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WALTHAM, Massachusetts – Brad Stevens is asking his new-look Celtics team to turn up the offensive tempo this season.
The Celtics, who ranked 12th in the NBA in pace last season with a mark of 99.32, may spike that number into triple-digits this season.
“Brad wants to play a little bit faster this year,” Marcus Smart revealed following Saturday afternoon’s practice. “With the skill set we have on the court and then coming off the bench with certain guys, we definitely have the capability to do that.”
Stevens agrees, and that’s why he wants the Celtics to fly around the court this season. However, he is not only concerned with the overall pace number that many consider as the barometer of how fast a team plays.
“Faster can be a number of things,” Stevens said. “For us, pace is the word. Pace can be up the floor, but it can also be when you get into the half court, being able to move and cut and play together.”
Asked to elaborate on how he measures his team’s pace, Stevens referenced a quote he heard from one of his peers this offseason.
“I heard a coach this summer say, ‘There aren’t wrong cuts. There are just soft or hard ones,’” he commented. “I think at the end of the day we want to do everything with pace. We want to be high-motor.”
Fortunately for Smart, he’s much better prepared to play with such tempo this season. He lost approximately 30 pounds during the offseason, but the work is only beginning for he and his teammates.
Stevens is using practice to prepare them to be able to play with a high motor for 48 minutes each and every night. How, one might ask?
“Running,” Smart chirped with a smile. “Conditioning, and getting our conditioning up but still being able to think the game mentally.”
Boston’s overall pace is almost certain to climb this season with its young, athletic and skilled roster. But don’t let that be your only gauge when it comes to assessing how fast the team is playing. It surely won’t be Stevens’ only gauge.
He will be paying attention to how hard his players cut, how many passes they’re making per possession, how quickly they’re setting screens, how much effort they’re giving with every single movement, and much more.
Stevens wants to see all of those things done with a high motor. And if they are? Opponents aren’t going to look forward to the day they match up with this new group of Celtics.