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Gordon Hayward, Brad Stevens: A mutual admiration

11.07.13 at 2:02 am ET
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As the Celtics watched film of Gordon Hayward prior to hosting the Jazz, Brad Stevens couldn’t contain his praise for the best player he ever coached at the collegiate level.

“You could kind of see,” said Celtics guard Phil Pressey as a knowing smile came to his face. “He talked about every single player, but as soon as he brought up Hayward, he kind of gave a couple more details about him.”

And Stevens’ first NBA win was no different from so many at Butler: Hayward was the best player on the floor.

“He’s a lot better than when I coached him, and man was he good when I coached him,” said Stevens after watching the Jazz guard drop 28 points, nine rebounds and five assists on his Celtics. “I thought he was the best player in college at the time, and man has he improved. I’m proud of him.

“I can’t tell you what that feels like, because I was there when he was a puppy … and nobody was recruiting him. And it was like, ‘You think we should offer that guy a scholarship? Nobody’s looking at him. Nobody’s even in the building.’ It was probably a good decision, in retrospect. He’s awfully good.”

Let’s just say the feeling is mutual.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Butler University, Gordon Hayward

Brad Stevens’ reaction to first NBA win: ‘Winning’s more fun than losing’

11.07.13 at 1:41 am ET
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Brad Stevens speaks after his first career NBA coaching win. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Brad Stevens speaks after his first career NBA coaching win. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

After starting his NBA coaching career 0-4, Brad Stevens stepped up to the podium Wednesday night after a 97-87 win and asked Celtics longtime public relations director Jeff Twiss if he should make an opening statement. Without missing a beat, Stevens showed his dry sense of humor and his ability to understate the obvious.

“Winning’s more fun than losing,” Stevens said. “But at the same time, I think we played two pretty good games back to back, so that’s the most positive thing moving forward. And hopefully we feel better about ourselves as we move forward.”

Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck marked the occasion of Stevens’ first NBA win by getting the basketball at the end of the game and presenting it to Stevens in front of the team.

“Wyc was nice enough to grab the ball for me, so that was really nice,” Stevens said. “You know, I’m going to celebrate for a whole 12 minutes and then I’m going to start watching Orlando and trying to figure them out. Obviously they’ve had a great start to their season, and they’ve got good young talent. And we’ve got a couple more road games – I feel like we’ve already toured half the NBA this week – so just a couple of more road games this week.”

The Celtics started in a 16-3 hole but all of that seemed to change when Stevens went to his bench and brought in the likes of Jared Sullinger, Phil Pressey, Gerald Wallace and rookie Kelly Olynyk.

“I told Gerald this today: I thought the Sully/Kelly – with their ability to pass and stretch the floor, would open up some driving lanes for him,” Stevens said. “And some plays for him. Those three guys complement each other pretty well. So, I kind of made up my mind [Tuesday] night that we were going to go with Gerald off the bench, and then went from there. And then I thought Phil gave us a spark. To me, the best teams I’ve been a part of have had sparks off the bench. The energy level has actually gone up, or at least in a really good night, stayed the same. And I think that that’s what happened.”

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Gerald Wallace: Seventh Man of the Year?

11.07.13 at 1:00 am ET
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Asked if anyone in the Celtics organization ever explained the history of the Sixth Man in Boston — a Red Auerbach creation that brought NBA Hall of Famers Frank Ramsey, John Havlicek, Kevin McHale and Bill Walton off the bench — Gerald Wallace had no idea what all that fuss was about.

“I’m like the seventh man, though,” said Wallace, who came off the bench for the first time to contribute nine points and nine rebounds in 23 minutes. “Sully [Jared Sullinger] was the first one off the bench. I’m the seventh man.”

Celtics coach Brad Stevens told Wallace he’d be joining Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk in the second unit frontcourt, and while he thought the timing could have been better, the 31-year-old couldn’t argue with the results.

“I wouldn’t say not happy,” said Wallace after his team’s first win of the season, a 97-87 victory against the winless Jazz. “I’d say kind of confused. It’s the first time since I was actually traded to Portland and came off the bench two or three games for them. I’m trying to figure it out. It’s a new experience for me. We’re still trying to figure it out as a team. It’s something different, but it worked, so maybe it’s something we can go with.”

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Fast Break: Celtics avoid worst start in franchise history

11.06.13 at 9:49 pm ET
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The Celtics avoided starting 0-5 for the first time since 1946-47 — the organization’s inaugural season — and delivered coach Brad Stevens his first NBA victory in the process, a 97-87 beating of the winless Jazz.

Brandon Bass (20 points), Jeff Green (18 points), Kelly Olynyk (14 points, 8 rebounds) and Jared Sullinger (12 points) all reached double figures, and Gerald Wallace contributed nine points and nine boards off the bench.

Here’s all that went right and wrong in the C’s first win in five tries to start the season.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Full-court Pressey: The former Waltham star didn’t score a point in his 12 first-half minutes, but at least the Celtics had a point guard. With the C’s trailing 20-10, Stevens yanked Jordan Crawford in favor of Pressey 8:17 into the first quarter. In his first four minutes, Pressey served up three assists — halving Crawford’s total for the entire season — and ignited a 13-6 run to finish the quarter trailing by just three.

A couple 3′s: By bringing Wallace off the bench for the first time this season and somewhat staggering the small forward minutes between he and Green, Stevens was able to ensure that one of his two best options was on the floor for the entire first half. Of course, the duo still saw the court together in spurts, too, combining for 21 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in leading the Celtics to a 50-34 halftime lead.

Getting possessive: The Celtics committed an average of 19.8 turnovers and allowed 15.0 offensive rebounds per game in their first four losses. That’s a whole lot of extra possessions. Against the Jazz, the C’s respectively limited those numbers to 10 and six through three quarters. Hence, a 22-point lead on their way to victory.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Worst first: Facing a starting frontcourt of Bass and Vitor Faverani, the Jazz dominated the interior from the start — just as the C’s first four foes did this fall. Enes Kanter scored eight of Utah’s first 14 points, including a trio of buckets within 3 feet of the basket, as the Jazz opened up a 13-point advantage to start the game. As a result, Stevens started Olynyk over Faverani in the third quarter, Sullinger’s minutes increased and Kris Humphries even saw the floor. Just like we drew it up.

Flash Gordon: The Celtics had few answers for Stevens’ protege, Gordon Hayward, who amassed 28 points (12-20 FG), nine boards and five assists. Keep in mind, he becomes a restricted free agent this summer. Just saying.

So on and so fourth: The C’s fourth-quarter struggles continued, accentuated by an 11-0 Jazz run midway through the fourth quarter that helped slash what was once a 25-point Celtics lead down to eight with 6:26 to play.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Brandon Bass, NBA

Stat man: Addressing Celtics’ big problem

11.05.13 at 2:12 pm ET
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The biggest problem facing these Celtics is the lack of a point guard, but that’s a story for a different day, since there’s no viable solution on the current roster until Rajon Rondo returns. Sure, a little more Phil Pressey might help, but is an undersized, undrafted rookie point guard really going to solve this thing?

So, let’s address a problem that Brad Stevens could possibly bandage with the current roster.

The Celtics are the NBA’s worst defensive rebounding team, allowing opponents to grab 33.9 percent of available offensive boards — a number that would rank among the worst in history over a full season. Opponents attempt 39.3 field goals per game within 8 feet of the basket; only the Blazers (43.3) are worse. The opposition scores 20.8 second-chance points per game; only the Nuggets (23.0) are worse. And just four teams (Wizards, Blazers, Clippers, Bucks) give up more than the C’s 44.5 points allowed in the paint per game.

The C’s interior defense needs work. Vitor Faverani, Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and Kris Humphries are allowing an average of 26.5 attempts at the rim, where opponents are shooting 52.8 percent.

The two biggest offenders, naturally, are rookies. Faverani is allowing 11 field goal attempts at the rim per game. Eleven! Per game! That’s the fifth-worst number in the league. He’s grabbed just 49.2 percent of his 14.8 rebound chances per game. The only other player with as many opportunities to snatch fewer than 50 percent is Al Jefferson, who hasn’t played since aggravating an ankle injury on opening night.

Meanwhile, the opposition is shooting 76.5 percent at the rim against Olynyk. That’s ridiculous. Only two bigs (Trevor Booker, DeMarre Carroll) are worse. And Olynyk snags fewer rebounds per chance than Faverani.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk

Following loss to Grizzlies, Celtics still winless after four games

11.05.13 at 12:04 am ET
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Brad Stevens

Brad Stevens

The Celtics have begun their season at 0-4 after dropping a 95-88 loss to the Grizzlies at Memphis Monday night. It is the first time the C’s have started a season without a win in their first four games since 1969.

The Celts were doomed by a mammoth fourth quarter by Jerryd Bayless, who netted 15 points in the final frame.  Bayless went 6-of-7 from the field in the fourth to help erase the visitors’ six-point lead midway through the final quarter.

Not helping matters for Brad Stevens’ team once again were a healthy amount of turnovers, notching 21 in the game. The Celtics lead the league with the most turnovers through the season’s first couple of weeks.

The Celtics had grabbed a four-point lead at halftime, in large part because of Jeff Green’s 16 points in the first two quarters. It was a half that saw the C’s shoot 54 percent from the floor.

But Memphis came out hot in the second half, going on a 12-4 run while Boston was going just 1-for-9 from the field. The Celts to rebound to grab a six-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Green led the Celtics with 22 points (going 9-for-12 from the field), while Jared Sullinger contributed with 16 points in just 20 minutes. Rookie Kelly Olynyk had a rough night, going 1-for-8 from the floor while committing four turnovers.

For a complete recap, click here.

For the box score, click here.

Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith grateful to be in Bill Russell’s inner circle

11.04.13 at 1:37 pm ET
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The city of Boston and the Celtics honored Bill Russell this past Friday, unveiling a 6-foot, 10-inch, 600-pound bronze statue of the 11-time NBA champion. Though the man has more championship rings than fingers, the ceremony detailed Russell’s work beyond basketball. For those in Russell’s inner circle — including Charles Barkley and Kenny “The Jet” Smith — the discussion was focused on Russell’s impact on society.

Bill Russell was honored with a statue in Boston, unveiled Friday. (AP)

Celtics legend Bill Russell was honored with a statue in Boston, unveiled Friday. (AP)

“Most of us are too young to have seen him play,” said Barkley. “But for guys like myself who got a chance to be around him, you see what a remarkable person he is. We know him more a man than a player.”

Barkley and Smith, who are teammates on TNT’s extraordinarily popular “Inside the NBA,” both consider themselves very fortunate to be friends with the legendary Russell.

“He don’t talk to many people,” said Barkley. “So if you get on the list, it’s pretty cool.”

Smith was drafted by the Kings in 1987 and played a half-season for Russell, who was in his final stint as a head coach.

“I was his first-ever draft pick,” said Smith. “I was overwhelmed meeting him. I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t know whether to call him ‘Coach Russell,’ ‘Bill,’ or ‘Mr. Russell,’ and then my assistant coach was Willis Reed. I was in heaven. He taught me what teamwork was all about, regardless of winning and losing.”

Smith, who emceed the ceremony, did not concentrate on Russell’s blocked shots or rebounds. He looks at him as a whole man, one who inspired people around the world and broke racial barriers. Smith thinks of the man who served as his mentor.

Russell’s greatest strength, in Smith’s words, is “his ability to take a basketball moment and relate it to a lifetime experience. Something that my teammates always thought was going to be a punishment for me — sitting next to coach Russell on the team bus — actually turned out to be the best moment of my life.”

Barkley laughed when recalling the story of Russell making Smith sit next to him on one of the Kings’ long bus rides. “Kenny said, ‘Why’ve I got to sit beside you?’ And Bill said, ‘Because that guy’s a loser, that guy’s a loser, that guy’s a loser, and I don’t want you sitting with them.’ ”

Said Smith: “I sat next to him, on a bus ride or a plane ride, four hours a day. And if I went to sleep, he’d nudge me and go, ‘Sleep nights, young fella. Listen to what I’m saying.’ And I listened to all those stories. It’s a great feeling to know I was part of that. Not being Satch Sanders or Tommy Heinsohn or any other great players who played with him, I feel like I’m one of those.”

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