|Celtics draft choice Lester Hudson drives past Utah’s Jimmy Baron in an Orlando Summer Pro League game Monday. (Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press)|
Point made by Hudson
Draftee: I’m not just a scorer
ORLANDO, Fla. - NBA executives have not blazed a trail to the Northwest corner of Tennessee to scout talent. If they were going to Tennessee, they usually would stick around Knoxville, Nashville, or Memphis.
The University of Tennessee at Martin, besides being relatively inaccessible, had not produced a player for the draft before the Celtics selected Lester Hudson two weeks ago.
But Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge found his way to UT-Martin two years ago, checking out Hudson, who was then a 23-year-old playing his first year in NCAA Division 1. And Ainge recalled that visit when the Celtics’ turn came at No. 58 in the draft.
“He was amazing,’’ Ainge said of viewing Hud son during the 2007-08 season. “He did everything. I don’t remember the exact stats, but he did everything.’’
And that might have been an understatement - Hudson was involved in everything, and more. That season, Hudson led UT-Martin in assists (4.5), blocked shots (22), rebounds (259), scoring (25.7 ppg), and steals (94).
“No, it wasn’t a one-man team,’’ Hudson said of his ’07-08 performance. “I’m very active on both ends of the court. I like to compete on both ends. I like to score, I get in the passing lanes. I like to lift my team up, I come off the bench with great energy and lift my team, whether we’re up or down.’’
Last year, Hudson averaged 27.5 points per game, second in NCAA Division 1. But with the Celtics’ team in the Summer Pro League, Hudson is not expected to do quite as many things, nor be the go-to shooter. If the Celtics keep Hudson this season, he will be a point guard. And, all those numbers of the last two seasons have only placed him in a position of having to explain that he is not just a free-lance shooter.
“A lot of people didn’t know I can play defense,’’ Hudson said. “My coach tried to keep me from playing hard defense because I would get in foul trouble.’’
The 6-foot-3-inch Hudson had 9 points in an eight-minute first-half stint on the opening day of the Summer League Monday, an 87-56 win over Utah, finishing with 11 points.
In an 85-82 loss to Orlando yesterday, Hudson struggled with his shooting (2 for 6), missing three 3-pointers.
But Hudson has appeared comfortable at point guard, able to use either hand, and also able to play a complementary role. Hudson has been relieving Gabe Pruitt, but he also has been paired with Pruitt in the backcourt.
“It was great,’’ Hudson said of playing time so far. “You’ve got great guys around. I always love to see people score, get guys involved in the offense.’’
As for setting up teammates rather than firing away at will, Hudson said, “Everybody thinks it will be a problem, but I don’t think it is - it’s basketball. You’re playing and you have the ball in your hands and you try to make plays for others, so I think I can do that. I averaged 4.5 assists in college.
“It’s natural; people don’t know because they think I’m just a scorer. I put the ball in both hands, but you’ve got to work on it.
“I want to be better than the other guy, so I work on both hands, shooting off the dribble, right and left. I just want to come in and prove that I can play at the next level and earn a spot on the roster.’’
Rasheed Wallace is scheduled for a news conference to announce his signing with the Celtics tomorrow, according to his agent Bill Strickland.
Free agents can begin signing today, but Strickland said he wasn’t certain when Wallace’s deal would be finalized because of details to be sorted out.
Wallace is expected to sign a two-year deal paying the mid-level exception.
Orlando made one of the first big moves of the offseason by acquiring Vince Carter from the Nets.
Asked about Wallace moving to the Celtics, Carter said, “It makes them a pretty good team. He’s very experienced, and he has an unbelievable ability to shoot the basketball and rebound, and he knows the game extremely well.
“So he definitely adds to what they already have. He’s a proven big man that knows how to play. He has a championship. He’s a winner. He’s a Carolina guy. So why not? They’re a pretty good team.”
Asked if the Celtics are favored in the Eastern Conference, Carter said, “I still like our team.’’
The Knicks have made an offer to Suns free agent Grant Hill, according to the New York Post. The Celtics plan to meet with Hill, who was in New York Monday, and can offer a $1.9 million biannual-exception contract. The Knicks could offer Hill part of their mid-level exception . . . Mike Sweetney (hamstring) and Bill Walker (back) missed yesterday’s game. Coby Karl had 18 points for the Celtics.
Marc J. Spears of the Globe staff contributed to this report; Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at email@example.com.