Celtics' Unselfish Play Spurs Team, Individual Success

ORLANDO - The Summer Celtics are trying to do their best San Antonio Spurs impression in Orlando. Team basketball is the name of their game.

Boston improved to 2-1 on the week by downing the Pistons 92-90 Wednesday night. Though the victory came down to the final seconds, the C's walked away pleased with their ball movement and unselfishness.

"I try to tell guys, ‘If we win, we all look good, and when you’re winning, guys are making passes and playing the game the right way,” said Phil Pressey. “The game honors playing the right way, and we did that today."

Wednesday's win featured 16 Celtics assists, up from an average of 13.8 over their first two games. Kelly Olynyk believes that those 16 assists undersell how well he and his teammates shared the ball.

"A lot of our buckets were because we were moving the ball,” said Kelly Olynyk, who led the Celtics with 16 points and nine rebounds. “Phil was coming off the ball screen and getting right to the cup, which isn’t an assist, but it’s because guys were moving the ball and playing together. We’re sucking the defenses out and it’s really an assist in basketball terms."

Playing in this manner – the ‘right way,’ according to Pressey – isn’t easy, particularly in Orlando. Players in this league oftentimes think about themselves and how they can secure a contract with an NBA team by putting up points. The Celtics haven’t shown a drip of such selfishness this week. They’re buying into Boston’s team-oriented system.

“It goes back to what we talked about from the beginning of Coach (Brad) Stevens’ culture,” Celtics summer league head coach Jay Larranaga said after the win. “He’s an unselfish person. He’s very giving to his players, to his assistants, to the community. So we’ve tried to instill that in all the players and we also, I think, recruited players who have that naturally in them.”

Even Boston’s star players are playing unselfish basketball. No one, from Kelly Olynyk to Pressey to Marcus Smart to Chris Johnson, has been in shoot-first, ask-questions-later mode. These guys are playing together and it’s paying off in the win column.

When a team plays well together, positive numbers tend to pile up. That’s exactly what happened for the C’s on Wednesday.

The Celtics scored 92 points during a 40-minute basketball game. They had six players score in double-figures, with Olynyk (16 points), Pressey and Smart (14 points apiece) leading the way. Onlookers were particularly impressed with Boston’s starting backcourt of Pressey and Smart.

Pressey had a fantastic shooting night, making six of his 10 attempts from the field. He made everything from running floaters to driving layups to 3-pointers. Larranaga lauded Pressey for putting in a “tremendous amount of work on a daily basis.” That work is clearly paying off.

The same can be said for his rookie backcourt partner, Smart. Smart has looked better and better in each game and seems to be taking well to the NBA’s style of play. Not only did he score 14 points on Wednesday, but he also contributed five rebounds, a game-high six assists and two steals. He continues to improve on a daily basis, and people are taking notice.

“He’s come a long way,” said Olynyk. “I didn’t see his line tonight, but from what I thought, he played great tonight. This is by far his best game.

“He’s learning how to play with these guys who are bigger, stronger, quicker athletes… He’s going to make leaps and bounds here every week and you’re going to see it.”

What Olynyk failed to mention is that Smart, like the rest of his teammates, is also learning how to play Celtics basketball. This style of play is marked by unselfishness and strives for team-oriented goals. As cliché as it sounds, Stevens wants the players in this program to play for the name on the front of the jersey, not the name on the back.

Boston’s youngsters are adhering well to that mantra and that’s why they’re beginning to look like the summer league’s version of the Spurs. Two victories that were highlighted by impressive individual performances are under their belt. With that in mind, it should be a safe bet to expect more of the same on Thursday and Friday.

As Larranaga put it, “I think when you have some success with it, that breeds doing it more and more.”