Ford Post Ups Notebook
Ford Post Ups Notebook
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Peter Stringer and Marc D'Amico "post" 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, 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.