After an intrasquad scrimmage Sunday afternoon at the Portland Expo, a group of middle-school kids gathered beneath a basket, hoping to have their picture taken with one of the Red Claws.

The player they wanted in the middle of their photo?

Abdel Nader.

Nader may be the face of the D-League franchise this season, both for his talent – the Celtics drafted him in the second round in June, with the 58th overall pick – and for his staying ability. Unlike the rest of his Maine teammates, Nader cannot be signed by an NBA club other than the Celtics, who retained his rights because they never put him under contract and didn’t bring him to their preseason training camp.

The risk was that Nader would accept a lucrative offer from Europe or Asia instead of settling for the D-League, where contracts are capped at $26,000.

“It was a big decision,” Nader said. “I turned down a bunch of money overseas to be here.”

The Red Claws open their eighth D-League season Friday night in Oklahoma City (against the Blue, the Thunder’s affiliate) and continue to Texas for games against Austin on Saturday and Rio Grande Valley next Tuesday. Their home opener is scheduled for Nov. 18 at the Expo against the Long Island Nets.

Nader (his first name is pronounced ab-DOOL) was born in Egypt and moved to Chicago when he was 3. The Bulls of Michael Jordan won six NBA titles in eight years, so plenty of kids were taking to Chicago playgrounds, including Washington Park.

“I didn’t really speak the language very well when I first got here,” Nader said. “I didn’t know many people, didn’t have many friends, so basketball was a big outlet for me.”

Although his parents top out at 5-foot-8, Nader sprouted to 6-4 as a high school sophomore and now stands another inch, possibly two, taller. (Although the Maine roster lists him at 6-8.) He played two years at Northern Illinois and, after sitting out a season following a transfer, two more at Iowa State.

The unusual thing about Nader is not his height as much as his length. His wingspan of 7-2 is at least 8 inches longer than his height. Kawhi Leonard of San Antonio is a plus-9, with a 7-3 wingspan on a 6-6 frame.

“Basically, everything you do in basketball you do with your hands, not the top of your head,” said Dave Lewin, the Celtics’ scouting director and Red Claws general manager. “So length is a lot more important than height.”

Lewin said the fingertip-to-fingertip measurement for most folks is about the same as from head-to-toe. For NBA players, however, the average wingspan is about 4 inches longer than barefoot height.

“So Abdel’s 8-inch difference makes him functionally 4 inches taller,” Lewin said. “He plays closer to a 6-9 guy than a 6-5 guy. That’s a pretty big advantage, because he moves like a 6-5 guy.”

Nader took part in two summer leagues with the Celtics, in Utah and Las Vegas. He averaged 10 points and 2.8 rebounds in a little over 16 minutes per game.

“He was outstanding in limited minutes,” Lewin said. “Everyone here (in Boston) is excited for him to have a good season in Maine and hopefully be in position to make our team for next season.”

The Celtics have stashed draft picks before (Marcus Thornton in Australia last season, in Italy this season). They drafted six players in June but added only two (Jaylen Brown, Demetrius Jackson) to their 15-man roster. French forward Guerschon Yabusele (16th overall) and Croatian center Ante Zizic (23rd overall) remain overseas, the latter in Croatia and the former in China.

Thornton joined the Claws last season after his Australian team finished play, and Yabusele may do likewise this winter. Nader, Boston’s first domestic stash, should be here all season.

“He’s a physical athlete,” said Red Claws third-year head coach Scott Morrison. “He’s going to drive the ball and finish strong at the rim. He shot the ball real well in summer league. He’s here to refine his offensive skill-set and become a better defender and hopefully he can be on the (Celtics) roster next year.”

NOTES: The Red Claws trimmed their roster from 15 to 12 Monday, bidding farewell to point guards Isiah Umipig (Seattle) and Ricky Tarrant (Memphis) and center Andrew McCarthy (UMass).

The only returning players from last season are guard Coron Williams and center Asauhn Dixon-Tatum.

Guard Jason Calliste played for the 2014-15 Red Claws before spending last season in Latvia.