Stevens Praises Skill, Character of New C's
MIAMI – Brad Stevens hasn’t allowed the return of Rajon Rondo to overshadow the addition of his two newest players. In fact, he spent more time on Monday talking about Joel Anthony and Chris Johnson than he did about Rondo.
Anthony, a forward/center, and Johnson, a guard/forward, bring an array of basketball skills to the Celtics. Stevens has discussed those abilities since Boston acquired the two players, but he is equally as excited about the qualities Anthony and Johnson offer the Celtics off the court.
Boston acquired Anthony on Wednesday in a three-team deal that included Tuesday’s opponent, the Miami Heat. Anthony had spent his entire seven-year career in Miami before the deal went through.
While Anthony is regarded as an elite defender for his size and position, Stevens has honed in on another skill the big man has brought to Boston: leadership. It didn’t take long for the coach to realize that Anthony will serve as a great influence on his teammates in Boston.
“The thing I already know about him is he is a great person to have on our team,” Stevens said. “I am thrilled that he’s here. Practice-wise, in the locker room, personality. Clearly he’s a person that trains and works the right way.”
Stevens was not shy about discussing why a veteran presence like Anthony is so important for this particular Celtics team. Boston is in the first season of a rebuild. It has two promising young big men in Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk. Anthony can help to assist those two, and the rest of the Celtics for that matter, in being true professionals on and off the court.
“That’s why a guy like Joel is so valuable in this phase that we’re in and in this stage that we’re in,” said Stevens. “Even though he’s not an overly verbose guy, to help be a leader to our younger bigs, especially.”
The beauty of Anthony is that he understands and celebrates his niche in this league. He knows he’s not a go-to scorer and that he may not be a starter, but he can provide defense and rebounding and lead by example, all while enjoying every day as if it’s the last of his career.
“It’s pretty much just how I’ve been, how I was raised,” Anthony told Celtics.com. “As a professional, you want to handle yourself that way on and off the court. You just have to love the situation you’re in – a chance to play basketball.
“It’s done so much for everyone, and you want to enjoy the time you have with your teammates and you just want to continue to try to get better. It’s keeping that mindset throughout everything as the years go on. That’s really just what I’ve been about.”
Johnson seems to be a similar case. Johnson was a star player at the University of Dayton before joining the NBA Development League in 2012-13. He played eight games for the Memphis Grizzlies last season but has spent the majority of the last two seasons with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
The Celtics signed Johnson to a 10-day contract on Friday. That may never have happened if his maturity level wasn’t on par with his basketball skills.
“Chris is another solid, solid person and a guy to have around,” Stevens said. “So that really factors in when you consider bringing anybody into your team mid-season, and certainly on a 10-day contract. The character side is a huge, huge factor.”
That being said, so are the basketball abilities. Johnson has been with the team for only three days but has already displayed his skills on the court. He has yet to appear in a game, but Stevens indicated that may change on Tuesday.
“Yeah, he’ll probably play. He had a good practice today,” said Stevens. “He’s a guy that can catch and shoot. He’s a guy that can put it on the floor. He curled to beat us at Brooklyn in the preseason (when he was with the Nets), if you remember that play, on a nice little curl off of a floppy set. He can crash from the wing, and he’s a very solid defender.”
That’s all fine and dandy, but it isn’t the end-all, be-all. In order to be a part of the Boston Celtics, a player must have the total package.
“Everything matters. Everything matters,” Stevens commented.
Especially to this Celtics team.
“I just think that those things are enormous for us, because we’ve got to get better. That’s clear as day,” Stevens explained. “We’ve got a lot of growing to do, and we can’t grow if those guys aren’t who they are.”
Fortunately for Boston, Anthony and Johnson are pure. They can ball, and they can also lead.