Stevens Lauds C’s Rookies After Another Preseason Masterpiece
BOSTON – The Celtics have had a handful of hardworking rookie classes during Brad Stevens’ head coaching tenure, but this year’s group may take the title as the most diligent of them all in his eyes.
Boston’s extra-large 2019 rookie class has dazzled during games, in practices, on the court, and off the court. And they are one of the main reasons why the Celtics have won all three preseason contests to this point.
Stevens went so far as to say that they are “as good of a group of rookie workers that I’ve ever been around,” following Boston’s 118-72 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers Sunday afternoon at TD Garden.
Every single one of Boston’s first-year pros has displayed potential at some point this preseason. We’ve seen the hot-shooting hand of Carsen Edwards, the surprising agility of 7-foot-6 center Tacko Fall, the explosive athleticism of Javonte Green, the creativity of Romeo Langford, the playmaking of Tremont Waters and the positive energy and strong all-around play of Grant Williams.
On Sunday afternoon, we saw yet another rookie step up, as Max Strus showed off his sharpshooting ability to help lead the C’s to their second straight blowout win. The undrafted wing scored a game-high 14 points, while also tallying four rebounds and a pair of assists during 17 minutes of action. Despite Strus not scoring a point during his previous two outings, Stevens knew that his hard work would soon come to fruition, just as it had for each of the other rookies.
“Max can really play,” Stevens said of the 6-foot-6 DePaul product after the game. “He's smart, he cuts hard and he can really shoot. He's a big, strong guy, and he, Javonte, Tacko, Waters and obviously the guys we drafted, Langford and Edwards and Williams, that's as good of a group of rookie workers that I've ever been around. They work, they all can play, and they all have a good impact on our environment, which is important. I thought he did a good job tonight, but that's not a surprise. Those guys grind. They are hard workers.”
Strus showed his ability to be a microwave scorer off the bench, as he came in midway through the third quarter and knocked down a triple right away. He then canned three more treys during the fourth, while only missing one from downtown all afternoon. He was also fouled on a 3-point attempt late in the third quarter and proceeded to knock down 2-of-3 from the line.
“It’s tough, definitely, to come off the bench and do that,” Strus said of coming in cold and hitting those shots. “But if that’s going to be my role, then I’m going to have to get good at it, and work at it and get used to doing that.”
A couple of the other hardworking rookies that Stevens mentioned also took on substantial scoring roles for the C’s. Edwards and Waters dropped in 11 points apiece, which tied them for third on the team behind Strus and veteran point guard Kemba Walker (12 points).
The Celtics also had another impressive showing from Fall, who made both of his field-goal attempts, corralled two rebounds, dished out a pair of assists and snagged a game-high-tying two steals during seven minutes of action.
Stevens commended Fall’s contributions after the game but added that he, just like the rest of the rookie group, still has work to do.
“He’s got a lot of things that he can do that you can’t teach. That’s obvious,” Stevens said of his 7-foot-6 center. “But he also has to really get up to the speed of the NBA, and that’s just something you get used to over time. And he will. He’ll be in the league for a long time and we’re happy that he’s with us and I do think that it’ll be good. He just needs to keep working and keep straight ahead and make that the main thing. And he will. He’s a very focused person.”
That focus is something that Fall has in common with each member of his rookie class. It’s what has allowed them, as a group, to catch the eyes of the Celtics coaching staff, and it’s a major reason why Boston has yet to lose a game this preseason.