Decision To Bring Back Pressey is Paying Off
WALTHAM, Mass. – One of the most difficult decisions the Boston Celtics needed to make this summer was whether or not to bring Phil Pressey back for a second season in green. They opted to do so, and it’s already paying off.
Pressey has been thrust into Boston’s rotation following an injury to rookie Marcus Smart. The second-year point guard has played at a high level in the past two games while helping spark the Celtics to consecutive victories against 2014 playoff teams.
No one could have predicted such circumstances as early as Friday evening. Entering Friday’s game against the Indiana Pacers, Pressey had logged only three minutes of playing time on the season. That changed quickly when Smart went down with a sprained left ankle early on in the fourth quarter. Stevens called on Pressey to hold down the fort in Smart’s absence, and he’s been doing so ever since.
Pressey is coming off of back-to-back four-assist games and has committed only one turnover during those contests. He has also provided the Celtics with eight points, four rebounds, three steals and even a blocked shot as they downed the Pacers and Bulls.
“He gets us organized. He gets us into good offense, and he’s just kind of an Energizer Bunny in that way,” Stevens said on Monday of Pressey. “He can do a lot of different things.”
One of Pressey’s greatest strengths is his defense. He has some of the quickest feet on the team, which allow him to get into the ball and disrupt opposing offenses.
The Celtics needed someone to disrupt the Chicago Bulls, and in particular Aaron Brooks, on Saturday night, so they called on the 5-foot-11 energizer.
“We put him in a couple of times late when Brooks went off,” said Stevens. “I thought Phil might be as good of a matchup as we had because he could stay shoulder to the ground and get over those screens and make it as difficult as possible. Brooks still hit a couple of shots, but [Pressey] does a great job with that.”
The combination of Pressey’s stellar passing and defense has helped the Celtics to outscore their opponents by nine points while he’s been on the court this season. That’s the fourth-best plus/minus rating on the team, and he’s racked that number up despite logging only 32 total minutes of playing time thus far.
Stevens anticipates that Pressey’s impact will become even greater once his shot comes around. Pressey is shooting only 30.8 percent from the field and 26.4 percent from long range this season, but the coach continues to press the youngster to let it rip.
“Shoot it every time you’re open. That’s what I tell him,” Stevens said. “I believe in Phil. Phil’s put in a lot of work. He shot it great in the preseason. He’s shot it great in practice. He’s really only had one game, so I think if they continue to leave him open, that’s great.”
It’s safe to say that Pressey will oblige his coach’s request. He has shown no indications of wavering confidence, and his teammates don’t expect that to change moving forward.
“That’s something about Phil is he doesn’t get down,” said Kelly Olynyk, who knows Pressey as well as anyone on the team. “He never loses confidence. He’s always in there. He knows his opportunity’s going to come and when it comes, he’s ready.”
Pressey is ready, Olynyk says, as a result of his work ethic.
“Phil is one of the hardest workers in this place that I’ve been around,” said Boston’s starting center. “He’s here every day, two times, three times a day. He knows that the opportunity’s going to come.”
It actually already has, less than two weeks into the season. Pressey is now a big part of the rotation, and that isn’t going to change anytime soon.
“He’s going to continue to get minutes as Marcus is out,” said Stevens, “and I’m sure he’ll put pressure on us to continue to give him minutes when [Smart] gets back. That’s the way Phil is.”
And that’s just why the Celtics brought him back.