Celtics Expect To Play with Pace and Space

WALTHAM, Mass. – Get used to this term: pace and space.

Brad Stevens stressed those two words to his team during its first practice of the season and then relayed a similar message to the media this afternoon.

“The bottom line is we’re going to start trying to be faster,” Stevens said, “with more emphasis on pace and space.”

Stevens sounded a lot like Mike D’Antoni with that comment, but that’s surely not what he was aiming for. Boston’s coach is alluding to a much different version of “fast” than the “seven seconds or less” offense that D’Antoni has made famous.

“Faster may not be the appropriate term, but the right pace, all the time,” Stevens elaborated. “We need to play with a very consistent pace all the time, both in the half court when we’re attacking against a set defense and then when we get out on the break in primary transition.”

Boston’s ability to run such an offense is largely dependent on the abilities of its big men. Without skilled bigs, Stevens’ vision becomes a pipe dream.

Pace and space in the half court are all about having five players who are able to shoot, pass and dribble. Stevens seems confident that his big men will be able to contribute in those three important categories this season.

“I’m excited about our bigs being able to pass the ball as much as anything else,” said the second-year coach. “We’ve talked about if they can stretch it (the floor), it’s better for us than just shooting it, but then being able to handle and pass is really important too.”

With only one day of practice in the books, the C’s have already found an unexpected contributor in that area.

“Probably the thing that has been maybe the biggest surprise about Tyler Zeller has been the way that he passes the ball,” Stevens said.

Zeller, along with the likes of high-IQ players like Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and Brandon Bass, should allow Boston to run the eclectic half-court offense that Stevens desires. Fortunately for Boston, these big men are expected to contribute to the team’s pace in transition as well.

“(They run) like gazelles,” Smart said of the Celtics’ big men. “They get up and down. It’s crazy that that sized structure can move that fast and that fluent down the court.”

Zeller was then singled out yet again, this time for his ability to run the floor.

“He bangs down low, but he gets up and down the court faster than some of the guards do,” Smart said. “So that’s always a good thing that your big can get down the floor at that pace.”

A good thing? No. A great thing.

Big men like Zeller will allow the Celtics to play the brand of basketball they want to play this season. In 2014-15, it’s all about pace and space.

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