Class in Session: Newest C's Learning on the Fly

WALTHAM, Mass. – Day 1 of practice might as well be called Day 1 of class for the newest members of the Boston Celtics.

“And Brad Stevens is the professor,” joked rookie Jaylen Brown.

Brown, along with newcomers Al Horford, Gerald Green, Demetrius Jackson and Ben Bentil, dove headfirst into Celtics 101 this morning. They took the court with their new team for the very first time, and they did their best to keep up with a brand-new playbook.

“Obviously, every team has a different defensive scheme and their terminology is different,” said Green, who rejoined the Celtics this summer for a second stint in green. “Sometimes, ‘A’ might mean something on one team, and ‘A’ might mean something else on another team. So you just have to try to figure those things out.”

All of the newcomers have had at least a portion of the playbook in their hands throughout the offseason. Boston gives its players an iPad with clips to watch and plays to study, but translating those lessons into full-speed action is a difficult task.

Even Horford, who is known for his basketball IQ and who had Boston’s assistant coaches teaching him throughout the summer in Atlanta, acknowledged the challenge.

“It’s a difference when you do it two-on-zero or one-on-zero, and then when you put the whole team together and everybody’s moving and everybody’s moving fast,” he said. The four-time All-Star then added, “It’s a matter of time and you’ve got to make some mistakes. I was definitely behind a couple of times, but I’m going to put in the time to make sure that I’m ready to go.”

This is Horford’s first time switching NBA teams. Meanwhile, Brown, Jackson and Bentil are learning their first NBA playbook.

Green, on the other hand, has some experience in this area, as he has played for eight teams during his 10-year career. Much like Horford, Green preaches patience when it comes to learning new schemes. In fact, he doesn’t anticipate the offense and defense being second nature to him for quite some time.

“I feel like the first day of the regular season you should have it,” he told Celtics.com. “I think it just takes you a month to get everything down. You have enough practice, you’ve had enough time to watch film, you’ve had enough hours to do what you’re supposed to do. So once the first game of the season starts, you’ve got to be ready, because that’s when the real show starts.”

During the course of the upcoming month, each new Celtic will have their preferred avenue toward mastering Boston’s schemes. As Stevens made clear Tuesday afternoon, each player’s learning habits are unique to themselves.

“Depends on how they learn best. Each guy is different,” Stevens said in regard to the importance of the iPads. “Some guys learn off of a sheet, some guys learn off video. Some guys have to do it and learn that way. Every one of us has different ways that we would learn those things most effectively. [The iPad is] just an extra resource if guys want to put in extra time, but it’s not the end-all, be-all.”

For Brown, who is as studious a rookie as you'll ever find, the iPad will be his savior. He won't have his head in an actual playbook, but he plans to have his eyes on that iPad regularly as this first week of training camp unfolds.

"Probably just as much time as I spend in the gym, or probably twice as much," he said of the time he plans to commit to studying the iPad. "It’s understanding the game and trying to speed up that learning curve."

That curve will be sharp, but in Green's estimation, it will straighten out by Opening Night. That’s when he believes the newest Celtics should be operating Boston’s offense and defense as if they’ve been here for years.

In the meantime, many mistakes will be made, and the new guys can lean on team veterans like Avery Bradley, Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder and Kelly Olynyk for any answers they may seek.

As they should, because Wednesday marks only the second day in which class will be in session.

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