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Isaiah Thomas explains how he recruited Gerald Green (back) to Boston 09.29.16 at 7:50 pm ET
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Gerald Green

Gerald Green

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.”

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Al Horford tells Isaiah Thomas he’s ready to do whatever it takes: ‘I have their back’ 09.29.16 at 4:47 pm ET
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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.

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Can Marcus Smart step in and fill shoes of Evan Turner as 6th man? ‘If that’s what team needs me to do’ 09.27.16 at 10:27 am ET
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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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Brad Stevens isn’t about to look ahead to the playoffs: ‘There’s a lot of hard work in front of us’ 09.27.16 at 9:51 am ET
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Sep 26, 2016; Boston, MA, USA;  Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens during media day at the Boston Celtic Practice Facility. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Brad Stevens shows his laser focus during media day. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM — Brad Stevens knows there’s a ton of work to be done between now and the beginning of April. 

That’s why he laughs when he’s asked about what his expectations are for making the playoffs and advancing this season. 

Entering his fourth season, Stevens has taken his team from 25 to 40 to 48 wins and playoff berths in each of the last two seasons. The natural assumption, with the additions of free agents Al Horford and Gerald Green and first rounder Jaylen Brown, is that a 50-win season with a deep playoff run is in store. 

Then the Celtics coach, on media day on Monday, reminded everyone of what he told his team before the media session began.  

“See, I’m a basketball coach so I don’t really – I know certainly I want to do my job as well as I can to make sure that we are improving every day and are striving for that ultimate objective. We have a long way to go to be considering talking about any of that stuff.

“And to be quite frank as I told our team real briefly before we walked out here, there was not a lot of room between finishing 10th and second last year in the East. Ultimately we want to be the best, we want to be among those considered the best. There’s a lot of hard work ahead of us, and it’s day by day. I don’t feel any more pressure from what ultimately happens. I’m making sure that practice tomorrow is structured right.”

To Stevens’ point, the Celtics finished tied with the Hornets, Hawks and Heat with 48 wins. The ninth place team were the Bulls with 42 wins and the tenth-place Wizards won 40. The 40 wins would’ve been good enough for seventh seed two seasons ago, the spot the Celtics found themselves in. But not last year. And the East is quickly improving. 

“My expectations never change,” Stevens said. “It’s all about getting tomorrow and making sure we’re as good as we can be. It’s a very simple, boring process but it’s the way that I go about it. And I think that the results take care of themselves.”

 What would be a successful season?

“Being better the next day. That’s my perspective,” Stevens said in his best Bill Belichick tone. “The one thing I’ve been asked about – last week I got asked about a number of wins goal, I got asked about a playoff goal or a playoff rounds goal or whatever the case may be – right when you define something as success and you reach it, you don’t go any further. You set the limit for your team.

“And I’m certainly not into setting ceilings. And I think that’s why you focus on what you can do and try to put your best foot forward. And go into that next game, and if you do that you can win the game. And that’s my job.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Gregg Popovich
Danny Ainge pays tribute to Paul Pierce: ‘I think Paul could play for a few more years’ 09.26.16 at 6:09 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Danny Ainge had the chance to pay tribute to a pair of all-time greats that combined to bring home one title to Boston and nearly another. 

Hours before Monday’s media day in Waltham, 38-year-old Paul Pierce announced that this season would be his last in the NBA after 19 seasons. 

“Well, first of all, I think Paul could play for a few more years, but I’ll believe it when I see it,” the Celtics president of basketball operations said. “Paul loves the game. He loves basketball and I think that it’s hard to see him walking away. I know there will come a time when he will. He’s one of the great Celtics of all-time, he’s a great competitor.

“The thing that stands out more to me than anything about Paul — after all the great shots and great plays and everything else he did here — was just watching him, sitting right outside my office, seeing him come in at midnight and work on his game, work on his conditioning. He really loved the game and took it very seriously.”

Ainge was also asked about Kevin Garnett, who announced his retirement last week. 

“I think I said in a statement that KG had as big an impact as anybody that I’ve been around in an organization,” Ainge said. “I think the thing that stands out the most to me about KG is just his team-first mentality. He never wanted it to be about KG. He never wanted his individual success to trump team success. He lived that in his day-to-day practice, and that’s something that I’ll remember about him.”

Will the numbers 34 and 5 wind up in the rafters? 

“That’s for future discussion,” Ainge said. “I won’t answer that yet because we haven’t really discussed it internally. That’s a decision that Wyc and Rich will ultimately make. You guys know the answers to those anyway. We’ll just let the other people make those decisions, make those calls.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Danny Ainge, Kevin Garnett, KG
Kelly Olynyk raves about meeting Tom Brady, calls him ‘an unbelievable individual’ 09.26.16 at 5:48 pm ET
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WALTHAM – Kelly Olynyk is pretty psyched that Tom Brady is coming back to the NFL after next week. 

The Celtics center said one of the highlights of his summer of rehab from shoulder surgery was listening and talking to Tom Brady as the Patriots quarterback spent time on Long Island trying to lure Kevin Durant to Boston. 

“Brady’s an unbelievable individual,” Olynyk said during Monday’s media day. “He’s really, really smart. Just to be able to pick his brain for a half-hour, an hour, going down there was awesome, his philosophies, the way he lives his life. How professional he is, the way attacks every single game, every single moment and just kind of year-round, 24/7, it was awesome to see through his eyes, and hear it through his mouth, what he does and what it takes to be great.

“He’s really exemplified that at a lot of different stages so I’m excited to see him get back in the action, too, man.” 

As for his shoulder, the seven-footer said he’s getting better and better but still hasn’t been cleared for contact following surgery on the right shoulder on May 16. 

“Shoulder’s doing well. It’s coming along,” Olynyk said. “It’s been a long haul of rehab but it’s getting stronger and improving every day. Seeing visual improvements now. It’s doing well. It just needs to get a little bit stronger so that muscles can protect it and take a hit.” 

Olynyk re-aggravated the shoulder in Game 1 of the playoffs against the Hawks after suffering the initial injury in the final game before the All-Star break in February against the Clippers. 

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Celtics open Oct. 26 against Nets, visit Knicks on Christmas as part of full 2016-17 schedule 08.11.16 at 6:37 pm ET
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The Celtics went with Jaylen Brown at the third pick. (Jerry Lai/USA Today Sports)

Jaylen Brown makes his Celtics debut on Oct. 26 vs. the Nets. (Jerry Lai/USA Today Sports)

The Celtics now know their path to a third straight postseason appearance under Brad Stevens. 

The NBA released its full schedule on Thursday and some of the highlights for the Celtics include early matchups against Eastern Conference rivals, holiday season showdowns, and the first home games on consecutive nights in over 15 years. 

On Wednesday, Oct. 26, Al Horford makes his Celtics debut, joining 2016 All-Star Isaiah Thomas and 2016 first-team All-Defense selection Avery Bradley as they welcome the Brooklyn Nets to TD Garden to tip-off the 2016-17 season. One week later, the Celtics will host Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo and the new-look Bulls on Nov. 2 before traveling to Cleveland the next night for their first encounter with LeBron James and the 2016 NBA champion Cavaliers.

Later in the month, Celtics fans get their chance to let Kevin Durant know how much he disappointed them and Tom Brady when he, Stephen Curry and the Warriors come calling on Friday, Nov. 18, at TD Garden.

The Celtics have holiday home games this year with a matinee matchup against LaMarcus Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs the day after Thanksgiving, Friday, Nov. 25, and a Friday night tilt against Russell Westbrook and the Thunder on Dec. 23. The Celtics also play on Christmas Day for the first time in four seasons, when they travel to New York to face off against Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose and the Knicks.

The team will host home games on consecutive nights against Ben Simmons and the 76ers on Friday, Jan. 6 before taking on Anthony Davis and the Pelicans on Saturday, Jan. 7, marking the first time the Celtics have hosted home games on consecutive days since the 1998-99 lockout-shortened season.

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