In the end, Giddens and Walker fell several draft spots short of where they were projected years ago.

"It kind of hurts your ego," Walker said. "I see all my friends getting picked high and I feel like I've always been at their level or better than them. We'll all have a chance to prove it.

"At training camp, everybody starts at the line. Whoever crosses the finish line is first. That's all that matters."

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