Austin Ainge on Theis, Zizic, Ojeleye, and Yabusele

The names of Daniel Theis, Ante Zizic, Semi Ojeleye, and Guerschon Yabusele are, to most Boston Celtics fans, familiar - but mostly because of the promise they offer a future iteration of the team, not for what we've seen them do.

So, when Brian Robb caught up with Austin Ainge for an interview, a lot of it was focused on what these new guys bring to the team. Daniel Theis, the stretch big who was signed from Europe earlier in the month, is perhaps the biggest unknown for many Celtics fans, having spent almost all of his career overseas, apart from a very brief stint playing for the Washington Wizards Summer League squad in 2014 after going undrafted that year. Said Ainge of Theis (per Robb):

"Daniel has been a prospect for a number of years now. He's a guy that has just slowly gotten better. He kept working on his game, kept improving. Now at age 25, he's ready to make the leap. He's won three German championships in a row and plays a lot at the 4 and 5. He can shoot threes, he's athletic and he’s a national team player, so he's very experienced for a 25-year-old ... He's equally comfortable rolling to the rim or popping and he can guard the 4 and the 5. He can switch some too. He's been wiry, strong and athletic."

Ante Zizic is almost as much an unknown quality, though his somewhat-underwhelming performance in Summer League this season has us a little more familiar with the big man's game. So, the big man's struggles, and how they might affect his transition to the NBA were front-and-center in the conversation when he came up in the interview:

" I think defense is always the hardest part for young players. Ante's physicality and his rebounding will translate, and that's what he's great at. His skill level and strength and defensive positioning should continue to improve with time. I would put all of our young guys in that category. We basically have last year's draft class and this year's draft class joining our team. There's a lot of talent there, and we're really excited about a lot of those guys and hope they can learn quickly."

With several seasons of NCAA play behind him at Duke and then Southern Methodist University already behind him, many of us are actually reasonably familiar with wing Semi Ojeleye, though he does remain something of a mystery to those fans who do not follow the college game very closely (or at all). For those folks, Ainge had a little to say on what makes Semi sparkle:

"Semi's unique. He's 245 pounds and moves like a guard laterally. There are some 6'5'', 6'6'' guys that can move laterally but not too many of them are as strong as Semi. He's got a very unique skillset that allows him switch and guard 1 through 5 and is capable of making a 3-point shot as well."

Finally, the Dancing Bear (also known as Guerschon Yabusele) seems like an old friend with the love he's been getting for over a year now, after spending the year stashed over in China, then coming to the states to play a bit with the Maine Red Claws before getting minor surgery over the summer. Maybe the biggest question we all collectively had about him was how that surgery might impact him going forward - and of course how he's recovering - to which Ainge said:

"He's doing better. He's improving and getting better. The surgery went well and he's back doing some stuff. He's currently on vacation in France, but the rehab is going very well."

This is just one step towards getting to know all these new faces (so, so many!), and while we still don't know if the Dancing Bear can throw down on an actual dance floor as well as a court (can someone ask him this, please?), if Zizic is a fan of M.O.P. (50 Tommy Points to the first person to get the reference), or what exactly the correct way to pronounce "Theis" is (is "The Is" a good or bad nickname? Asking for a friend), but we should have plenty of time to get that out of the way with the doldrums in full swing.

For more stories about the offseason on CelticsLife, click here. For more by Justin, click here.


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