Pregame Roster Moves Deliver 'Unique' Night to C's
INDIANAPOLIS – Brad Stevens may have summed Friday night up best when he said, “It was very unique. It was very different.”
You can say that again, coach.
Shockwaves were sent through the Celtics locker room less than 90 minutes ahead of tip off against the Pacers when two players suddenly became unavailable to play. One player, Brandan Wright, was shipped off to the Phoenix Suns. The other, Jeff Green, was pulled from the lineup amidst rumors of another deal and “will not be with the team for the rest of the weekend,” according to Stevens.
Players typically have hours, sometimes even days, to digest a trade before they are forced to play a game. The Celtics had more than 24 hours to adjust after the team traded Rajon Rondo to the Dallas Mavericks. On Friday, they barely had 24 minutes.
“It was shocking because I think (CSNNE reporter Abby Chin) told me,” Evan Turner said after the game. “That’s never happened in my career, that somebody’s traded before the game.”
And this wasn’t just one move. It was two, one of which removed the team’s leading scorer from the game’s equation.
Turner’s use of the word “shocking” was warranted. Think about it: the Celtics went from preparing to play an important basketball game to saying goodbye to two teammates. Stevens had the unenviable task of delivering the news to his players before the game and attempting to refocus their attention on the Pacers.
“It obviously changes your pregame speech a little bit,” Stevens said with a hint of sarcasm. “I addressed the human element. That’s the bottom line is there’s a human element to all of this.”
The Celtics did an admirable job of overcoming that element Friday night. They competed at a high level, falling in overtime to the Pacers, and showed no signs of an emotional hangover once the ball was tossed up.
“I expected to compete to win,” Stevens said. “I think that’s their (the players) expectation. You’re all affected by it, but the sanctuary for most of us is that court and playing between those lines where you kind of get away from everything for a couple of hours.”
The players agreed with Stevens’ take. As they pointed out, once they walk onto the court, they have a job to do.
“The biggest thing about being a professional is understanding it’s a business and trying to look past it,” said Turner. “We just tried to adapt to the situation and tried to be prepared to play a good team.”
Added Avery Bradley, “It’s not a distraction at all. It’s part of the business. We’re all professionals and all we can do is focus on the game and that’s what we all were doing.”
That collective mindset did not go unnoticed. Stevens commended his players in the postgame locker room for their professionalism and grit.
“I encouraged them,” revealed Stevens. “I said, ‘It’s a unique day, a tough day, and we came out and we battled even though we couldn’t make a shot the first three quarters.’”
Everything began to settle in for the players following their emotional loss to Indiana. Bradley attempted to compare the loss of Wright and Green to injuries, saying, “Someone could get hurt before the game and not play.”
Turner quickly shot that angle down, bringing his teammate and all who were listening back to reality.
“Yeah,” Turner replied to Bradley’s comment, “but they won’t be in the training room after.”
That’s an unsettling fact. A dose of realism.
Wright is gone, on his way to Phoenix in exchange for a conditional first-round pick and a trade exception. Green may also be gone after he was pulled from the lineup and was nowhere to be found following the game.
There is nothing unique about a trade taking place in the NBA. They’re regular occurrences. Moves being made shortly ahead of tip off? That’s a whole different situation, one the Celtics weren’t expecting to deal with Friday night.