Team Play Was C's Hallmark in Orlando

ORLANDO – There is one thing on the mind of every single player who partakes in the NBA’s summer leagues: to make an NBA roster.

That mindset often plays a role in the quality of basketball we watch throughout the two weeks of games in Orlando and Las Vegas. Players want to impress scouts and team executives by putting up numbers, and that typically results in poor decisions.

Phil Pressey

Phil Pressey dished out a game-high 10 assists on Friday.
Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty Images

There is only one member of the Boston Celtics’ team who put up big numbers this week; Kelly Olynyk averaged 18.0 points per game and 7.8 rebounds per game over five contests. Having only one player with big numbers might lead you to believe that the Celtics struggled, but that is far from the case. Boston finished the week with a 3-2 record and its two losses were by a combined 14 points.

So how were the Celtics so successful without the presence of multiple big-time scorers? The answer is simple: they chose to put team play above personal stats.

“I thought the players really did a good job of buying into the team concept,” said the team’s head coach, Jay Larranaga, before noting that the C’s totaled 30 assists on Friday. “That just shows that they really played with a sense of team spirit.”

When Larranaga says “they,” he means everyone. All 11 of Boston’s active players appeared in Friday’s game, and nine of them accounted for at least one assist. All in all, seven players tallied between 10 and 14 points in the game.

“You want to give each guy an opportunity to show what he can do,” said Larranaga. “It’s not enough time during practice to really even know who you like. And then when the lights come on in front of all the NBA teams, different players might play better, some might play worse.”

On Friday, it might be the case that all of the Celtics played better. Their team play helped them pull ahead of the Orlando Magic by as many as 29 points in the second half. Ten of their 11 players scored at least five points and the team shot 53.4 percent overall from the field.

That type of teamwork ends with the players, but it all starts with the coaching staff. Larranaga and his staff made it clear from the team’s first practice, which took place on July 4, that they would employ a team strategy. This wasn’t going to be one for all; it was going to be all for one.

“They were really positive with everyone. They brought a real team atmosphere,” Kelly Olynyk said after his week was completed. “Everyone was sharing the ball, no one was selfish, we were playing as a team. That’s something that I don’t think all the teams had here, so I think it was good that they really instilled that in our team.”

It was even better that the players accepted that mindset with open arms. While showcasing strong team play at both ends, Boston finished with a 3-2 record, good for seventh place in the league. It wasn’t a championship week, but it was a successful week.

At a time of year when players are typically thinking about themselves, it was refreshing to watch a group of Celtics players who were thinking about each other.