Ford Post Ups Notebook
Ford Post Ups Notebook
Ford Post Ups Notebook
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Marc D'Amico "posts" the latest from practice and pre-game media sessions in Celtics.com's Post Ups notebook. Bookmark this page and come back for updates from the Garden and Waltham. You can send them .
Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author exclusively and do not necessarily represent those of the Boston Celtics.
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Sunday, January 25 - Celtics at Warriors
Pregame - Klay Thompson Did What?!
OAKLAND, Calif. - There was a notable occurrence that took place Friday night at Oracle Arena, where the Celtics are now stationed ahead of tonight’s game against the Warriors.
Oh, yeah… Klay Thompson scored 37 points in a single quarter against the Sacramento Kings.
Actually, as Brad Stevens pointed out ahead of tonight’s contest, Thompson accomplished that astonishing feat in less than a single quarter.
“What doesn’t get talked about in Klay Thompson’s run is he didn’t even score until 9:58 on the clock,” Boston’s coach said. “Like… he did it all in the last 10 minutes.”
Which is absolutely insane.
It makes sense that Stevens watched the entire quarter on replay, seeing as he had to come up with a game plan to slow Thompson down tonight. The coach said that the performance was so amazing that it caused him to alter his typical film study routine.
“Usually I listen to music while I’m watching games, but I turned on their announcers and they were pretty speechless after about point 25 as well.” Stevens said. “It was kind of entertaining to listen to the call.”
What is not so entertaining is that the Celtics are next on Thompson’s radar. Stevens discussed the challenge of facing for a player who was so lights-out fewer than 48 hours ago.
“Just try your best to defend him as well as you can,” said Stevens. “One thing we can’t overreact to are the tough makes. You’ve got to make shots that he takes as tough as possible. We’ve got to try to limit transition, we’ve got to try to limit single-pass catch-and-shoot opportunities, especially from 3, and you challenge everything else and live with the results.
“You’ve got to do your best not to let him get going,” Stevens also commented. “That’s earlier said than done.”
The Kings can attest to that.
- Marc D'Amico
Friday, January 23 - Celtics at Nuggets
Pregame - Is Denver's Elevation Truly a Factor?
DENVER – The Boston Celtics took a short bus ride over to the Pepsi Center for tonight’s game against the Denver Nuggets. When they arrived, they were greeted by a mile-high message.
“Pepsi Center Welcomes You To The Mile High City Elevation 5,280 Feet,” reads a sign that hangs above the arena’s entrance doors.
Just a subtle reminder that the C’s are no longer in Boston.
Denver’s elevation of 5,280 feet is 5,139 feet higher than Boston’s elevation. It has been well documented that thin air accompanies that high altitude, but not everyone is buying it.
Brad Stevens was asked prior tonight’s game whether he has noticed an effect from the altitude during his time here. He shunned the notion off as something for the media to make a bigger deal than it really is, similar to Deflategate.
“It’s not that big of a deal for us,” Stevens said. “It’s not something we’re going to spend a lot of time on. It’s (the altitude) not changing.”
Stevens did acknowledge that there is some effect from the thin air, albeit a slight one. He said that his personal experience of playing basketball in Colorado, as well as his coaching experience with USA Basketball in Colorado Springs, has led him to believe that players only feel a difference in the air during their first stint of playing time. After that, the altitude is almost a forgotten factor.
In other words, the message that hangs above the entrance to the building, and the overall notion that thin air is difficult to play in, is all part of a mental game. There really is no difference for these well-trained athletes.
That doesn’t mean anyone should expect Stevens to give any of his players 40 minutes of playing time tonight. There are still plenty of circumstances surrounding this game, outside of Denver’s elevation, that will alter the coach’s rotation.
“I think we’re going to end up playing a lot of different people tonight,” Stevens admitted. “Just the factor of the back-to-back (the Celtics played on Thursday), the factor of getting in when we got in (the Celtics arrived at their hotel around 3:30 a.m. on Friday), the factor of the game last night. We’re going to try to play as fresh as we can most of the night.”
Yes, fans should expect to see a deep rotation of Celtics players during tonight’s action. No, fans shouldn’t assume that such is the case as a result of where the Celtics are playing.
- Marc D'Amico
Thursday, January 22 - Celtics at Trail Blazers
Pregame - Bass Moves Into Celtics Starting Lineup
PORTLAND, Ore. – We knew this was coming. The question was: when?
Brad Stevens, who has watched his Celtics team drop 12 of its last 15 games, decided to make a change to the starting lineup tonight in Portland, Ore. Brandon Bass will slide into the starting power forward slot, while Jared Sullinger will move over to the starting center position.
This decision marks Boston’s third starting lineup alteration in the last month or so. However, this is the first that has been by choice.
Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green were each traded during the last five weeks, forcing Stevens to call on Evan Turner and Jae Crowder, respectively, to enter the starting lineup. Those were forced decisions.
Bass’ entrance to the starting lineup is much different. This decision is purely basketball related. Stevens thinks Bass gives the Celtics a better chance to start games out on the right foot, and more importantly, to win.
“We’ve got to be more mobile and a little bit more versatile defensively,” Stevens said as he told reporters why Bass was inserted into the lineup.
The move was almost a necessity tonight. Portland is without its starting power forward, LaMarcus Aldridge, and its starting center, Robin Lopez. Their absence has caused head coach Terry Stotts to go with a small ball lineup that features Dorell Wright playing the 4.
Stevens told reporters that he considers Wright to be more of a 3, and rightfully so. He stands at 6-foot-9 and is actually listed as a small forward on multiple Web sites. Wright has attempted 42.9 percent of his career field goal attempts from beyond the 3-point arc.
It obviously would not make much sense to have Sullinger defending a player like Wright while leaving Tyler Zeller in the starting lineup. Bass is very capable of defending on the perimeter and will be able to switch on perimeter pick-and-pop or pick-and-roll plays.
Sullinger, meanwhile, will shift over to center and defend Chris Kaman. Kaman came off of Portland’s bench to score 16 points on 6-of-13 shooting against the C’s on Nov. 23 in Boston.
“He can score on the block. He can score with his back to the basket,” Stevens said of Kaman. “He can score going over either shoulder with some crafty post moves and shot fakes. And then he can really shoot the ball to 18, 20 feet.”
Sullinger has improved dramatically this season at the defensive end, and Stevens believes the big man should match up well with Kaman.
“I think that he’s getting better in that regard (defending stretch forwards),” Stevens said of Sullinger, “but I still think that if you could say which one does he defend better, a traditional big would be ahead of a stretch.”
There are likely to be times during tonight’s game in which Sullinger will defend both types of players. However, he will begin tonight’s game against a pure center in Kaman while Bass works to defend the perimeter.
- Marc D'Amico
Monday, January 19 - Celtics at Clippers
Pregame - Doc Reveals What It's Like to Negotiate with Ainge
LOS ANGELES – Two years ago, Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge were playing golf together and talking about how they could contend for a title in Boston.
Two weeks ago, Rivers and Ainge were living across the country from one another and talking on the phone about completing a groundbreaking trade.
Boy, how things have changed.
Rivers, who is in his second season as the Clippers president of basketball operations, just completed a trade with Ainge and the Celtics last week to acquire his son, Austin. Doc and Austin became the first NBA family to have a father coach his son.
This was the first trade the two teams have made since Doc took over the reigns in L.A. As he reminded the media Monday morning, this deal couldn’t have happened last season.
“A year ago we couldn’t talk,” Doc said. “I don’t know if a lot of people knew that, but there was a year ban between the Celtics and the Clippers doing business. We talked all the time. We just couldn’t talk about trades.”
The NBA lifted that ban following the 2013-14 season, which has opened the door for the two franchises to talk business.
“This year, we’ve talked about trades all year, not just the Austin trade” Rivers said. “There’s been a lot of conversations with Danny and I, but more so it’s been (Clippers general manager) Dave Wohl and (Celtics assistant general manager) Mike Zarren, to be honest.”
Wohl and Zarren were the key negotiators for the Austin deal, but Doc and Ainge were involved at a high level as well. Fortunately for both parties, Doc and Ainge felt just as comfortable striking a deal for Austin as they do playing 18 holes together on the golf course.
“It was pretty easy,” said Rivers. “It was more about basketball. We laughed about our own inside jokes about stuff. That part was easy. It was just a trade.”
One person who isn’t surprised that negotiations went so smoothly is Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. He was asked prior to today’s game to put himself in Doc’s shoes and imagine what it would be like to negotiate a trade with Ainge.
“I think Danny is a really open-minded guy,” Stevens said. “I don’t know that I know from the standpoint of dealing with negotiations with him like another team would, but I can’t imagine he’s difficult to communicate with in those scenarios.”
It appears that such was the case during this trade negotiation. Doc and Ainge agreed to terms, and now Doc is coaching his son in L.A.
Who would have predicted that two years ago?
- Marc D'Amico
Saturday, January 10 - Celtics at Raptors
Pregame - Celtics Playing for Wins
Brad Stevens was asked prior to tonight’s game what his team’s goals are this season. The coach answered defiantly.
“We prepare to win every day,” he said. “That’s what we try to do. That’s what we have to do.”
Such a statement is exactly what one would have to expect to come out of Stevens’ mouth. He is not in Danny Ainge’s seat, attempting to mold the Celtics into a championship contender. He’s in the coach’s seat, attempting to better the players on his team each and every day.
“Whether you’re playing guys that are 20 years old or whether you’re playing 12-year veterans,” Stevens said, “the preparation, the emphasis, and the day-to-day focus has got to be the same. You’ve got to prepare to put your best foot forward.”
You’ve got to hand it to the Celtics. They did so Friday night in Indiana. Despite dealing with the shockwave that hit their locker room prior to Friday’s game, the C’s left it all on the court. They played their tails off and nearly pulled off an impressive comeback on the road. Stevens commended his players for playing the way they did against the Pacers.
“I’ve got a great deal of respect for them because they’re able to do that,” said Stevens. “I thought the way that our guys played last night was pretty remarkable considering – when I walked in to do the pregame speech, I didn’t necessarily know who was going to start, let alone who was going to be available.”
One would have to expect the same out of the Celtics tonight. The same players will be available against Toronto, and they’ve been preparing for the Raptors all day long rather than having a day off to think about things. As Stevens acknowledged, that may be a positive for his players.
“I don’t know that I would say that it would be preferable in that scenario,” commented Stevens, “but it is what it is and a the distraction of having a game, having a task, is probably a good thing.”
Thus far, it is a scenario that may be assisting the Celtics to compete for what they're searching for: wins.
- Marc D'Amico
Friday, January 9 - Celtics at Pacers
Pregame - Trade Opens Door for James Young
Something was fishy about Brad Stevens’ pregame media availability.
We just found out why.
Stevens, just hours removed from telling the media that James Young was likely to be inactive for tonight’s game in Indiana, reopened the door for Young to be active as the coach spoke to the media before the game.
“We haven’t made that call for sure yet,” Stevens said.
There’s a good reason why such was the case.
Stevens knew that the Celtics were working on completing a trade behind closed doors. Completion of that trade would have opened a spot on the active list. Had the trade not been completed prior to game time, Young would have remained inactive.
The Celtics announced at 6:24 p.m. that the trade had indeed gone through. The team shipped big man Brandan Wright to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for a conditional first-round draft pick and a trade exception.
The trade opens the door for Young to step into the active list for the second time in three games. He was stellar during Monday night’s loss to Charlotte, scoring 13 points in 17-plus minutes of action.
Young as particularly effective during a stretch of play during the second half of that contest. His performance has left Celtics fans drooling for more minutes for Young. The rookie and his coach, however, understand that Young won’t always be able to make things look as easy as he did Monday night.
“We had an individual meeting about a month ago and I remember [Young] saying, ‘This ain’t easy,’” Stevens recalled. “Every day is difficult. Every matchup is difficult. Whether you know the name of the person that’s guarding you or not, or you know their career path, they’re probably more accomplished than you are if you’re a 19-year-old. That’s just part of it.”
That being said, Young has shown flashes during his four-plus months with the Celtics. The team remains high on his future.
“We’re excited about his progress I guess is the best way to put it,” said Stevens. “But it’s progress. He’s not where he eventually will be.”
Coincidentally, that last comment can also be applied to today. Young was on the inactive list this morning. Now, thanks to the Wright trade, the rookie has another opportunity to suit up and potentially make a difference.
- Marc D'Amico
Wednesday, January 7 - Celtics at Nets
Pregame - Decisions, Decisions: Stevens Talks Inactives
NEW YORK – The story before tonight’s matchup between the Celtics and Nets was not who would start for Boston. Instead, it was who would be on the inactive list.
Yes - the inactive list.
That’s how much evenness the Celtics have on their roster right now, and that evenness became even more of an issue over the past three days. In a rare instance, James Young was active Monday night and he excelled during 17-plus minutes of action, scoring 13 points off the bench. Additionally, Marcus Thornton will return tonight from a strained left calf. He has been inactive since Dec. 14.
Stevens would not discuss his lineup at this morning’s shootaround, seeing as he was unsure of whether Thornton or Jameer Nelson (sprained right ankle) would be available to play. He did, however, reveal during his pregame media availability that Nelson and Young would be tonight’s inactive Celtics.
Media members are not typically pegging a coach about who will be active and inactive prior to a game, unless the topic is injury related. Stevens admitted that tonight’s situation is something that he has not had to deal with during his young NBA coaching career.
“This is probably the most unique situation in my coaching tenure in that we had to make a decision of who was inactive rather than the decision was already made because of injury,” said Stevens. “I’ve, along with others, tossed and turned and spent a lot of time thinking about it.”
After that rough night of sleep, Stevens settled on Nelson and Young to miss tonight’s game. Stevens said that the decision in Nelson was related to his health. Young, meanwhile, is as healthy as can be, which made that decision even more difficult for the coach to make.
“James was a really hard call, because he’s coming off of a really good game,” Stevens said. “We’ve talked a lot about it, and we’re really pleased with his development. We’re really pleased with his work ethic. But you know, those older guys that have been ahead of him have had really good moments too.”
Stevens went on to further discuss Young’s current situation.
“I think those guys that are active deserve to be active and I think that [Young] does as well,” the coach commented, “but I think he’ll be active more than not as we move here and move forward.
“I’m really excited that James made it a very difficult decision.”
Young, along with Nelson, will be relegated to a suit and tie tonight. But from the sound of it, the rookie swingman is on the cusp of breaking into the Celtics rotation.
- Marc D'Amico
Saturday, January 3 - Celtics at Bulls
Pregame - C's Seek To Stop Runs
CHICAGO – Basketball tends to be a game of runs, and lately the Celtics have been victimized by opponents’ big runs that buried them in big holes.
The week before Christmas, the Celtics found themselves overwhelmed in the first quarter by the Orlando Magic. And on Friday night in Boston, the Celtics coughed up a few different runs, the worst of which was the 13-0 run that closed the third quarter and pushed the Mavericks’ lead to 28 heading into the final frame.
“It wasn’t the start, it was the middle of the second and end of the third that killed us. There’s all kinds of times throughout the year where you have a couple of games in a row and it’s easy as coaches to treat it as an epidemic. That stuff evens itself out,” Celtics Coach Brad Stevens said. “I’m not so worried about the starts. I’m worried about (playing) the full 48 minutes.”
Much like their coach, the team is concerned with what appears to be a trend of late, but it’s not always easy to put your finger on the solution to what appears to be a very obvious problem.
“I think the biggest thing is, we let teams go on big runs,” Tyler Zeller said. “We’ve got to do a better job of trying to get 5-0, 7-2 runs instead of last night when it was 19-0 or something.”
The Celtics have shown the ability to make furious comeback rallies with runs of their own, but against Orlando and Dallas, the deficits were too big to overcome.
“We’ve got to be able minimize those runs and come back with runs of our own,” Zeller said. “I think when we do a great job of getting stops, we get out in transition and then you’re kind of scrambling because we’re playing for our lives.”
As for tonight’s matchup, the Celtics are catching a break with Jimmy Butler and Mike Dunleavy out of the lineup, much the way they caught the Bulls without Derrick Rose the last time they came to Chicago. But as usual, a few personnel changes doesn’t alter the Celtics’ game-planning.
“They still have a former MVP and two front-line All-Stars,” Stevns said of the Bulls. “I don’t think you’re going to change your preparation for them based on one or two guys being out.”
Speaking of out, Jameer Nelson (ankle) will sit tonight out. That likely means more minutes for Marcus Smart, who’s moved to the bench since Evan Turner has taken over the starting point guard duties.
- Peter Stringer
Saturday, December 27 - Celtics at Wizards
Pregame - Celtics Rotation Remains Unsettled
If you haven’t noticed, Brad Stevens has not settled on a consistent rotation since the Rajon Rondo trade.
Stevens has flip-flopped between Marcus Smart (two starts) and Jameer Nelson (one start) at the starting point guard position. He has barely played Brandon Bass. Brandan Wright played 13 minutes during his first two games as a Celtic, then played six Friday night.
These types of issues had not been apparent during the first 23 games of the season. Stevens had a set rotation, but the trade with Dallas shook that rotation at its core.
“We had one rotation player (Rondo) that was playing 30-plus minutes a game for us and left,” Stevens said before tonight’s game in Washington, “and we add three that you could throw into any game at any time. And you have all of our other rotational players are still here.
“You’re balancing all of that,” he continued. “It’s a tough balance.”
Celtics.com asked Stevens about how long he hoped it would take to find the correct balance. He seems to believe that we will continue to see what we saw over the past three games until some of his players separate themselves from the others.
“I don’t think it’s going to be anything that we settle on anytime soon without having to really practice and really get after it,” the coach stated.
Stevens also noted that he needs to go into each game with a defined plan in regard to minute distribution for his players, particularly along the frontline. Regardless of what that plan is or how it plays out during the game, at least one capable player is going to be left out.
“Every night there’s going to be somebody that you can ask about,” Stevens admitted. “It’s just the way our roster is structured right now at the 4 and the 5.”
This is what happens after trades, particularly trades that send out one rotational player and bring back three rotational players. It takes a while for the dust to settle.
Reasonably speaking, it will take Stevens two to three weeks to hammer down a rotation. Until then, expect more of the same: consistent inconsistence.
- Marc D'Amico
Tuesday, December 23 - Celtics at Magic
Pregame - Nelson Starts at PG in Homecoming Game
ORLANDO – The Marcus Smart era is on hold, at least for tonight in Orlando, where Jameer Nelson becomes the third Celtic in as many games to get the starting nod at point guard.
Brad Stevens explained to the media before Smart started against Miami that the move to starting point guard wasn’t necessarily permanent, and sure enough, he’s continuing to tweak his lineup as the Celtics continue to evaluate their new roster.
“It’s a lot less about who’s starting, and more about the rotations I want to try behind that,” Stevens said. “We’re still trying to find some things out about this group.”
Smart seemed to be taking the move in stride during pregame when he talked to the press, and sees it more as an opportunity than a demotion.
“Jameer has been in the league a long time, a veteran, someone I could learn some from and pick up some good habits from,” Smart said. “Coach told me (that starting) wasn’t permanent.
“We had three guys come in for the middle of the season. We haven’t had time to prepare. We’re trying to find rotations, the right rotations to help us win the game,” Smart said.
As for Nelson, he’s still getting comfortable with the Celtics’ system, which he likened many times to what Stan Van Gundy ran during his tenure with the Magic, as well as what the Dallas Mavericks are running this season.
“I’m just going to keep it simple. Coach has done a great job of teaching us and putting us in a situation that allows us to keep things easy,” Nelson said.
- Peter Stringer
Sunday, December 21 - Celtics at Heat
Pregame - Smart Gets the Start at PG
MIAMI – Marcus Smart has shown flashes of brilliance over his first 11 NBA games. Tonight in Miami, he’ll get his first career NBA start, and a chance to prove himself and earn that job on a full-time basis.
“We’ll see how it works tonight, we’ll see what it means in the future…” said Stevens. “I thought Marcus is a little more comfortable as a point as opposed to playing off the ball. Marcus is starting (tonight), but we’ve got a bunch of guys who could be up for that in the near future.”
Stevens made it clear that Smart is far from entrenched as the starting point guard, but he also believes in the youngster that he’s handing – or maybe lending - the keys to tonight.
“I think he has the disposition to be a leader,” Stevens said, while acknowledging Smart’s youth and inexperience. “He has a lot of growth that has to occur because he’s 20 years old.”
If he was excited about getting the first career start, he wasn’t selling it when he talked to reporters in the hallway outside the Celtics’ locker room at the AmericanAirlines Arena about an hour before tip-off.
“There wasn’t really a reaction, he told me, and I told him ‘alright,’” said Smart. “It’s a big opportunity for me. I can’t worry about trying to fill (Rajon Rondo’s shoes). When Rajon left, I wasn’t thinking about starting, I was just thinking about what can I do to help this team.”
His disposition tonight, calm and understated while talking to the media, belies his otherwise vocal nature of which his teammates are well aware.
So, Marcus, is being vocal a key to being a leader on the floor?
“Not only do you have to show by actions, but sometimes you have to let your voice be heard,” Smart said. “Being vocal is a key. People hear what you’re saying and it sticks with them that way.”
- Peter Stringer
Monday, December 15 - Celtics at 76ers
Pregame - Thornton's MRI Results on Left Calf
PHILADELPHIA – Brad Stevens just spoke to the media for the second time in seven hours. Believe it or not, a lot changed during that time frame.
Stevens told reporters at this morning’s shootaround that Marcus Thornton, who injured his left calf during Sunday afternoon’s practice, was set to undergo an MRI today. That MRI has been completed, and the results have thrown a punch into Boston’s stomach.
“Marcus Thornton is going to be out probably a couple of weeks,” Stevens revealed before tonight’s game in Philadelphia. “From what I can tell in the e-mail (I received), he’s got a small tear in his (left) calf. So that’s unfortunate for him, unfortunate for us.”
Unfortunate, to say the least. Thornton was playing the best basketball of his season heading into the weekend. He had scored at least 13 points during three of Boston’s previous four games, maxing out with a season-high 21 points against Washington on Dec. 7. Losing that type of scoring punch off of the bench will be a big blow to the C’s. There’s no arguing that.
There were no original indications to the media that Thornton’s injury had the potential to be this bad. However, Stevens, who watched Thornton go down on Sunday, knew that this possibility existed.
“I knew that when he strained it, when he hurt it yesterday, he was hurting,” said Stevens. “I’ve seen things a lot worse than that, so I’m actually encouraged by that. I didn’t think it was just a small strain that would be a day-to-day thing based on that moment.”
As we all know, an initial time frame for a return from injury must be taken with a grain of salt. We’ve already seen both ends of that spectrum this season, as Rajon Rondo returned from his broken left hand about two weeks ahead of time, and Marcus Smart returned from his sprained left ankle about a week later than the back end of his initial time frame. In the case of Thornton, Stevens made it clear that the team will evaluate him with caution.
“Obviously, with a muscle, “ the coach said, “we’ll be a lot more careful in making sure he’s right before he comes back, because you don’t want to aggravate it.”
In the meantime, it’s looking like the Celtics will be playing the next six or seven games without him.
- Marc D'Amicp
Wednesday, December 10 - Celtics at Hornets
Pregame - They Just Don't Make 'Em Like Big Al Anymore
You just don’t see many guys like Al Jefferson anymore.
He’s big. He’s strong. He’s a true post up player. He’s someone who will challenge the Celtics on the block all night long during tonight’s contest in Charlotte.
“I think many people would say that there aren’t a lot of true post scorers in the league or really at any level of basketball here in the States, at least, that I’ve seen,” Brad Stevens said before tonight’s game in Charlotte. “In college I always felt like there weren’t a ton of back-to-the-basket-type scorers. He’s one that you can throw it to and you can clear everybody to the side.”
Jefferson is coming off of the best season of a strong decade-long career. He finished eighth in the NBA MVP voting last season after averaging 21.8 points per game and 10.8 rebounds per game for the upstart Hornets, who were then known as the Bobcats.
Stevens, who coached against Jefferson three times last season, highlighted many of the skills that make Jefferson such a threat at the offensive end of the court.
“I think that he’s scoring more to both shoulders than he used to,” said Stevens. “He’s got a great pump fake that he loses people on on the block. He’s got just a wonderful touch. And then he shoots it to about 17 or 18 feet.”
Stevens also offered up this scary thought: “He’s improved his offensive game even in the year and a half that I’ve been in the league.”
Clearly, the C’s have a heck of a challenge that will be standing on the block early and often tonight. Most of the load will be put on the shoulders of Tyler Zeller, as he will be asked to defend Jefferson for much of the night.
Zeller will start at center tonight for the seventh consecutive games. He has performed at a high level for Boston during that stretch, helping the Celtics limit their last six opponents to just 44.2 percent shooting from the field. That’s a steep drop from the 47.0 percent shooting Boston allowed during its first 13 games of the season, when Zeller was coming off of the bench.
Stevens has joked at times that this is the first time in Zeller’s life that the big man is being put into games for defensive purposes rather than offensive purposes. The coach believes his young center is embracing that role.
“I think he’s trying and I think he’s really doing a great job of that,” said Stevens. “He’s a big, physical kid. He wants to do well. He’s a reliable guy that does his job every day.”
The question is, will he be able to do that job successfully against one of the best post players in the game of basketball?
“We’ll find out,” the coach said. “Time will tell how far Tyler has come in defending the post.”
- Marc D'Amicp
Monday, December 8 - Celtics at Wizards
Pregame - Smart Return "Continues To Be a Re-Establishing Process"
WASHINGTON – Marcus Smart is back, but he’s not really back.
It’s no secret that the Smart we’ve seen return to the lineup is not the one who left the lineup on Nov. 7 with a sprained ankle. He has played sparingly since becoming available on Dec. 3 – only 13 total minutes.
“I think it continues to be a re-establishing process for him in getting back into the flow of things,” Brad Stevens admitted before Monday night’s game. “As I told him today, his emphasis has to be more on everybody else and how he can just be a helper until he gets back to feeling like he was playing before he hurt the ankle.”
In other words, Stevens wants Smart to be a great defender, to orchestrate the offense, and to take good shots within the flow of the offense. The rookie didn’t exactly do that on Sunday.
Smart was a step behind John Wall and he forced a transition 3-pointer during the fourth quarter that made many onlookers cringe. Stevens revealed that he, too, was not happy with that shot, but that he loves the confidence Smart has in himself to be able to let it fly.
“Percentage-wise, he’s struggled shooting the ball from 3, and certainly since he came back, both here and Maine,” Stevens said, “but at the same time, sometimes when you’ve got a competitor and you’ve got a guy who’s not scared of anything, shooting that shot, all he’s thinking about is you go up from 22 to 25, and I respect that and admire that about him too. So it’s a fine line to dance around.”
Smart is likely to be dancing over that line for at least a couple more weeks. He’s clearly still recovering from the ankle and isn’t quite himself just yet.
Until he is fully healthy, as Stevens said, “Other guys are going to step up until he’s ready to play the way that he can best help us.”
- Marc D'Amicp
Tuesday, December 2 - Celtics at Hawks
Pregame - Stevens on Teague: 'I'm really happy for Jeff'
A smile flashed across Brad Stevens’ face when I asked him about Hawks point guard Jeff Teague. The two go way back, and Stevens couldn’t be more proud of what the 26-year-old has made himself into.
“I’m really happy for Jeff,” Stevens said through his smile. “I’ve known Jeff since he was a kid-kid. I’ve watched him grow up. I’ve watched him become a guy that does it every single night.”
Teague has become one of the most feared point guards in the NBA while averaging 18.0 points per game and 7.2 assists per game this season. He is almost impossible to defend thanks to his improved jump shot that is combined with his elite quickness.
“His speed is probably top-five in the league,” Stevens claimed. “I’m not ready to rank the other four in the league right now, but I know this: he’s fast. He’s a blur with the ball.”
When that blur gets moving, it’s difficult both to see and to stop.
“When you look at some of the hardest covers in the league are these guys that can go downhill a million miles an hour and still finish plays,” said Stevens. “I brought up the names of (Kyle) Lowry, I brought up the names of Monta Ellis and guys like that. Those guys, when it’s all on the line, are tough to stop from getting a basket.”
Sounds like a pretty hefty challenge, no? So whose shoulders will that challenge fall on? According to Stevens, the shoulders of multiple Celtics.
“We’ll mix it up,” Stevens said when asked how much thought he put into who would defend Teague. “I don’t think you can guard (him with) any one guy. I don’t think you can give Teague one look for 48 minutes and expect to be successful.”
That being said, it’s a safe bet to expect to see Avery Bradley defending Teague for the majority of the night. Rajon Rondo, and maybe even Phil Pressey, may see some time against Teague as well.
The hope is that that trio of guards will be able to contain Atlanta’s real-life version of Speedy Gonzales. If they can, Stevens might be flashing a smile after the game for a very different reason: a win.
- Marc D'Amicp
Friday, November 21 - Celtics at Grizzlies
Pregame - C's Want to Push Pace vs. Ailing Grizzlies
MEMPHIS – Much has been made about the Celtics looking to play up-tempo basketball. But Brad Stevens thinks people may misunderstand what they’re looking to do in terms of picking up the pace.
“The emphasis on pace for us sometimes gets taken out of context. It’s not about running up the court and shooting as quickly as possible. It’s about continuing to move that way throughout the whole possession,” Stevens said.
As that pace pertains to the Memphis Grizzlies, Stevens noted that it’s important for the Celtics to establish it tonight. Given that the Grizzlies are riding a 20-game home winning streak, that may be easier said than done.
“If you’re stagnant against these guys, their length and athleticism is a problem. The more you stand around, the more they sit on you with those interior guys who are big and strong and physical, and the more Conley, Allen, Prince and Lee can get into you,” Stevens said. “You’ve got to keep them moving.”
Still, the coach wants quality shots, not just the first look or the Mike D’Antoni “seven seconds or less” approach.
“(Pace) doesn’t mean you have to fly up the court and shoot in the first 3-4 seconds of the shot clock,” Stevens said.
With multiple Grizzlies battling a stomach bug, picking up the pace may prove to be a very effective strategy tonight.
- Peter Stringer
Wednesday, November 19 - Celtics at Sixers
Pregame - Turner Finding His Way in Boston
Evan Turner is still trying to find his role with the Boston Celtics, but he certainly knows his way around Philadelphia.
“This is probably my sixth time playing here. It’s super weird getting drafted here as a 21 year-old kid, staying here until I was 25,” Turner said. “It’s a little different knowing that I’ll never be back in the area for more than a night. But it’s all great memories.”
The Sixers’ second overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, Turner has always been subject to great expectations, and when given the opportunity, he’s proven he can deliver. Turner made his presence felt in his only start with the Celtics, dropping 19 points in the Celtics’ 106-101 upset win over the Bulls in Chicago while Rajon Rondo sat out.
Coach Brad Stevens is happy with what the veteran swingman is giving him off the bench, as he’s averaged 8.2 PPG on the season.
“He’s trying to find his comfort level. That’s to be expected. He’s been here for 10 games now,” Stevens said. “His work ethic has always been a huge strength of his; it has never been questioned.
“We’ve got him playing a couple of different positions. He’s defended his position well and really worked on it. He came here and had something to prove.”
- Peter Stringer
Monday, November 3 - Celtics at Mavericks
Pregame - Stevens Discusses Relationship with Carlisle
DALLAS – Brad Stevens has a lot of friends in the coaching ranks whom he turns to for advice and to bounce ideas off of. Tonight’s opposing coach, Rick Carlisle, is one of them.
Stevens has mentioned on multiple occasions this season that he met with Carlisle this summer to talk all things basketball. Prior to tonight’s Celtics-Mavs game, Boston’s second-year coach discussed the genesis of his relationship with Carlisle.
“I’ve known Rick a little bit since we were in Indy,” Stevens said. “So he was in Indy with the Pacers and I was an assistant at Butler. He’s been great. He’s the president of our (National Basketball Coaches) Association and really has been great to me for a long time, certainly since I’ve been hired.”
Stevens has undoubtedly learned quite a bit from Carlisle over the past decade, but not all of those lessons have been learned through conversation.
“I just think you watch his team play and it can be a clinic of itself,” said Stevens. “He runs great offensive stuff. They’re not afraid to try things defensively, which I admire. They probably play as much zone or more zone than anybody else in the league. They switch a ton. They will mix up their pick-and-roll coverages throughout the game.”
Such is not the case with every NBA coach. Stevens says that Carlisle is one of the few coaches who are willing to experiment without hesitation.
“Sometimes as a coach you sit there and you don’t want to change because you’re playing the percentages and you’re being conservative,” Stevens commented. “I think that he’s got a great feel for, ‘Hey, I’m not afraid to try something on the fly,’ and it’s proven over time to be very successful for him.”
An NBA title and a .588 career win percentage is pretty impressive. Those in Celtics Nation must be hoping that some of Carlisle’s lessons can help Stevens reach similar heights.
- Marc D'Amico
Saturday, November 1 - Celtics at Rockets
Pregame - Patrick Beverley Is Out, Isaiah Canaan Is In
HOUSTON – News broke about 90 minutes ahead of tonight’s tip-off that Rockets starting point guard Patrick Beverley will not be available to play due to a strained left hamstring.
Houston head coach Kevin McHale had two options to choose from to replace Beverley in the starting lineup: veteran Jason Terry or second-year guard Isaiah Canaan. He chose the latter in an attempt to control the former’s minutes.
“I try to keep JET’s (Jason Terry) time down,” McHale stated before the game. “If you start, the time seems to get away from you a lot quicker. So we’ll bring in JET as needed for balance and I told him to be ready to play a few more minutes. If we can start Isaiah, hopefully we’ll get a good blend of both of their minutes.”
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens is all too familiar with Canaan’s abilities. Stevens recalled coaching against the guard when he was a freshman at Murray State.
“He almost knocked us out of the (NCAA) tournament,” said Stevens. “He was 4-for-4 as a freshman from 3, which is really hard to do, and we ended up winning by two when he was a freshman at Murray State and we moved on to the Sweet 16. From that point on, you knew he was a really talented player.”
When asked to give a short scouting report on Canaan, Stevens replied, “He’s always been able to get his shot off from deep. He’s good at getting a rhythm with the ball or catching and shooting off the ball, so we’re going to have to be out there on his catches.”
Boston will also need to be prepared to face another Rocket at the point: James Harden. Harden is one of the league’s premier shooting guards but he is fully capable of running Houston’s offense. Stevens recognizes that the potential of seeing Harden at two different positions is a lot to prepare for.
“Obviously, Harden at the 1 is a problem. Harden at the 2 is a problem,” Stevens said. “He’s one of the best players in the league.”
Regardless of how great Harden is, or how good Canaan and Terry are, the Rockets will be missing something tonight. When asked what his team would miss most without Beverley’s services, McHale didn’t even touch upon scoring or defense. He talked about the presence Beverley brings to the table.
“Just feistiness,” McHale said, “and Patrick’s just general overall attitude that he likes to play basketball and comes to get into it with you and is not afraid to scrap.”
He won’t be scrapping tonight. Instead, it will be the likes of Canaan and Terry who face off against Rajon Rondo. Those are matchups that are clearly in Boston’s favor.
- Marc D'Amico
Sunday, October 19 - Celtics at Nets
Pregame - James Young Could Return on Tuesday
NEW YORK - Celtics fans may soon get another taste of what rookie James Young brings to the table.
Young has been sidelined since Oct. 7 with a strained left calf and will not play today against the Brooklyn Nets. He has yet to be cleared for full basketball activities, but head coach Brad Stevens says that green light could be coming soon.
“We probably won’t go live in practice tomorrow and then we’ll go live Tuesday,” Stevens said. “Hopefully that progression allows him to do that by Tuesday.”
Young will be playing a serious game of catch up once he is cleared. To this point, he has participated in only five practices and one preseason game. He’s been forced to learn Boston’s schemes from the sideline for the past two weeks, and as Stevens notes, that isn’t an easy way to transition into the NBA.
“It’s usually very difficult to learn while you’re sitting there, no matter how engaged you are,” said Stevens. “It’s the old adage, ‘You can show somebody or you can tell them what to do, but they have to go out there and do it.’”
Stevens went on to note that even a veteran like Rajon Rondo will experience a learning curve once he returns from his injury. That curve will be exponentially greater for a rookie like Young.
Regardless of how daunting Young’s learning curve may be, it will be great to see him back on the court. He teased all of us on Oct. 6 when he scored 10 points in less than 20 minutes of action during Boston’s preseason opener. It’s about time to get another taste of what he can add to this team.
- Marc D'Amico
Thursday, October 16 - Celtics at 76ers
Pregame - Stevens: Sixers "The Best" in the League?
You look at the Philadelphia 76ers and see an inexperienced team that went 19-63 last season.
Brad Stevens looks at the Philadelphia 76ers and sees a legitimate challenge.
“The Sixers are one of, if not the best, cutting team in the league,” Stevens said prior to tonight’s 7 p.m. tip-off. “They fly up the court. They cut as hard as anybody else in the league off of both the post and off of hand-backs off the pinch-post.”
Philadelphia’s style of offense is difficult to handle, particularly for this Celtics team. Stevens recognizes that his crew dropped three of its four meetings against the Sixers last season.
“We really struggled with it last year,” the coach admitted. “We were better with it in exhibition game one. Doing it in your first exhibition game is different than when you’ve now played four, five or six and games are starting to run together.”
Stevens has commented over the past week that his team’s defense has improved. It did play well against Philly on Oct. 6, limiting the Sixers to just 78 points on 40.3 percent shooting. In order to succeed at that end again tonight, Stevens will need his players to be alert at all times.
“We’re going to have to play in a stance and be ready to be picked on even if you’re three passes away against them,” commented Stevens.
That’s a long-term lesson. Stevens and the Celtics want to be a great defensive team tonight and throughout the entire season. The only way to do that, especially against these Sixers, is to have all five players consistently operate as one.
- Marc D'Amico
Wednesday, October 15 - Raptors at Celtics
Pregame - Stevens Reveals New Starting Lineup
Jeff Green’s return to game action will result in Brad Stevens using his third starting lineup of the preseason during tonight’s game against Toronto.
This lineup may catch some by surprise.
Green, who missed Boston’s first four preseason games with a strained left calf, is right back in his regular role as the team’s starting small forward. Many expected the man who filled in for him during his absence, Evan Turner, to be bumped out of the starting group as a result. Such is not the case.
Stevens rattled off the following five players when naming his starting group: Evan Turner, Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk. That list means that Marcus Smart will come off of the bench after starting at point guard over Boston’s first four games of the preseason.
This should be a good thing for the Celtics in the long term, and for a couple of reasons. The C’s will finally get a look at how Green and Turner work together on the court in a live game situation. Heck, Stevens hasn’t even seen them paired up on the practice court since Green returned to action on Monday.
”We didn’t go live yesterday and we went in some small segments on Monday. We’re just doing a lot of technique work,” Stevens said. “That’s what we’ll find out (Green and Turner’s synergy) tonight, tomorrow and Sunday.”
Meanwhile, Smart will move to the bench and log minutes with the second unit. That’s the group he’ll spend a lot of time with during the regular season once Rajon Rondo returns to the lineup. This move will give him an opportunity to build chemistry with guys who he hasn’t spent a bunch of time with on the court, all while providing Turner with the playing time he has earned.
Pregame - Stevens Speaks on Experimental 44-minute Game
The NBA announced on Tuesday that the Celtics will play an experimental 44-minute game against the Nets at 3:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn. Wednesday’s pregame availability in Portland, Maine, was the media’s first crack at speaking to Brad Stevens about the contest.
Stevens and the rest of the league’s coaches discussed the idea at the most recent NBA coaches’ meeting. The idea took off from there when Stevens began chatting with Nets head coach Lionel Hollins.
“Lionel and I talked a little bit about it and we both said, ‘Hey, we’re playing three straight times. It’s something that if we’re both interested in doing it, why not try it?’” Stevens said, alluding to the fact that the C’s and Nets will meet in their final two preseason contests and on Opening Night. “So we presented that to the NBA, and so we’re excited about trying it.”
Boston’s coach sees both ends of the spectrum when it comes to evaluating the experiment. He does acknowledge that the four-minute decrease will affect the game on some level.
“I think the only con that I can think of would be how it affects the rotation players,” Stevens said. “Obviously you can play guys any amount of minutes – nobody in the league averages 44 minutes. You can play your best players the same amount of time. Does that affect your sixth through 10th guys? That would be the only con that I can think of.”
On the positive end, employing 44-minute games throughout the season would greatly minimize the toll each player’s body is put through during the season.
“Obviously, it has to be done with the idea and consideration in mind of having enough advertising time and the timeouts and the flow of the game and those type of things,” said Stevens, “but as far as you play 6.8 less games per year, you end up saving 13 hours throughout the course of the year if you think that’s a 15-minute chunk of the game.”
Many have been baffled by the upcoming experiment, but Stevens is not in that group. He loves the fact that the NBA is doing everything it can to stay ahead of the curve.
“I think one of the neat things about being in the NBA is that they’re very forward-thinking,” Stevens said. “I think one of the frustrations about being involved in any major, major industry is how slow change can happen. I’m really encouraged because the NBA seems to be really quick to try things and to see if it works.”
It won’t take us long to find out. We’ll see you Sunday from Brooklyn.
- Marc D'Amico
Wednesday, April 2 - Celtics at Wizards
Pregame - Starting vs. Coming Off Bench? "Not a Big Deal"
Is it really that big of a big deal whether a player consistently starts or comes off of the bench? Brad Stevens sure doesn’t think so.
“The difference between starting and coming off of the bench is – I know it’s a big deal to some people, but it’s not a big deal in the big scheme of things,” Stevens said before Boston’s matchup with Washington. “You’re either ready to play or you’re not, no matter when your time comes.”
Stevens discussed the topic after he revealed that he still does not know whether or not Avery Bradley will play in tonight’s game. Bradley, who is dealing with tendinitis in his right Achilles, will attempt to loosen up before the game and will be a game-time decision.
Bradley’s availability will make a major impact on the role of Jerryd Bayless. Bayless will come off the bench if Bradley can play, but he will shift into the starting lineup if Bradley is unavailable.
To the credit of Bayless, he has been incredibly consistent for Boston whether or not he has started or come off of the bench. He has shot 42.6 percent from the field and scored 13.6 points per 36 minutes during 26 games off the bench with the C’s. The numbers haven’t changed much during his 11 games as a starter, which featured a field goal percentage of 41.8 percent 15.9 points per 36 minutes. Stevens credits Bayless’ ability to adjust on the fly to his high level of professionalism.
“I think Jerryd is a good pro,” said Stevens. “… Jerryd is a guy that when we get here (to Washington, D.C.) last night, he finds a gym to shoot in and takes guys with him. That’s not all that common, and I think that that’s something that’s a real positive. That’s a guy that just wants to be ready for his time regardless of if he’s starting or coming off the bench.”
Interestingly enough, we’re less than an hour away from tip-off and Bayless still doesn’t know whether he’s starting or coming off of the bench. Fortunately that final decision, whenever it happens to be made, won’t be too big of a deal to him or his coach.
- Marc D'Amico
Monday, March 31 - Celtics at Bulls
Pregame - So Many Close Games, So Many Close Losses
If it feels like you’ve watched the Celtics drop a lot of close games this season, it’s because you have.
Boston’s close-game struggles were a hot topic prior to tonight’s matchup between the Celtics and Bulls in Chicago. A reporter noted that Boston has lost 17 games by six or fewer points, and Brad Stevens followed that up by pointing out that his team has dropped 29 games that were decided by three possessions or less.
“I think we’re 15-29 in three-possession games,” Stevens said, “and that’s frustrating because you have a shot.”
Unfortunately for Boston, it hasn’t capitalized on that shot very often. Stevens gave his opinion as to why that is the case.
“I think one of the things we’ve just got to get better at is No. 1, trying to put yourself in position all the way through to be in better shape,” he said.
Stevens is referencing his team’s penchant for falling behind by double-digits and then climbing uphill in the fourth quarter. The Celtics have trailed by at least 14 points in three of their last four losses and used individual scoring spurts to get back into each contest.
Such was not the case last night. Boston and Chicago played a close game throughout, with neither team leading by more than seven points at any stage of the contest. Still, the Celtics fell in yet another a close game by a score of 107-102. Stevens believes his team dropped this one due to poor execution in crunch time.
“In games like last night where you’re playing a top three or top four team in the East… you’ve got to play really physically and really detail-oriented at the end,” said Stevens. “We did at times, we didn’t at times, and it hurt us when we didn’t. You’ve got to do it all the way through.”
Boston’s inability to do so has left it with 29 losses by three possessions or less. That’s 29 games that the team could have easily won. Just imagine where they’d be had they been able to win even half of those contests. They’d legitimately be in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff race.
- Marc D'Amico
Friday, March 21 - Celtics at Nets
Pregame - Stevens: 'Be Great at What You Do Well'
There is one goal during a season in which the playoffs become a long shot: develop.
That word is at the forefront of the minds of the Celtics front office and coaching staff, particularly now that the C’s have been all but eliminated from playoff contention.
Brad Stevens gave us a look into his interesting angle on development prior to Friday night’s matchup with the Nets. He revealed that he doesn’t necessarily want his guys to add additional talents to their arsenal. His plan is much more simply than that.
“Be great at what you do well, first and foremost,” said Stevens. “Your strengths have to stand out. Your strengths have to be perfected.”
With 69 games of NBA coaching experience under his belt, Stevens has a pretty good idea of what it takes to be successful in this league, both from a player and team standpoint. He detoured from discussing his own players to share his views of great players and great teams throughout the NBA.
“I look across the league at some of these really good teams and these great players,” he said, “and you give a guy that shoots 18-footers an 18-footer, he makes it every time. Every single time. You give a guy an open 3 and he makes it every single time. That’s what the great teams do.”
When Stevens thinks about the development of his players, that level of play is exactly what he envisions.
“If you’re a good shooter, become a great one. If you’re a good ball handler, become a great one,” Stevens said. “Yes, [our players] have added some things to their repertoire, but I think at the end of the day, sometimes less is more.”
Stevens was asked about how some of his players have come along in that light and he responded with the following feedback.
“I think we all forget that (Jared) Sullinger only played 40 games last year and some of the things that he’s done both statistically and – the other day he had some great defensive possessions – are really critical moving forward,” said Stevens. “Obviously Avery Bradley with his shooting. We feel like he’s continued to grow and get better, and I think really on down the line you can point to each guy and say there’s one or two things that they’re a lot better at.”
The coach also singled out Kelly Olynyk by saying that the rookie big man has “played really well in the past few weeks” and that he is “really taking advantage of the time” that he’s on the court.
Back in September and October, these were statements that Stevens dreamed of making by the end of the season. Now he’s able to make them from an honest stance.
The Celtics entered this season with an eye on the future and developing their top players. Despite all of the losses, Stevens’ words would seem to indicate that the team is very happy with how far their guys have come.
- Marc D'Amico
Monday, March 17 - Celtics at Mavericks
Pregame - Stevens Has 'Fun' Preparing for Dirk
The Boston Celtics allowed one of the greatest young players in the game, Anthony Davis, to pile up a 40-point, 21 rebound performance against them last night in New Orleans.
Now they have to attempt to contain one of the greatest players of all time, Dirk Nowitzki, tonight in Dallas.
Sounds like fun, right? Brad Stevens certainly thinks so.
“It’s fun for me to prepare for those guys,” Stevens said while discussing Nowitzki. “It should be fun for our younger players to prepare for him, because it gives them something to shoot for. Because Dirk’s among the elite of the elite, and that’s a small group of people.”
But as Stevens also went on to note, “The preparation is the preparation. Guarding him is a whole other story.”
Much like Tim Duncan down the road in San Antonio, Nowitzki is showing no signs of slowing down. He has a legit shot at attaining the first career 50/40/90 shooting season of his career this season and is averaging a team-best 21.4 points per game this season.
No one in their right mind would look forward to the task of defending this guy, because doing so is oftentimes rendered useless. Nowitzki’s size and length allow him to get his shot off at will.
“He is one of the best, a lot like Carmelo (Anthony) – they’re probably the two best – at creating shots without a dribble in isolation situations,” said Stevens. “They just kind of shake, they shake you, they shake you. They threaten to dribble, and then Dirk raises up off of his left foot. And you can talk about it, you can watch it, you can see it. If he gets that inch, he’s getting it off.”
That doesn’t sound like much fun if you’re on the defensive end of that business. Stevens and his guys have had fun preparing for Davis and now Nowitzki, but as the coach said, actually guarding them is a whole other story.
- Marc D'Amico
Sunday, March 16 - Celtics at Pelicans
Pregame - Stevens Raves About Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis might have his biggest fan in the building tonight to watch him take on the Boston Celtics.
Coincidentally, that fan happens to be the head coach of the visiting team.
Brad Stevens spent a large portion of his pregame press conference gushing about Davis and how dominant the second-year big man has become in such a short period of time.
“Anthony Davis is one of the best players in the league, and that happened very quickly,” Stevens said. “It’s just a fact. He’s getting better every time I turn on the film. Thirty-six points the other night. He’s dominant off the block. He’s dominant in the high post. He’s dominant rolling to the rim.”
In other words, as Stevens succinctly summed up, “He’s scary good.”
It would be hard to disagree with that assessment when considering Davis’ recent stretch of play. The big man has averaged 30.8 points per game, 13.0 rebounds per game and 3.0 blocks per game over his last five contests. He’s coming off of a 36-point performance Friday night, and a week ago he grabbed 17 rebounds while blocking six shots.
As these numbers would indicate, Davis is impacting the game at an MVP level at both ends of the court. The fact that he is dominating games with his defense comes as no surprise. Everyone knew that would happen after he entered the league last season. The offensive power he has brought to the table, however, wasn’t necessarily expected.
“Probably didn’t realize that he was going to become as skilled as he would off the block and 18 feet from the basket as he is right now,” Stevens said, “and he’ll continue to extend that range out. He’s got a beautiful stroke.”
Stevens, who also spent some time reminiscing with reporters about Selection Sunday and his NCAA tournament memories, spoke about how highly he thought of Davis while the forward was at Kentucky. Boston’s coach got an up-close look at Davis’ abilities during the 2012 Final Four.
“The last time I was in New Orleans was the (2012) Final Four, and it’s the only Final Four that I went to as a head coach that I went to the games that I wasn’t in,” Stevens recalled. “I sat there and watched Anthony Davis and was like, ‘Oh my goodness. If there’s an obvious impact guy in the NBA, it’s him.’”
Two years later, Stevens and Davis are back in this building yet again. Stevens is still a big fan of Davis, but the coach certainly isn’t looking forward to playing against him.
- Marc D'Amico
Tuesday, January 28 - Celtics at Knicks
Pregame - Rondo Nearing Another Step in Comeback
Rajon Rondo has made impressive strides since he returned to game action on Jan. 17 against the Los Angeles Lakers. Brad Stevens thinks his star point guard may be on the verge of taking another important step in his recovery from last year’s ACL surgery.
“We haven’t talked about it yet, but I don’t think he’s definitely out tomorrow,” Stevens said, speaking of Boston’s game against Philadelphia tomorrow night at TD Garden. “So that might be the next stride that we make.”
That isn’t a guarantee that Rondo will play Wednesday night, but the possibility is clearly open. That would be a big step for both Rondo and the Celtics as he continues to make important checkmarks on his to-do list.
Boston has held Rondo out of back-to-back games since his return to the lineup. He missed Wednesday’s 113-111 overtime win over the Wizards. This news, coupled with the fact that Rondo just played 30 minutes against Brooklyn on Sunday, indicates that the point guard is inching closer and closer to unrestricted playing time.
Reaching that milestone will put Rondo’s mind at ease. As Stevens noted before tonight’s game, these restrictions have prevented No. 9 from catching a groove on the court.
“It’s hard to play those five-minute intervals and get any rhythm or routine,” said Stevens.
Thankfully, Rondo’s five-minute intervals have quickly gone by the wayside. His minute totals looked like this after his first five games of the season: 19, 21, 26, 22, 30. Rondo’s minutes continue to increase and so do his numbers.
“I thought the other day, part of the reason he played better was he got a better rhythm,” Stevens said, referring to Rondo’s 13-point, eight-rebound, eight assist performance against Brooklyn. “So hopefully we can play him seven to eight minutes a quarter and feel better.”
Rondo has almost said sayonara to playing restricted minutes. Come tomorrow, he may say goodbye to sitting out back-to-backs as well.
- Marc D'Amico
Tuesday, January 22 - Celtics at Wizards
Pregame - C's To Play with Short-Handed Backcourt
Brad Stevens said before tonight’s game that there has been a “changing of the guard” in Boston’s locker room due to their recent string of injuries.
His pun was likely unintentional, but it was spot on.
Boston will be playing tonight’s game without Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley and Jerryd Bayless. Rondo is sitting out for precautionary reasons in the second night of Boston’s back-to-back, Bradley is fresh off of a sprained right ankle, and Bayless continues to recover from a left big toe injury suffered Sunday night in Orlando.
Who does that leave in Boston’s backcourt? Well, you might know one of the guys. His name is Phil Pressey and he has been a fantastic assist man for Boston thus far in his rookie season. The other two guards the Celtics have at their disposal, Chris Johnson and Vander Blue, are in the midst of 10-day contracts with the team.
That trio of guards is a far cry from what the Celtics ran onto the floor Friday night against the Lakers. A changing of the guard, to say the least.
Stevens told reporters that he plans to insert Gerald Wallace into the starting lineup, shifting Jeff Green over to the starting shooting guard spot. That change will help to eat up some of the team’s minutes at shooting guard but Stevens still must figure out his point guard situation.
Pressey stands as the only available point guard for tonight’s game. Stevens explained that he is still trying to figure out how he’s going to handle the point guard position tonight.
“How we’ll manage the minutes at the point guard situation tonight, I’m not exactly sure,” Stevens said. “That may be a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants call, but I’ve got a few things in mind depending on how the game goes and who they’re playing.
“You never know how we’ll decide to go with that,” he continued, “and I’d be lying to say that I could map it out right now. I’m going to go with my gut as we go through it. Today is a lot more about feel than it is about anything proven.”
There’s no doubt that the Celtics would be happy to have Rondo, Bradley and Bayless available tonight. They’re three of the better players on this team. The C’s do, however, feel confident in what Johnson and Blue bring to the table.
“Chris was unbelievable last night. I mean really, really, really good. Not just serviceable.” Stevens said, referencing Johnson’s 11-point, three-rebound performance in Miami. “He played great on both ends of the floor, so you hope that that can continue.”
The coach then gave a quick scouting report on Blue, who placed against Stevens’ Butler Bulldogs during his time at Marquette.
“Vander is a tough kid. Vander is a guy who is a competitor,” said Stevens. “You look around the league and a lot of those Marquette guys have done really well in the league. You look at the (Wesley) Matthews and the (Jimmy) Butlers and that. I think he kind of fits that mold of a tough guy.”
Stevens then touched on Blue’s scoring ability – he just dropped 35 points in a D-League game on Monday – and what he brings to the table as a defender.
“He manufactures points in different ways. His shooting percentages were never the greatest, although he shot about 70 percent against me last year,” Stevens said. “And he’s a tough defender. He can get into the ball and is a good athlete.”
Stevens would not guarantee that Blue would make it onto the floor but it’s almost a given considering how short-handed Boston is in the backcourt. There is no Rondo, Bradley or Bayless, but there is Pressey, Johnson and Blue.
A changing of the guard, indeed.
- Marc D'Amico
Tuesday, January 21 - Celtics at Heat
Pregame - Stevens Calls Pressey "The Guy"
Phil Pressey probably didn’t expect to be called “the guy” during his rookie season in Boston. In fact, no one probably expected that to happen after the 5-foot-11 point guard went undrafted out of Missouri.
Well, Brad Stevens had a surprise for everyone prior to Tuesday night’s game against the Miami Heat.
“You look at our roster right now and with (Rajon) Rondo with minute limitations and with Jerryd (Bayless) out, Phil is the guy,” Stevens said. “If Rondo plays 24 minutes, Phil is probably going to at least play the other 24 and maybe some with him.”
In any normal instance, it would probably be a bad thing for an NBA team to be leaning on a 5-foot-11, undrafted point guard for heavy minutes in January. Thing is, Pressey is anything but normal.
The speedy guard has been fantastic during his rookie season and put up the third-highest assist-to-turnover ratio (3.76) in the NBA among point guards who have played in at least 10 games. He started for the first time in his NBA career six days ago and opened up the record books. Pressey notched 10 assists while not committing a turnover in that game, something that hadn’t been done by a rookie point guard since Armond Hill (11 assists) did it on Jan. 28, 1977, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
Talk about impressive. Pressey has proven to be a steal for the Celtics, a player who can orchestrate the offense despite all of his shortcomings (pun intended).
“He gets that thing moving pretty well,” Stevens said. “He plays with great pace, just generally. It’s kind of who he is. He’s a little guy and he’s figured out ways to be successful in a big person’s game.”
There is just one more thing Pressey needs to do to establish himself as one of the top up-and-coming point guards in the league, and that is to establish his shot. Pressey has been passive in his shot selection. His coach, who has seen way more of Pressey than any of us outsiders have. wants to see that change.
“Phil puts in a lot of hours. Phil is probably in our practice facility as much as anyone on our team,” Stevens said of his rookie floor general. “I expect it (his shot) to go in. I think the biggest thing is, for him to pass up an open 3 to take a one-dribble pull-up… take the open 3. Step into it with a great deal of confidence and let it fly, because everybody on the bench expects you to let it fly.”
Pressey has shown plenty of confidence in his passing abilities during this early stage of his NBA career. Now it’s time to knock down those open jumpers. With the playing time he’s expected to receive tonight, he should have plenty of opportunities to fulfill his coach’s wish.
- Marc D'Amico
Sunday, January 19 - Celtics at Magic
Pregame - Matchups are at the Forefront of Tonight's Game
There is one word you hear more than all others during the NBA playoffs: matchups. We aren’t in the playoffs on Jan. 19, but that didn’t prevent Brad Stevens from discussing some matchup issues the Orlando Magic will pose tonight.
Orlando will be missing its starting center, Nikola Vucevic, tonight. He’ll be missing his seventh consecutive contest since suffering a concussion on Jan. 6. His absence drastically changes the Magic’s lineup and rotation.
The Magic list their probable starters as Jameer Nelson, Victor Oladipo, Arron Afflalo, Tobias Harris and Glen Davis. That’s small ball at its core, with three guards, a small forward and a power forward. Stevens discussed the challenges that three-guard lineup could cause for Boston tonight.
“Afflalo is a bear, the way he’s scoring it,” Stevens said. “Nelson and Oladipo and Afflalo, any of those guys could go for 25-plus a night. That makes it very difficult.
Stevens noted that he has a plan as to how he’ll defend the Magic, but that he may alter that based on how Orlando’s guards perform.
“You start a certain way which you think might fit best, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to change throughout the course of the night,” said Stevens. “You just have to be flexible. Sometimes if one of those guys gets going, even if the other two aren’t, you want to make a change just to kind of slow him down and break a rhythm.”
The most probable player out of that group to pour in 25-plus points has to be Arron Afflalo, who comes into tonight’s game with a scoring average of 20.9 points per game. He’ll start at small forward, which means Jeff Green will have the responsibility of defending him. That will certainly be a unique matchup for Green that could give the Magic an advantage when they’re on offense.
“[Green’s] got to guard a really good player, but he’s got to make sure, maybe more so than some of the 3s he’s guarded, he’s got to be there on the catch, though Afflalo is very good in the post,” Stevens said. “It will be interesting to see how they play them, if they decide to go that way, but I certainly think that’s an advantage to have all three of those guys out there on the court.”
The difficult matchups don’t end there. Orlando also has a stable of big men who possess an inside-outside game. Stevens touched on those players as well.
“With that rotation on the frontline with Harris, Davis, (Andrew) Nicholson, (Kyle) O’Quinn, those guys, you have all skilled guys that can make shots,” said Stevens. “You do have some matchup problems the other way, because a guy like Harris, who is probably more of a traditional 3, can do a lot of things to put your 4s in a bad position.”
We may not be minutes away from tipping off a playoff game, but matchups remain the name of the game. Matchups are what make this game so great. One team says, “This is what we bring to the table.” Then the other team says, “Well this is how we’re going to stop it.”
We’ll see if the Celtics can figure out a way to counter this unique Magic lineup tonight.
- Marc D'Amico
Tuesday, December 10 - Celtics at Nets
Pregame - Pierce Will Play; Coaches Discuss Emotions
It’s official: Paul Pierce will play his first regular-season game against the Boston Celtics tonight.
Nets head coach Jason Kidd announced before tonight’s game that Pierce, returning from a broken right hand, will return to the lineup tonight and come off of the bench for Brooklyn. Pierce hinted at the possibility of coming off of the bench on Monday, and Kidd explained tonight why he’s turning that possibility into reality.
“One, to get him comfortable with the glove,” Kidd said, referring to the protective glove that Pierce will be wearing on his shooting hand. “Two, there’s no reason to push him to the starting lineup. I want him to get a feel of the glove.”
The fact that Pierce is coming off of the bench does not change the storyline of this game. He is playing his first regular-season game against the Celtics, and Kevin Garnett will play his first game against Boston since March 4, 2007. They will surely be hit with some form of emotion when they take the floor tonight. Kidd revealed the advice he gave to his two future Hall of Famers as they head into tonight’s game.
“To breathe and to relax and to enjoy the moment,” said Kidd. “It will probably be, for Paul or for KG, a period of reflection of what they accomplished in Boston and winning the championship. And then being the competitors they are, they’ll be ready to play.”
While Kidd expects that period of reflection, Brad Stevens thinks his players have clear minds heading into this contest. He was asked if he sensed any extra emotions or energy from his group prior to his pregame press conference, and he replied with a very short answer: “No.”
Stevens did follow up that one-word answer with an inside look at the emotional – or, emotionless – side of the Celtics.
“They’re not a huge rah-rah group, generally,” Stevens explained. “They’re pretty business-like. They’ve pretty much been normal. When you first get together (in training camp), you don’t know how to read that, and now I just think that’s who they are. And I like that, because it’s pretty business-like.”
That might be the perfect approach for a game like this one. The Celtics and Nets, two teams that pulled off a blockbuster trade on July 12, will meet for the first time this season at 7:30 p.m. And contrary to what we all thought a week ago, Paul Pierce will be on the floor… at some point.
- Marc D'Amico
Sunday, December 8 - Celtics at Knicks
Pregame - Anthony, Knicks Pose Great Challenge for C's D
You don’t have to tell Brad Stevens that he and the Celtics face a hefty task today in trying to contain Carmelo Anthony. He knows that full well.
“I think he’s a really difficult challenge,” Stevens said before today’s afternoon matinee. “I think he’s one of the few handful of players in the league where you go into the game knowing that you’re probably going to have to put two guys on him at some point or bring another guy to him at some point.”
The Celtics haven’t faced off against many players this season who are on that “I Command Double-Teams” list. Of the players on that list, Boston has only seen LeBron James, James Harden and Paul George. In other words, the C’s haven’t had much practice with double-teams and traps on athletic wings.
So the question looms: What is Stevens’ comfort level with using these aggressive defensive schemes?
“Fine,” he said to that question. “But your comfort level is never good with that, because if you have to do it, there’s a reason. Again, you’re picking your poison. So if you have to bring two (defenders) to the ball, you’re creating something, and that’s because of your respect for the individual player.”
What Stevens means by “creating something” is that his defense would be opening up a shot for someone other player if it double-teams Anthony. That has been a dangerous situation against this Knicks team of late. Anthony’s teammates have been torching opponents over the past two games.
“I think if you have to bring two to [Anthony], which is a problem, which has to happen a lot in a lot of games,” Stevens said, “then you’ve got guys like (Tim) Hardaway (Jr.) and (J.R.) Smith who go 10-for-14 in the last game or 10-for-16 in the last game, and now you’ve got an issue. All of those guys are very capable shooters.”
Yep, this is one heck of a defensive challenge for the Boston Celtics. The good news is that they understand that and have been preparing for it over the two days.
- Marc D'Amico
Saturday, November 9 - Celtics at Heat
Pregame - Stevens Discusses Preparing for LeBron
Brad Stevens has had a lot of firsts over the past few months. This one has to be the most unpleasant one yet.
Stevens has spent the past 24 hours preparing for the game’s greatest player, LeBron James. James is coming off of his second consecutive MVP and Finals MVP season. The C’s will do their best to contain him, but accomplishing that goal is quite the feat.
I asked Stevens before tonight’s game what it has been like preparing for James for the first time in his coaching career. His answer said it all.
“Unenjoyable... might be the right word?” Stevens said after struggling to come up with the most appropriate term. “He’s the best player on the planet right now, and at the end of the day that makes it really hard to guard. He’s a great combination of skill and strength and speed, and then on top of that he’s got to be in the top few players in the world in savvy. He’s really a special player.”
James would be difficult to defend in any setting, but when he’s on the floor with this Heat team that challenge becomes even greater. As Stevens mentioned, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has created the perfect offense for James and his teammates.
“The other thing that sometimes goes without being said is how good their system is for all of those guys,” Stevens said. “[Speolstra’s] really done a great job of coaching that team and putting them in position to just take advantage of their strengths and play basketball, but also a really organized setup for what would usually be an undersized team in the league to be an absolute nightmare to guard.”
That nightmare will become a reality tonight for Stevens and the Celtics. However, they might have a weapon to make that nightmare a bit less frightening.
Brandon Bass has been very successful in defending James in the past. He hasn’t shut James down, but he has made life very difficult on the four-time MVP. Stevens let it be known that Bass will be tasked with defending James yet again tonight.
“Obviously [Bass is] a guy that’s going to see some time on LeBron, as are other people,” said Stevens. “I think Brandon Bass is a versatile defender and I think that makes our team better.”
The question is, does he make the Celtics good enough to take down the defending champs? If the answer is yes, that would make Stevens’ first matchup with James quite memorable.
- Marc D'Amico
Friday, November 8 - Celtics at Magic
Pregame - Stevens Says Pressey Can Learn from Nelson
There is always a ripple down effect when a lineup change occurs for an NBA team. In Boston’s instance, Jordan Crawford’s insertion into the starting lineup doesn’t only affect him, it also touches the rest of the starters and trickles down to the bench.
One of the players who’s affected the most is rookie point guard Phil Pressey. Pressey hadn’t played in Boston’s first four games of the season. When Brad Stevens shook up the lineup on Wednesday with Crawford as the starting point guard, it meant that Pressey was in line for his first regular season appearance as a pro.
Pressey is now the point guard for the second unit. He played 17 minutes Wednesday night and finished with two points, three assists, one steal and no turnovers. He played well, and Stevens now has confidence in both Pressey and that new second unit.
Confidence, however, won’t make Pressey any taller. The point guard went undrafted out of Missouri for a reason, which is his height. Pressey stands at just 5-foot-11.
He has managed to make it this far by figuring out a way to overcome that disadvantage at every level. Stevens believes that Pressey can continue to figure out ways to be successful at the NBA level.
“Obviously, he’s going to run into some matchups that are tough for him, simply because of size,” Stevens said before tonight’s game in Orlando. “But he has to use size to his advantage. We always talked about that when I was at Butler, was just using your leverage to your advantage if you’re a smaller guy. So he’s going to have to do that, because he’s going to play.”
Ironically, someone who will be on the other sideline tonight is a perfect example for Pressey to look up to. Nelson came into the league in 2004 at a 6-foot point guard out of Saint Joseph’s. That height hasn’t deterred him one bit, as he has made an All-Star team and been a consistent performer for the past decade.
“I like Jameer Nelson, and I have since college,” said Stevens. “He’s always struck me as a winner. He’s always struck me as a competitive guy. To play in this league and be as effective in this league at that size as he is, it tells you, No. 1, he’s really quick and really fast, and No. 2 is he has a great mindset and some great stuff about him.”
Stevens continued that statement by comparing Nelson and Pressey.
“Phil does too,” he said. “Phil is much younger in this process, and Jameer may have been even a little bit more ready from a body and physical standpoint when he came in the league, but he can certainly learn from him.”
Pressey will get a first-hand opportunity to watch and learn from Nelson tonight. Maybe even in a one-on-one setting.
- Marc D'Amico
Wednesday, October 30 - Celtics at Raptors
Pregame - Stevens Tossed Faverani into Starting Lineup
Brad Stevens finally announced his starting lineup for Boston’s season opener tonight. It’s not the one that started the final game of the Celtics’ preseason, but it’s pretty darn close.
Stevens is calling on Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Gerald Wallace, Brandon Bass and rookie Vitor Faverani to start tonight’s game. Bass is the only change from the final preseason game, as he replaces Kelly Olynyk at power forward.
The story of this group, however, is Faverani, who will be starting in his NBA debut. Stevens chose Faverani after his phenomenal exhibition performance against Brooklyn on October 23 that included 15 points, seven rebounds and six blocked shots.
“I think we need some size and length, whether it be Vitor or Kelly, in our starting lineup,” Stevens said before tonight’s game. “I think that showed itself in a few of those exhibition games at the start of those games. It’s throwing a young guy out there in an NBA opener on the floor right out of the game, but like we talked about this morning, he’s been a pro for a long time and he’s experienced some great environments. So better soon than never.”
In his first NBA game, Faverani will be faced with a difficult task. He’ll need to keep up with Jonas Valanciunas, who has shown vast improvement during his young career.
“I think Valanciunas is a very, very good second year pro,” Stevens said. “He looks like he’s very much trending upward.”
But it’s not like Valanciunas is in a totally different class than Faverani. Stevens likes what he’s seen out of his big man, too.
“I think V is a good player, and we’ll see whether or not (he can contain Valanciunas),” commented Stevens.
On top of being a good player, Faverani is also an experienced player despite the fact that he’s an NBA rookie.
“I think the most important part is he’s been through a lot,” the coach said of his starting center. “He has been a pro. He’s played in great environments, like I said, but he also understands how pros operate, how they take care of their bodies, what the season’s like. Even though he hasn’t been through an NBA season, he’s been through quite a bit.”
Tonight, however, will be different. Faverani is starting for the Boston Celtics in their season opener against some of the most talented players in the world. Add this storyline to the intrigue of Opening Night.
- Marc D'Amico
Wednesday, October 30 - 2013-14 Season Begins
Celtics Tip Off Season in Toronto
The Celtics will tip off their 2013-14 regular season campaign against the Toronto Raptors on October 30. Stay tuned to the Ford Post Ups Notebook for game night updates throughout the season.