|Celtics Practice Report: Jaylen Brown, Al Horford eased into new surroundings on first day||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 three-to-four 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.”
Brown added that it is similar to being at school and that Stevens is like the professor.
Having been through multiple camps before and already having an established rapport across the league, the big thing for Al Horford was working on learning the plays and the system.
“It was a little different, just starting to get used to some of our concepts, getting familiar with the offensive system, but a lot of energy, a lot of positive energy,” Horford said. “Guys were ready to go from the beginning.”
OTHER PRACTICE NOTES
— Though playing non-contact, Kelly Olynyk, who is still nursing a shoulder injury, looked confident both shooting and playing around the rim. He had no issues finishing dunks with authority but also stepped back and drained multiple 3-pointers.
— Players and Stevens alike noted that the initial drills were to be done at roughly 40 percent, but everyone elected to go at a much higher intensity. Isaiah Thomas said that if that was 40 percent, he was interested to see what 100 percent would be like. Stevens jokingly brushed it off as a misjudgment of what was and was not 40 percent.
|Finally wearing Celtics uniform, Al Horford has his new team giddy with anticipation||09.26.16 at 10:46 pm ET|
WALTHAM — All the Celtics of recent memory have heard is that they’re just missing “that” piece. There’s no exact definition of what that piece is, but there is belief that Al Horford is said piece.
He can run the floor, play defense in the low post, step out and shoot 3-pointers, play strong around the rim and grab rebounds in the process — nearly all things the C’s needed to address this offseason. And while his addition came at the cost of $113 million over four seasons, it appears that if he continues the trend that has defined a successful nine-year career, he will help the Celtics take another step forward.
“He’s going to open the floor for everybody,” Avery Bradley said at Celtics media day Monday. “He’s a great player on the offensive end, defensive end. He knows how to play the game of basketball. To have him be a part of this team, I’m just happy about it.”
Added Celtics president Danny Ainge (who was exceptionally giddy throughout his press conference): “As much as anything he’s been very consistent over his career. Shooting the ball, playing multiple positions. He’s a guy that fits in with our system with big guys handling the ball a lot.”
With the hefty contract Horford signed, and the track record he’s had in his career, the 30-year-old Dominican is being fancied as the shepherd to take the Celtics to the promised land. And while it may be steep to put that all on Horford — especially on a team-centric squad like the Celtics — his all-around skill should fit into the C’s system.
“We’re not asking Al to be anything more than him,” coach Brad Stevens said. “He’s a good fit for how we play on offense. He’s a good fit for how we play on defense. He’s a professional. He has a routine. He works hard at his craft. He’s a guy that guys can follow by example.”
|Celtics Player Preview: Al Horford||09.21.16 at 8:58 pm ET|
With Celtics training camp set to begin on Sept. 26, WEEI.com presents a player-by-player breakdown of the roster. The Celtics have 20 players under contract but will have to cut the roster to 15 by the start of the season.
82 games with Hawks: 32.1 minutes, 15.2 points, 50.5% FG, 7.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.5 blocks
Horford was selected to his fourth All-Star team and continues to be one of the league’s most productive big men. After finishing the 2014-15 season atop of the Eastern Conference with a 60-22 record, the Hawks had somewhat of a disappointing season last year, but Horford was one of their bright spots. For the past two years, his production in points, rebounding and assists are identical and he has improved his average in blocks from 1.3 to 1.5.
Projected role in 2016-17
Horford will be one of the most important players in the front court for the Celtics. He gives the C’s another 15-plus-point scorer and the fact that shoots at a 50 percent clip from the field gives the Celtics a very consistent scorer. Alongside Jae Crowder and Amir Johnson, Horford strengthens the defense down low and he’ll be able to slide back to the power forward position instead of playing center, where he can be much more effective in defending undersized forwards. His mid-range shot — that can extend out to the 3-point arc — will spread the floor on offense, forcing opposing teams to run out to defend him and making room for guys like Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder to take the ball to the rim.
|5 Celtics crack SI’s list of Top 100 NBA players||09.15.16 at 3:27 pm ET|
Sports Illustrated recently released its annual list of the Top 100 players in the NBA, and for the Celtics, it was merely affirmation of what they already believe: this team looks to be pretty good.
Five Celtics landed in the top 100, led by Al Horford at No. 18. Isaiah Thomas is 45, Jae Crowder 53, Avery Bradley 72 and Amir Johnson 86.
Horford was praised for his ability to fit into essentially any system and make himself a threat defensively regardless of who he’s up against. He can play in the low post, he can pick and roll, he can shoot if needed. Defensively, of course is his strength. Concern was mentioned about his rebounding troubles against top rebounders — something that has routinely plagued the Celtics — as well as his occasional interest to shoot a below-average 3-pointers.
In last year’s ranking, Thomas came in at 88, and he had something to say about it.
Sports illustrated Rankings are a JOKE lol. Feels like back in HS when those POLITICAL rankings would come out & we would just laugh it off
— Isaiah Thomas (@Isaiah_Thomas) August 31, 2015
This year, SI gave him a little bit more respect, specifically with his reliability and durability. The article noted his ability to drive (he was second in the league in points off the drive last season) but also the fact that as a result of his interest in driving combined with a smaller stature, he is prone to getting his shot blocked.
The focal point of Crowder’s assessment was how unlikely it seemed that he would be as adored and successful in Boston as he is when he was part of the long-awaited trade of Rajon Rondo. On top of that, his ability to steal the ball (he ranked second in the league in steals) was looked favorably upon while his reticence to routinely pull the trigger from deep was criticized.
Bradley was lauded for his abilities as a two-way player, as he won accolades for defense while being a knockdown shooter periodically last season. However, the article was critical of his inability to run an offense for extended periods of time and his injury concerns.
For Johnson — arguably the biggest surprise to make the list — the focus was on what he brings to the table defensively. A case could be made he is one of the most integral parts of the Celtics defense, which is saying a lot given how solid the C’s defense is. His drawbacks included the fact that he is not exactly a threat offensively, getting most of his points from putbacks. Even still, his impact is massive given he is the first one to the bench in most games.
|Brad Stevens ‘putting the pieces together’ for upcoming season||09.08.16 at 12:39 pm ET|
Despite the seemingly constant drama surrounding the Celtics this offseason, head coach Brad Stevens has been surprisingly quiet. At the ABCD Hoops for Hope event at the TD Garden on Tuesday, Stevens opened up about a number of things that defined this offseason.
And though he’s been quiet, it hasn’t stopped him from planning constantly and paying mind to the outlook of the upcoming season.
“I think as a coach, you get away a little bit, but at some point you’re antsy to get back at it,” Stevens told reporters. “So maybe re-writing the third version of what you’re doing? I don’t know. You think about it all year. I’m just going to be ready for September 27th. Ever since the end of July I’ve had a pretty good idea of what we’re going to look like as a team and who’s going to help us in what way. It’s just a matter now of putting the pieces together and hopefully playing well”
The Celtics that fell in the first round of the 2016 postseason, though similar, will have some major changes. There was the addition of big man Al Horford, former Celtic Gerald Green, as well as No. 3 draft pick Jaylen Brown.
With such additions, there’s been incessant changes to the outlook of the roster and thus the approach the team will have to take.
“I think you’re always tweaking and changing and you’re always making adjustments,” he said, “But I think you have to put a lot of time and thought into what your new guys have done well, how that plays within what you’ve done or if you need to change some of what you’ve done to fit them better. You go through that, and you make sure you come up with a plan that fits everybody the best to bring out all of their best strengths.”
Defense was never an issue for the Celtics in 2015-16.
|Avery Bradley offers explanation as to why he wasn’t at recruitment of Kevin Durant||08.29.16 at 7:15 pm ET|
It’s been nearly two months since Kevin Durant opted to sign with the Warriors over a slew of other bidders — the Celtics being one of them.
The Celtics brought the cavalry, including players Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Kelly Olynyk and Marcus Smart as well as president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and co-owner Steve Pagliuca. Tom Brady also was in attendance.
But there was one glaringly obvious absence.
The longest-tenured member of the Celtics, Avery Bradley, was not in attendance, and, as he explained when addressing it for the first time this week, there was a reason behind his absence. Bradley and Durant both played at the University of Texas and interface frequently as a result of it, and the guard thought it was best to stay out of it.
“I didn’t do that much,” the 25-year-old told The Boston Globe while at a basketball court makeover in Belmont. “Me and Kevin are like brothers, so we talk all the time. So I’m not going to talk to him about that, you know what I mean? I was more asking him how he’s doing.
“I was actually with him a week before all that stuff went down at a camp in Austin [Texas], so I really wasn’t that much involved.”
Though he stayed largely away from the Durant luring process, the All-Star’s decision did not seem to turn the head of Bradley as wildly as it did the rest of the basketball world.
“You know what, I can’t really say,” Bradley said. “All I can say is that I’m happy for him, and I feel like he’s part of a great organization. And I wish the best for him. Kevin’s a really good guy and an even better player.”
|Kelly Olynyk ‘should be ready to rock’ when training camp begins||08.26.16 at 2:54 pm ET|
How much have the Celtics changed over the past four years?
Think of it this way: entering his fourth year of NBA service, all with the Celtics, center Kelly Olynyk is currently the second-longest tenured member of the team after Avery Bradley.
“That’s pretty crazy. I think from the year I got here, me and Avery are the only people still from that team. We had 15 guys when we came in here, and there’s only two of us surviving,” Olynyk said at his annual trip to Canobie Lake Park with children from the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children as part of the Shamrock Foundation on Wednesday. The 25-year-old jokingly added, “So it’s either me or Avery, one of us has got to go.”
The trip was later than usual as a result of the shoulder surgery Olynyk underwent on May 16 due to recurrent subluxations in response to his Feb. 10 collision with Clippers center DeAndre Jordan.
And with Celtics training camp set to begin in a month on Sept. 26, things are looking up in the 7-footer’s recovery
“My shoulder’s doing alright, man. I should be ready to rock,” he said. “It’s good. Still got about a month or so left, which you can put a lot of work in in a month, get it stronger. It’s coming along, motion’s pretty good, need to get it stronger, give it time to heal.
“We’ll get everybody together and just see how not only if it’s ready, but when it’s the best time to ease into it and gradually improve it and kind of roll things out.”
Olynyk has been a consistently valuable asset off the bench since being taken 13th overall by the Mavericks and promptly traded to the Celtics in the 2013 NBA draft. Appearing in 69 games in 2015-16 — starting just 8 — he averaged 10 points and 4.1 rebounds in 20.2 minutes per game. He also shot 45.5 percent from the field., and for a big man was not afraid to pull the trigger from downtown, averaging three attempts a game with a team-leading 40.5 shooting percent from three.
With all that in mind, he’s still got his work cut out for him. The Celtics still have Tyler Zeller and Amir Johnson at their disposal, as well as newly-acquired Al Horford.
Horford does address multiple needs for the Celtics, and for Olynyk, who was on the team’s private plane en route to court then-free agent Kevin Durant when President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge received the call Horford chose them, it will do nothing but help the team improve.
“It was awesome. We were just super happy Al was going to join us. A player of his caliber and of his talent level and of his character is huge. It’s something that we kind of wanted and needed and we’re really looking to him coming to us and him helping us get to where we want to be,” Olynyk said.
“He’s a great player and he’s so good because he can play with a lot of different guys. He’s really skilled, he can make things happen offensively he can play defensively, he can fly around. His length and his ability to guard different spots, and play different spots on the floor, really helps us and our versatility.”
One void that will rear it’s head this season is the loss of sixth man Evan Turner, who departed for the TrailBlazers this offseason. That hasn’t stopped Olynyk from corresponding with his former teammate.
“I did talk to Evan, he came to my camp, actually. Unbelievable guy, it’s too bad that he had to go, but it was good for him, really good for him. It’s tough anytime, the business is different. You’ll see over the years you get close to guys and you have great teammates like Evan and, you know, they’ve got to do what’s best for them.”
For the full interview with Olynyk on Celtics.com, click here.
Latest from Bleacher Report
- Austin Ainge Offers Window to C's Pre-Draft Process
- Trade Possibilities for C's with Draft Approaching
- Latest Buzz Surrounding Jamal Crawford, Kristaps Porzingis, Celtics'...
- Latest NBA Trade Rumors, Buzz
- Ranking Celtics' Biggest NBA Draft Needs
- Buzz Surrounding Ty Lawson, Celtics Draft Plans and More
- Realistic Targets for Celtics to Chase During Offseason