WALTHAM, Mass. – There are many reasons why this Celtics team is different than those of the past. The final 10 minutes of Thursday’s practice gave us another reason to believe that fact.
When Brad Stevens gave the thumbs up for media members to be able to watch the end of practice, something very strange was going on. Stevens had his team going through shooting drills, but these drills were different. Every single player on Boston’s roster - every single player - was shooting from behind the 3-point arc.
Could you imagine last season’s Celtics team doing that, with guys like Kevin Garnett, Chris Wilcox and Shavlik Randolph?
How about other Celtics teams that featured big men such as Kendrick Perkins, Shaquille O’Neal, Glen Davis and Greg Stiemsma?
Do you think the Heat, Bulls, Spurs or Thunder are doing the same thing, with guys like Greg Oden, Joakim Noah, Tiago Splitter and Perkins jacking up 3s?
Nope, nope and nope.
This Celtics team is unique. Literally every single player on the roster can shoot it from downtown, and that’s incredibly uncommon. Just how unique is that skill? Let Gerald Wallace, a 12-year NBA veteran, tell you.
When asked how many of his previous 14 teams were similar in that fact, Wallace replied, “Probably only one. That was my rookie year in Sacramento. But other than that, that’s probably it.”
If that’s not unique in the NBA world, what is?
Avery Bradley, who’s holding down the point guard spot until Rajon Rondo returns, was gleaming after he was asked about the drills. Smiling from ear to ear, Bradley gave his take on Boston’s ability to shoot, from player 1 to player 15 on the roster.
“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “It shows what kind of team we are. Everybody can shoot, 1 through 5, and that’s exciting, to have your big men shoot 3s and make it consistently. It’s fun.”
It’s going to be very fun for the Celtics if they’re able to prove to the league that their entire team can hit 3s. As Wallace highlighted, it will change the landscape of the court when Boston is on offense.
“It spreads the floor, opens up the floor, makes the court a whole lot bigger,” Wallace said. “It kind of takes away weak-side defense because you can’t so much as sit in the paint or put one foot in the paint because those guys are knock-down shooters. You’ve got to respect them and respect their shot.”
Bradley echoed Wallace’s thoughts while also pointing out that these shooters will benefit him in particular.
“It makes it a lot easier on me,” Bradley said, “because I’m able to put pressure on the defense, and if they help, I can pass it to the 5 or the 4 and they can knock down a 3.”
While Boston’s players showed great excitement when they were asked about the drills, Stevens tried to quell any expectations. He said that the drills were “just a contest,” and that he "wouldn’t read too much into that one.”
In a sense, we won’t. The Celtics aren’t going to plant their big men behind the 3-point line and ask them to fire up loads of 3-pointers all season long. However, when the time comes and they’re in position to take an open 3, they’ll be expected to let it rip.
“One thing I heard [Stevens] say to Kelly (Olynyk) and (Jared) Sullinger, he was yelling at them on the bench yesterday,” said Bradley, before noting that Stevens doesn't actually yell. “He told them, ‘Don’t ever pass up an open 3.'”
Boston's big men will be expected to take those 3s, and they'll be expected to make them. Just like they were doing Thursday afternoon.