|09.29.16 at 7:50 pm ET|
WALTHAM – He didn’t think about it at the time, but Isaiah Thomas played a big role in a big Celtics reunion this summer.
When Gerald Green decided to return to Boston this summer, 11 years after being drafted by Danny Ainge and the Celtics in 2005, the Celtics were getting back a player who, at just 21 years of age, served a critical role in the acquisition of Kevin Garnett.
“It was tough when I was younger because obviously I wanted to be a part of a championship team but as I grew up and got older and started becoming a student of the business I understood it was the right the for the Celtics to do and I understood that move more than I did at the time,” Green, now 30, recalled on Thursday.
Eight NBA teams and an excursion to Europe later, Green decided to sign with the Celtics in late July, agreeing to a one-year deal for $1.4 million. The biggest influence? Isaiah Thomas, a player he teamed with in Phoenix for a year (2013-14).
“It kind of began in Phoenix,” Green said. “He was a genuine guy, came in really humble. I see the talent was there I knew he could be one of the best point guards in the league, and right away when we both stepped on the court we both had the same mentality. By any means necessary, go get a bucket and go get stops.
“We both had the same mentality, just try to push the first team because we were both coming off the bench. Just try to make the first team better and that’s what we did every day. We were able to finish games as a unit at both ends of the floor. Now, me teaming up with him here, we’re gonna try to do the same thing.”
|09.29.16 at 5:00 pm ET|
The Celtics have had selected in the top three of the draft only three times since the 1960s, choosing Len Bias second in 1986, Chauncey Billups third in 1997 and Jaylen Brown third this year. Thus, it’s fair to say there is some pressure surrounding the 19-year-old Brown to succeed.
Speaking at his first professional media day Monday, Brown was calm and direct, taking all the questions in stride.
“To me first it’s a blessing just to be drafted just as high and be on a team that’s winning,” the rookie said. “I like to win. That’s what it’s about. I think this year is going to be a great year for me. It won’t be difficult at all because I’m winning. So that’s how I look at it. That’s kind of my mindset about it. I’m learning a lot and things like that. Just going forward, I’m about that more than the individual kind of statistics.”
In most cases, players drafted as high as Brown are taken by teams coming off forgettable seasons, and they are looked at with high expectations as part of a rebuilding process. In Brown’s case, the expectations still are high, but he’s on a team looking to win right away.
“There’s going to be highs, there’s going to be lows. Just the peaks and valleys,” he said of his acclimation to the NBA. “But, just to stay with the process, just to keep confidence and keep working. Just stay with the process.”
Known more for his defense than his offense, Brown knows right off the bat that his parlay into playing time is through his defense, but also the need for him to hit shots.
“Defensively I think I add it right way,” he said. “I think I talked to Brad [Stevens] a lot about that. Just being able to get on the floor, defending at a high level. It would be one thing, and just hitting open shots would be another. Those are two key things to get me on the floor and that will help me add to this team.”
From an administrative standpoint, big things are expected of Brown as well. President of basketball operations Danny Ainge carried on about his prized pick’s fit in the system more so than his skill. And while that garnered much criticism when he was initially drafted, with training camp now underway, the practicality of the pick seems much more useful than a big-splash, high-risk, high-reward pick.
“Systemically, he’s perfect for what we need: versatile defender and a guy that can play multiple positions defensively,” Ainge said. “I think that Jaylen has to learn our terminology and learn our system. He seems like a bright kid and a hard-working kid and a kid that wants to learn and is capable of learning. I’m excited about him this year.”
|09.29.16 at 4:47 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Al Horford knows all about team chemistry.
He was part of a Florida Gators team that sacrificed early departures to the NBA to win back-to-back NCAA championships in 2006 and 2007.
He stood through thick and thin with the Atlanta Hawks, as they finally emerged as an Eastern Conference power.
Now, he’s hoping to make that experience in team chemistry count with the Celtics. Last week, Horford shot around with team leader Isaiah Thomas and had a special message for him. Thomas took notice.
“It’s so crazy to have a guy like that on the team that — we shot together a couple days ago and he was just like, ‘Man, I’m here to make things easier for you. So just let me know what you need,'” Thomas recalled Thursday. “That’s just wonderful, especially a guy that has that much talent. My job is just making things easier for others and he’s making it easier for me already.”
Why did Horford do that?
“I think it’s important that we have good team chemistry,” Horford said. “And Isaiah is such a great player. It’s amazing the things he can do on the court. I’m here to make the game easy, not only for him, but all my teammates. I want to let them all know I have their back.”
Why is chemistry such a big deal?
“It’s very important,” Horford said. “Coach [Billy] Donovan taught me that as soon as I stepped into camp [at Florida]. He always harped on making sure we’re always on the same page, that we’re feeding off each other and that’s one of the things that feel like I add value. I try to be a team guy and try to help the team in whichever way that I can. Here, they already had really good chemistry. It’s up to me to come in here and try to mesh with everybody and make everything work.
|09.27.16 at 12:49 pm ET|
WALTHAM — The Celtics had about 90 minutes to get a feel for each other, with their first of two practice sessions Tuesday. There was little impact, and “a lot of five-on-zero” said head coach Brad Stevens in describing the morning’s events.
Jaylen Brown, who admitted he got little sleep Monday night due to excitement, showing up to the practice facility 3-4 hours early Tuesday, doled out pass from the elbow to the perimeter with precision and showed good finesse around the rim while partnering up well with Jonas Jerebko during pass-and-shoot drills.
“It was good, I’m just glad to be out here,” Brown said. “I’m learning a lot, a lot of different things today. It’s exciting, you know first day of practice it’s a new journey. I’m happy to be here and I’m having a good time.”
A frequent topic of conversation was the iPads the team hands out so players can take a look at plays. Each player is distributed one of the tablets, which are frequently updated with plays and schemes for them to study.
“Probably just as much time as I spend at the gym, probably twice as much,” Brown said when asked how much time he’ll spend going through the iPad. “Understanding the game and just trying to speed up that learning curve. Everybody plays the game differently so just trying to speed up my learning curve and learn as much as possible so I can be ready.
“I’m looking forward to the new challenge but I know it’s going to take time, but that’s a very important thing is speeding up my learning curve.”
|09.27.16 at 11:23 am ET|
When Gerald Green took part in his first professional Media Day, he was fresh out of high school in Houston, 19-years-old and a member of the Celtics. He was once again a member of the Celtics when he took the podium Monday, much different than the kid who took the podium 11 years ago.
“I was fresh out of high school so I didn’t really know any better,” said Green. “Now, this is my 12th season professionally so I’m very mature now. I still got a lot in the tank. Legs feel good, everything feels good about myself. I feel like I’ve learned so much about myself. I feel like I’m way better defensive player. I know I’m a way better defensive player than when I first came here. I know all the schemes and terminology. I just can’t wait for [camp to begin].”
Green exited Boston as part of the trade that brought Kevin Garnett to Boston after his second professional season. Since his departure, he’s become the epitome of a journeyman, playing for seven NBA different teams, along with a two-year stint in Russia.
“It’s a great feeling to be back. I’ve been telling everyone since I’ve been back that I never really had hard feelings. Shoot, I would trade myself for Kevin Garnett, too,” he said. “There’s never been any hard feelings at all. I don’t think I left on bad terms. For me to be back here to be playing for the city that has drafted me after all these years, after all of the years that I’ve learned, it’s good to finally be back.”
The stint in Russia took a toll on Green. While the situation geographically was not ideal, it was further affirmation that he was an NBA player, not someone with NBA experience that should be buried overseas.
Since his time in Russia, he has been a serviceable contributor, averaging 11.4 points per game with a 42.1 percent field goal percentage since coming back to the States in 2011.
|09.27.16 at 11:01 am ET|
WALTHAM — Terry Rozier appears to be ready to take on a larger role with the Celtics this season. The confident young point guard is coming into his own, and his teammates have noticed the strides he’s made throughout the offseason.
Rozier points to the playoff opportunity he received against the Hawks last year as a catalyst to his newfound confidence. He played five games, averaging 4.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 19.8 minutes. It was the kind of experience Rozier — as a rookie — believes he needed.
“I feel that anytime a rookie can get on the floor and play in the playoffs, it feels like a boost going into the next season. So that definitely played a big factor,” Rozier said at Monday’s media day. “I’m just excited for next season.
[I’m] just mainly more comfortable out there. I know that myself, if I’m comfortable playing this game that I love, then I’ll be fine. I can just about play with anybody. So just slowing my mind down and just being comfortable out there and just relax and play.”
One teammate who has noticed Rozier’s great offseason is Marcus Smart. When he was asked about the team’s vacant sixth man role, Smart mentioned Rozier as one of the lead reserves the Celtics have coming off their bench.
“With the absence of Evan, he’s going to be missed here. The things he brought to the team, he created his own jump shot. He created for others,” Smart said. “Everybody else understands the role that he left us with and we have to step up as a team, I have to step up as an individual, but this team has to step up. And there’s a lot of players. We’ve got guys coming off the bench like Terry Rozier, who’s been real good in the offseason. And as you guys saw in the summer league, he’s been playing his butt off.”
Even Al Horford — who has only played with Rozier for a month — is impressed with the strides Rozier has made. In talking about the Celtics’ young players, Horford singled out the second-year guard as one of his teammates who improved their game from last season.
“There’s a lot of the younger guys who were very, very athletic,” Horford told reporters Monday. “Guys that have definitely gotten better — Jae Crowder came in and played with us one day and his 3-point shot has gotten better. That was good to see. I was encouraged by Terry as well. He’s looked good all month. It just excited me to see that a lot of these guys are making progress in their game.”
|09.27.16 at 10:27 am ET|
WALTHAM — The Celtics have an abundance of options in their backcourt.
Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley come into camp as the two players projected to be the starting backcourt, with Terry Rozier, R.J. Hunter and rookie pick Demetrius Jackson in the wings.
Then there’s Marcus Smart. The 22-year-old point guard in his third year out of Oklahoma State could be in store for a breakout season.
One reason the Celtics let Evan Turner leave for greener pastures in Portland is because they think they have the perfect sixth man candidate to step in and take his place. It would appear Smart will get a chance to fill that role early on in the season. There’s been rumors that the Celtics are shopping Avery Bradley, which might or might not impact Smart’s role.
Along with Bradley, Smart is considered one of the best and most physical perimeter defenders in the East. He also has shown the ability to handle bigger bodies in the low post (like when he was called on to slow down Atlanta’s Paul Millsap in Games 3 and 4.).
This could be the year Smart takes that next step. But as it stands now, he’ll still likely be doing it as the first man off Brad Stevens’ bench. And that’s OK with him.
“If that’s what this team needs me to do, then that’s the role I’ll take,” Smart said Monday during media day. “With the absence of Evan, he’s going to be missed here. The things he brought to the team, he created his own jump shot. He created for others. Everybody else understands the role that he left us with and we have to step up as a team, I have step up as an individual, but this team has to step up. And there’s a lot of players.
“We’ve got guys coming off the bench like Terry Rozier, who’s been real good in the offseason. And as you guys saw in the summer league, he’s been playing his butt off. Everybody has to step up and everybody understands that.”
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