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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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Sep 26, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) during media day at the Boston Celtic Practice Facility. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Smart will be a focal point this season for Celtics. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

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’ 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.”

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Kelly Olynyk raves about meeting Tom Brady, calls him ‘an unbelievable individual’ 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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Ray Allen has contacted Celtics about a potential comeback 08.09.16 at 6:58 pm ET
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Jan 27, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Miami Heat shooting guard Ray Allen (34) warms up prior to a game against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden.  Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Ray Allen played five seasons (2007-2013) with the Celtics (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Former Celtics shooting star Ray Allen has been in contact with team officials about making a potential comeback in Boston.

In an interview with the Hartford Courant, Allen says he’s spoken with two of his former teams about making a possible return — the Celtics — where he won his first NBA championship — and the Bucks — the team that drafted him back in 1996.

“I would love going back to those places if it worked out,” Allen told the paper, “because both teams are good, too. It doesn’t necessarily have to be championship-or-bust for me to go back to the NBA.

“I want to be in a situation where I thought I could help, play a little bit and help where they have good young talent.”

Allen, who was a member of the Celtics’ new ‘Big 3’ alongside Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, helped lead the team to an NBA championship in 2008. He last played for the Celtics in 2012 before he turned down a two-year contract to stay in Boston and signed with the rival Miami Heat for less money — a move that some C’s fans deemed as unforgivable at the time.

Allen went on to win his second NBA title with the Heat in 2013 before losing to the Spurs in the finals the following year — which ended up being his last season in the NBA.

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Celtics announce 7-game preseason schedule 07.28.16 at 6:38 pm ET
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TD Garden will be the site of the final two preseason games announced by the Celtics. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

The Celtics will be playing a seven-game preseason schedule to get ready for the 2016-17 NBA season.

The team announced its preseason slate on Thursday, which will include an opener on Oct. 4 against the 76ers at the Mullins Center at UMass-Amherst. The Celtics will technically be the visiting team as Spectra/Comcast Spectacor is the parent company of the Mullins Center (as well as the home of the 76ers, the Wells Fargo Center). 

Tickets for the Oct. 4 game are available for purchase at Ticketmaster.com.

The Celtics then will face the Hornets twice, with the first matchup taking place at the Greensboro (N.C.) Coliseum on Oct. 6 and the second at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, on Oct. 8. Tickets for the Oct. 8 game are available at Ticketmaster.com.

The preseason lineup also includes contests against Atlantic Division rivals Brooklyn and New York. The C’s will start their New York road trip by facing the Nets on Oct. 13 and the Knicks on Oct. 15. The Celtics will close preseason play at home as they host the Nets and Knicks at TD Garden on Oct. 17 and Oct. 19.

Tickets for the TD Garden games will go on sale at a later date to be announced.  Fans can visit Celtics.com, “like” the Celtics on Facebook or follow @celtics on Twitter for more ticket sale updates and information.

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