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Al Horford to miss 4th straight game, Kelly Olynyk (shoulder) makes trip to D.C. 11.08.16 at 1:29 pm ET
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Al Horford

Al Horford

The Celtics will be without their $113 million man for a fourth straight game when they take on the Wizards on Wednesday night. The team announced Tuesday that Al Horford stayed back in Boston to continue in the NBA’s concussion protocol. 

Horford has played in just three games this season after suffering a concussion in practice on Halloween. 

Brad Stevens said after practice Monday that Horford had not made any progress in the protocol. Before getting injured in practice, Horford was averaging 12 points and 5.3 rebounds with seven blocks in three games. 

As for another big man, Jae Crowder will miss his third straight game after twisting his left ankle against the Bulls at TD Garden on Nov. 2. Crowder also did not make the trip to D.C. Tuesday as he continues to receive treatment. 

With Crowder and Horford out of the lineup the last two games, the Celtics have allowed 122 points in a loss at Cleveland and 123 last Sunday night at home to Denver. 

The Celtics could be getting back Kelly Olynyk, who has missed the first six games as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery. Olynyk has been practicing with the team since Oct. 20. 

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Read More: Al Horford, Boston Celtics, Kelly Olynyk,
Brad Stevens on defenseless Celtics: ‘You could see it coming’ 11.08.16 at 10:19 am ET
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Nov 6, 2016; Boston, MA, USA;  Denver Nuggets guard Jameer Nelson (1) shakes the hand of Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens after defeating the Celtics at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Celtics coach watched Sunday as Jameer Nelson (1) and the Nuggets ran Boston out of its own building. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM – The 3-3 start by the Celtics, featuring woeful defense, has caught many off guard.  

But that group would not include their coach. Brad Stevens could see cracks in the team’s defensive foundation in training camp. He could see some bad habits forming and now the coach is showing the players, in brutal regular season game detail, what he was trying to get across in camp. 

If you’re not in position to defend, you won’t. That was never more clear than in Sunday’s 123-107 loss to the Nuggets at TD Garden, a game they gave up 42 points in the first quarter and trailed 77-52 at halftime. 

“You could see it coming, but we also lost guys that I thought were pretty good defensively. ” Stevens said after Monday’s practice.

Stevens did cut his team some slack, noting that Jae Crowder, Al Horford and Marcus Smart haven’t been on the court together at the start of the season, and that does nothing to help team chemistry and rhythm on the court, not to mention spacing. 

“Losing guys out of our lineups, obviously Jae and Al and Marcus — we haven’t had all three of those guys in one game; those are three of our best defenders.

“But the reality is that even with that, even with the idea that one, two, or three of those guys are out at once, that we should be better than we’ve been. I don’t think the group that’s played will necessarily be, especially with the group that we had out last night, I don’t think we’re going to be a top-10 defense. But we can be 12th or 13th, right at the end of the season, that’s for sure.”

Stevens has some history to draw upon to think things can get better. Asked Monday what it will take to get better, he referenced his first Final Four team at Butler in 2010. 

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Celtics notes: Al Horford not advancing in concussion protocol, Brad Stevens hasn’t decided on lineup changes 11.07.16 at 4:42 pm ET
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Nov 6, 2016; Boston, MA, USA;  Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown (7) drives to the basket while Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried (35) defends during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Jaylen Brown could be finding a seat on the Celtics bench at the start of Wednesday’s game. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM — There was some thinking that the sight of Al Horford with the Celtics Sunday night was a sign that perhaps he was advancing in the NBA’s concussion protocol. 

Celtics coach Brad Stevens put a damper on those hopes after practice Monday. 

Horford, who has missed three games after suffering a concussion in practice last week, was not able to take participate in any team activities Monday. 

“He has not advanced in the protocol, based on what I’ve been told,” Stevens said. “I have not gotten anything deeper than that but he did not do anything with our team today.” 

The team will not practice in Waltham Tuesday as they leave for Washington and Wednesday’s game against the Wizards. 

Stevens was asked if Horford is exhibiting any symptoms that might indicate where he is in his recovery. 

“I don’t know what that means yet,” Stevens said. “I’m gonna go find out. But I think that not advancing is telling that the symptoms have been at least prolonged through [Sunday].” 

The team’s defense has suffered drastically with Horford and Jae Crowder (left ankle) out of the lineup. They are allowing 118 points per game in their three losses and stand 3-3 on the season. As for Kelly Olynyk, who practiced again Monday, Stevens said he’s going to avoid specific timetables. 

“I don’t know. We’ll find out,” Stevens said. “He’s a good player. But I don’t want to make predictions when he’s gonna play or not. But he is around the corner, which I said last night.

With the team defense struggling and rookie Jaylen Brown (who has started last two games) working to pick up the system, there has been some speculation that Stevens might insert Marcus Smart into the lineup in his place Wednesday night. 


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Read More: Al Horford, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Marcus Smart
After ‘horrible’ film session, Marcus Smart wants his teammates to start ‘punching back’ on D 11.07.16 at 4:20 pm ET
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Nov 6, 2016; Boston, MA, USA;  Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay (0) collides with Boston Celtics Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Smart says the Celtics need to get down and dirty on defense. (Bob DeChiara-USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM — Marcus Smart is a man of pride. And when it comes to his game in the NBA, it starts with defense. 

What was on display Sunday night – and for the better part of the season – has hit home with the third-year defensive specialist. 

The Celtics were blown out on the home court Sunday night in 123-107 loss to the Nuggets. They allowed 42 points in the first quarter and trailed 77-52 at the half. From the start, it was not good. 

“We’re just not in it. We’re coming out too cool,” Smart said. “Teams are coming out ready. We’re not sneaking up on nobody this year. We’re the hunted. Everybody is coming out after us and we’re so used to being the guys that are sneaking up on everybody. That’s just not the case this year.

“We played a team that was hungry and was playing with a chip on their shoulder. Their coach ridiculed them and they felt that. They came out ready. They punched us in the mouth and we stood there and took it. Today’s practice was (about) we get punched, we’ve got to be ready to punch back. We’ve got to be ready to be in a boxing match.”

It got so bad that after the game, coach Brad Stevens called his team a finesse team. That might as well be a four-letter word to the ears of Smart. 

“Yeah, we definitely do. That’s definitely a challenge. We’re not a finesse team,” Smart said after Monday’s practice. “We understand that. But we did play finesse the other night. So, he was right to call us that. We’ve got to look ourselves in the mirror and we’ve got to own up to it and take responsibility. The good thing about this sport and any sport, especially basketball, you get to go play another game. We’ve got to throw that game out the window and get ready for Wednesday.” 


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Isaiah Thomas says ‘no excuse’ for sloppy end to opening win 10.27.16 at 1:36 am ET
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Isaiah Thomas knows the Celtics got away with one Wednesday night. 

The Celtics beat the rebuilding Nets, 122-117, in a game that never should have been that close. Thomas led the Celtics with 25 points and came out with the rest of the starters at the end of the third quarter and the Celtics in cruise control, leading 97-81.

Terry Rozier was running the offense with Avery Bradley the only starter remaining in the game. The lineup featured Rozier, Bradley, Jaylen Brown, Tyler Zeller and Jonas Jerebko.

“I thought that it would be, obviously, a great opportunity to play the right way and figure out a way to keep them at bay as they come hard-charging,” Brad Stevens said of his substitutions. “It’s hard to play with a team that’s got nothing to lose, that’s flying at you and everything else. Wasn’t to be. Probably will be … less, less likely to leave them in that long if we’re in a similar scenario. Hopefully we learn from it and we’re not.”

Thomas was a big reason the Celtics had 36 assists on 48 baskets, the most assists by an NBA team in a season opener since 2001.

“It feels great,” Thomas said. “We didn’t end it like we wanted to, but we definitely got the win and it feels good, to play in front of your fans and really get going and playing for something that counts.”

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Defensive versatility is everything to Brad Stevens, and Terry Rozier ready ‘to take care of business’ 10.26.16 at 11:54 am ET
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Terry Rozier

Terry Rozier

WALTHAM – How will the Celtics cope without Marcus Smart for the first two weeks of the season? 

Ask Brad Stevens that question and he’ll give the same answer that he has for everything involving his defense-based system. 

“I think we were third or fourth last year, so it was pretty good. The bottom line is we have to be more versatile defensively,” Stevens said Tuesday when Smart and the team announced that his left ankle would sideline him for at least two weeks.

“You have to be able to do more things. We have to be able to tweak on the fly, we have to be able to adjust if something is killing us and be able to play either big or small. I think it will be interesting to see what our best lineups are that separate themselves. But our idea is that we should have some versatility. But, again, I think defense is one of those things that you gotta go out there and do it. It’s not about talking about it. It’s not about the anticipation of how good we can be. That’s an everyday commitment and thus far we’ve done it at a pretty good level, but we’ll see.”

Smart’s injury also means significantly more opportunity for Terry Rozier to continue what he showed in Summer League and camp and preseason. 

“He comes off the bench and he’s not playing, so it’s a bigger opportunity for me,” Rozier said of Smart. “It’s a step up, something where I have to be ready when my number is called. Be ready to take care of business. I want to come in and play my part, whether it’s scoring some nights, or just getting starts. The main thing is I want to play hard and do that every night.”

In Rozier’s mind, the best preparation for an increased role has been facing Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley every day in practice. 

“I think IT said it best – when you play against those two every day in practice, when you get out there in a real game it’s looser,” Rozier said. “You’re not having guys all over you like it is in practice. That’s a big help, something you have to take advantage of when you get out on the court, because in practice you’re not getting that breathing room.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Terry Rozier,
Classy move by Celtics for always-classy Craig Sager 10.25.16 at 8:08 pm ET
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WALTHAM — The battle of Craig Sager has been one that has touched nearly everyone in the NBA.

The most colorful broadcaster in sports is again battling acute myeloid leukemia.

After practice and before speaking with reporters, coaches and players put on multi-colored spotted shirts, symbolic of the bright and colorful suits only Sager could wear. The team then took a picture and shouted the words “Sager Strong!” to a camera for the purpose of sending get-well wishes to the man who has become an institution on NBA sidelines over his long and successful career.

The shirts are for sale for $29.99 at the SagerStrong Foundation website, with proceeds going to benefit the foundation’s mission of cancer research and education. 

For Sager, who announced in March that his cancer had come out of remission, the prognosis is not great, and that was evident again on the face of Isaiah Thomas Tuesday after Celtics practice.

“These [shirts] are Craig Sager. A guy that means a lot to this game of basketball,” Thomas said with a heavy heart. “A guy who means a lot to the NBA, the NBA family. And we just wish him well, and we’re praying for him and his family daily. The shirts are nice. They look like something he would wear. I wouldn’t wear them but I know he would.”

Sager’s son, Craig Jr. helped save Sager’s life as he was a match for the bone marrow transplant needed to push Sager into remission in 2014. But in March, doctors had told him that he had 3–6 months to live without treatment. On July 29, Sager underwent bone marrow surgery.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Craig Sager, Isaiah Thomas, NBA
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