Gilbert Brown was on the phone several times throughout the day Thursday with the Boston Celtics and was optimistic about his chances of getting drafted in the second round. When Thursday turned into Friday and the 51/2-hour draft had come to an end, Brown didn't have much time to dwell on the disappointment of not hearing his name called.
Shortly after the draft ended, Celtics general manager Danny Ainge called Brown and expressed his interest in signing him to a free-agent deal. Brown said Ainge told him the Celtics had to make a decision between Brown and Purdue guard E'Twaun Moore with their second-round selection, the 55th overall in the draft. They chose Moore, but he wanted Brown to know that he was still interested.
"I'm definitely encouraged that the Celtics were interested," Brown said Friday afternoon. "I was talking to them all day. They said it was the flip of a coin when it came time to make the pick."
Ainge and other NBA general managers will not sign free agents to deals anytime soon, however, because NBA owners are expected to lock out players July 1 if the league and its players union cannot resolve their labor dispute.
For the time being, Brown will resume workouts in Las Vegas and Los Angeles. If the lockout is not settled by August, Brown will sign a contract to play overseas for a team in Germany. Brown's agent, T.J. Doyle, would not disclose the name of the team because he is in the process of negotiating an opt-out clause in the contract that would allow Brown to return once the labor dispute ends.
Boston is not the only team interested in bringing Brown to training camp. Phoenix and a few others have reached out, but Brown is leaning toward the Celtics because of the 30-minute conversation he had with Ainge early Friday morning.
"He really encouraged me," Brown said. "He told me I could be the Wesley Matthews of this draft. Of all the teams I worked out for, Danny was the most excited to have me in. He really feels like I can make their team and contribute the first year. He was really confident in my ability. He felt like I stood out in my workout."
Matthews played at Marquette and went undrafted in '09 but became a starter for the Utah Jazz by midseason of his rookie year. Last year, he signed a five-year, $34 million contract to play for the Portland Trailblazers. He averaged 15.9 points per game for the Trailblazers last season.
Matthews is the best-case scenario for any rookie free agent. Brown is looking forward to the opportunity of earning his way into the league. After a series of workouts against players who were drafted in the first round, Brown has a chip on his shoulder.
"Hands down, I was the best player at every workout I had," Brown said. "The one workout in Phoenix had Jordan Hamilton (selected 26th by the Mavericks) and Klay Thompson (selected 11th by the Warriors). I hit all of my shots, and no one could score on me. It was one of the best displays of my ability. A lot of people only had me as a defender and an athlete coming into the draft, but at these workouts I was able to show that I could do a lot more than what I did at Pitt. I showed I was able to score the basketball, and I was able to show them that I was an even better defender than what I showed in college."
Brad Wanamaker, who had been projected as a late second-round selection, will attend minicamps in Atlanta and San Antonio next week. Wanamaker's agent, Happy Walters, said his client has interest from "high-level" teams in Europe and that they'll make a decision regarding his playing future later in the summer after getting a gauge on the labor situation.
Center Gary McGhee also went undrafted. Seth Cohen, McGhee's agent, could not be reached for comment.
Ray Fittipaldo: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1230.