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Brad Stevens on rebuilding with Marcus Smart and James Young: ‘I don’t want to sell our team short’

06.27.14 at 12:57 pm ET

Rebuilding is a four-letter word to Brad Stevens.

More to the point, it’s something the second-year coach of the Celtics doesn’t have time to consider. Let Danny Ainge be concerned about the semantics of “putting young pieces in place” or “restructuring the roster.” For Stevens, his focus is on the here and now and near-future.

He made that much perfectly clear when asked if adding 20-year-old Marcus Smart and 18-year-old James Young to the roster Thursday night meant that he was entering the second year of a rebuilding program.

“That’s going to have to be a question for all of you and maybe pose that question to management or pose that question to people who aren’t coaching,” Stevens said. “At the end of the day, when you’re a coach and you’re in the midst of it, you’re trying to win every game and you’re trying to win the next game. You don’t look at anything as rebuilding. You look at it as the next opportunity. As long as you can prepare and strive and do your best, it’s hard for me to say that because I don’t want to sell our team short.”

Stevens is excited about this much — he’s getting two young talents that know how to create their own shot, something that was missing last season in the 25-win campaign.

“The only thing I would say that we were at least discussing coming into play with the second pick was perimeter scoring,” Stevens said, referring to the selection of Young at No. 17. “I guess the current roster construction you might say that played a role in that. But at the end of the day, we wanted to take the best players available, that we thought were the best players available for us.

“I feel a lot better standing here today than I did on July 4 last year, with how I feel heading into things, how much more comfortable I am understanding the schedule of the NBA, the way to get the most out of our team as we move forward, the way to get the most out of our individuals. We’ll have a lot of guys back that have been a part of this and understand how we want to do things. I think we’re adding two good workers. I think we’re adding two guys that will be hungry to help and I think that’s all a positive. Can I predict how many wins that creates? I can’t predict that. I think we’ll be a lot more prepared from the standpoint of the big picture, both on the court and in our preseason and everything else than I would’ve felt last year at this time.”

Here is more of Brad Stevens from Thursday night and his reaction to the addition of Marcus Smart and James Young:

“First of all, we’re very pleased we were able to get these two guys where we got them. When you looked at the draft, I had both of these guys in my Top 11. I think at the end of the day, you feel really good about that. That said, I look at it more from the big picture of there’s a whole group and these guys are now parts of that group and we’ve all got to move in one direction and I feel good that that’s happening. I’ve said over the last couple of weeks that our young guys are in there working, doing things the right way, doing things with great pace and doing things together and that’s a good thing moving forward.”

“James’ M-O is that he’s always been a scorer. To start with him, he’s a guy that shot it at 35 percent from three but 47 percent from two. He’s a shot that can shoot it deeper. He’s a got a stroke that’s just going to get better and better. He’s a young guy but we felt like he was a very, very undervalued scoring wing in this draft. Everybody in the room had him ranked a lot higher than 17th so we were surprised at 17th, and thrilled that he was available at 17th.

“Marcus is a guy that I think his shooting is much better than his percentages. He can still improve in that area but unlike a lot of shooters that struggle in college, depth is not going to be an issue with him. He’ll get good range on his shot. He’s got good arc on his shot. He’s got pretty good mechanics. He’s worked hard on it. In our last workout with him, he reeled off about four or five in a row in live competition from three, with the games on the line. So, shooting is something he will improve and get better at. Hey, the NBA is a transition for anybody but I think you can really work with both of those guys from that standpoint. I feel they are two guys that help make our team better.”

On Rajon Rondo and Marcus Smart playing together:

“I don’t think there’s any doubt they can play together. I think it would great for Marcus to have a guy like Rondo to look up to, to learn from. Not many guys get that opportunity, especially early on in the draft like this. Marcus is another guy I was thrilled he was there at six because he’s physically ready to play and he competes every single minute of every single day and that will do nothing but help your team, regardless of what position he’s playing at. I expect him to play some off the ball and some with the ball. But he’s a young guy. He’s going to be playing with a guy there that’s been in the league for a long time that can really help him learn about it. I think it’s great. I think it’ll be great for both of them.

“I haven’t talked to [Rondo]. We talked about him the other day when we were watching the workout together. We were just shooting the breeze more than we were necessarily evaluating players. Again, I think Rondo can play with a lot of different people. It’s kind of like what we’ve talked about in the past — if you can find guys that are tough, that are versatile defenders [that helps your team]. We think Marcus is a better shooter than he’s shot and we think that he gives you the ability the guard the 1, 2 and then sometimes the 3. You watch his games, he’s a guy that can switch a lot of screens because he’s a 230-pound guard. So, he gives you a lot of versatility on the wing for a guy that’s a little bit shorter, especially with his 6-9 wingspan.”

On impressions of Marcus Smart:

“First of all, I never really watched him his freshman year. So, when I started watching him was the summer basketball when he played with USA basketball and his entire year this year. Obviously, he had some ups and downs this year for a guy that his level of expectations. And at the same time, he’s come in here twice in the last three weeks and we’ve absolutely fallen in love with his leadership and work ethic and his spirit and the way he goes about things. So, I’d say as an organization that he decided to go back to school because he wouldn’t be on the Boston Celtics if he didn’t. We think he’s got a really high upside and he’s still a really young guy.

“I’ve always looked and tried to say, ‘If we have a primary ball-handler on the floor, two and three are pretty interchangeable with regard to actions, with regard to who they can guard, depending on who we’re playing. You just kind of mix and match that way. I think he can play some 2, I think he can play some 3 against certain teams. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there but he’s a player and anybody that’s a player that can put the ball on the floor and put the ball in the basket [is valuable]. We’ve talked about our struggles to score. He’s a guy that can create offense and create offense whether it’s versus a closeout or being defended on the perimeter.”

On whether Stevens will consider a three-guard backcourt to utilize Rondo, Smart and Avery Bradley:

“I think that before I commit to any number of guys, we’ve got other guys that are on contract, too. I see a highly-focused, highly-competitive, very supportive group of guards there. We’ll figure out who plays the best and then go from there.”

On the youth of both Smart and Young:

“Marcus isn’t much older. A lot of our guys aren’t much older. We’ve got a pretty young group when you factor in all the guys that are under contract for next year. It was never a factor in deciding whether to take him. We wanted to take the best players at each spot.”

Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, James Young
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