Top prospect Markelle Fultz traveled to Philadelphia and completed a late workout with the 76ers on Saturday, fueling speculating that the team could be getting closer to a seismic deal with the Celtics in which Boston would trade the No. 1 overall pick to the 76ers.
“I don’t really pay attention to everything that’s going on,” Fultz told reporters in Philadelphia following his workout. “But I’m truly blessed to be in this position and whatever happens, I’m looking forward to taking my talents to wherever I go.”
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, meanwhile, said in a phone interview Saturday night that Fultz canceled a scheduled second workout in Boston because he was travelling to Los Angeles to work out with the Lakers before going to Philadelphia to work out with the 76ers. Ainge said the Celtics are still attempting to bring Fultz in a second time, but added that he was not frustrated by Fultz’s decision to meet with other teams.
“I understand it,” Ainge said. “He’s doing what he needs to do, what’s best for him.”
Ainge declined to comment on the numerous reports that Boston was in deep discussions with the 76ers about a deal that would send the Celtics’ top pick to Philadelphia.
“I can’t participate in not keeping my word of keeping conversations with other teams private,” he said.
The Celtics, meanwhile, proceeded with their own draft preparations. Ainge said the team worked out former Arizona forward Lauri Markkanen and former North Carolina State guard Dennis Smith on Saturday. With Thursday’s draft fast approaching, Ainge said the Celtics are doing their due diligence, as they both analyze prospects and consider potential deals.
“We’re continuing to evaluate them and spend a lot of time with them,” he said, “and take calls on different trade opportunities and see if there’s any deals out there we want to do.”
Ainge said that former Kansas forward Josh Jackson, widely viewed as a top-five pick, has not agreed to come to Boston for a workout yet.
“As of right now, we have not seen him,” Ainge said. “We’re trying to get to see him and [UCLA point guard] Lonzo Ball, two guys we haven’t seen that we’d like to see, and so far they’ve chosen not to come in.”
With most of the top prospects scheduled to arrive in New York early next week, time is running short for final workouts to be scheduled.
On Saturday, Fultz’s workout in Philadelphia created a lot of buzz in the NBA universe, as it was a clear sign that the 76ers interest in trading up to draft the point guard was quite real.
76ers star Joel Embiid posted a picture on his Twitter account on Saturday afternoon showing himself and teammate Dario Saric standing next to a locker with Fultz’s 76ers nameplate on it. Fultz arrived in Philadelphia in the late evening wearing a 76ers cap that he said he already owned.
“I come to Philly a lot and just showing love for the city,” Fultz said of the hat. “I mean, I’m out here, want to show love. That’s all it was.”
His mother, Ebony Fultz, and trainer, Keith Williams, sat with head coach Brett Brown as Fultz completed his brief workout session. Embiid and 76ers guard Robert Covington were also at the workout, which was open to the media.
“It’s been crazy, just knowing that the draft is just a couple days away, it’s been unbelievable,” Fultz said. “I’m just anxious to get to that day and just get it over with so I can know where I’m going and put full invest in whatever team I’m going to.”
It was long believed that Fultz, who is considered the top prospect in this draft class by a wide margin, was all but certain to end up with the Celtics, who currently hold the top pick in Thursday’s draft. The guard spent two days in Boston meeting with the team last week, and the Celtics had publicly made it clear that their preference is to keep the pick rather than trade it in a deal for a star veteran.
“The visit was great,” Fultz said this week. “I got a great chance to meet all the coaching staff. Just to sit down and have a workout was great. That was my first time really to Boston, so just seeing the atmosphere and everything like that, it was a great experience.”
But multiple reports have indicated that the Celtics might be seeking to add to their war chest of assets, as they could receive the No. 3 overall pick in this year’s draft and the 2018 first-round pick the Lakers previously sent to Philadelphia. The Vertical reported on Saturday that Boston might also receive Philadelphia’s first-round pick in 2021.
While it remains unclear which team will ultimately end up with the top pick on Thursday night, it seems quite obvious that Fultz will be the choice.
“I just can’t wait for the experience,” he said. “I haven’t thought about how the atmosphere is gonna be. I know it’s gonna be crazy, but I’m just waiting for that day. The day of, that’s gonna be the day it hits me.”