* Recap: Celtics 116, Suns 111
Jared Dudley is well versed in Boston Celtics’ lore, having spent his college years at Boston College getting an up close and personal education on the history of one of the most storied franchises in sports. So when he opines on the current state of the franchise — the Celtics are the first 20-win team in the league and own the best record in the league — he’s not just blowing smoke. His appreciation for what Danny Ainge has built and the culture Brad Stevens is shaping is real.
Dudley, toiling on a Phoenix Suns team in flux, believes the foundation of what the Celtics are building resonates with veterans and free agents who are looking for a winning situation that looks sound for years to come, what with a core of Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Gordon Hayward (when he returns from injury) and budding young stars like Jaylen Brown and rookie Jayson Tatum. Dudley is convinced that the Celtics, as presently constituted, are a clear and present danger to the Cavaliers and Warriors, writes Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald:
“You can tell the developmental work they do and their pre-draft work with how they scout for their system of being able to play multiple positions — the IQ, the athleticism,” Dudley said. “You can see these 3-4’s that can really guard so you have a chance to beat the Warriors in the West and Cleveland in the East.
“They’ve been gearing up, and because they’ve developed their young guys, they’ve made it a place of destination for free agents. You get Al and Gordon (Hayward), and you have those picks to take or trade. This team is setting itself up for the next 10 years.”
The 8-16 Suns made it close at the end against the now 20-4 Celtics, but there was Tatum making all three of his fourth-quarter shots, including an inside maneuver that had Tyson Chandler wincing and a driving dunk that made it a five-point game with 55 seconds left.
“I love Tatum,” said Dudley. “I love him because you know he’s going to fill into his body. I don’t know if he’s a natural 3 or a natural 4, but it doesn’t matter; he can play both. He shoots the ball very well, and the biggest thing is he has the IQ. He has a high IQ. You can tell, because he doesn’t force things. Most young guys are kind of lost at times and they force things, but not him.
“I think it’s just the Celtic culture,” he added. “It starts with Brad Stevens and Danny Ainge and what they instill, the accountability. You saw it here (yesterday). A couple of guys weren’t playing well, and he (Stevens) doesn’t wait. He’ll let you work through a problem, but if you’re not giving what they want, he’ll pull you out and give someone else a chance. That’s accountability. Everyone has a chance to make an impact on the game.”