|For (preseason) openers, Al Horford, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder shine, Jaylen Brown wows in loss to Sixers||10.04.16 at 9:24 pm ET|
AMHERST — The growth spurt officially is underway.
With expectations sky high entering the preseason, the Celtics didn’t disappoint Tuesday night, showing off a new-look roster that is loaded with offensive options and tenacious defense.
Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder each scored 11 points in the first half while Al Horford made his debut, scoring eight points in a 92-89 loss to the injury-plagued Sixers in front of a sparse 4,532 fans at the Mullins Center. The game was officially a home preseason game for Philadelphia, as their parent company, Comcast/Spectacor manages the building. But nearly every fan was cheering for the Celtics.
Jaylen Brown fired up the crowd with several athletic moves, including a one-handed jam late in the fourth to bring the Celtics close. The first-rounder out of Cal finished with eight points. Isaiah Thomas also had 11 points in his 19 minutes.
Terry Rozier led the Celtics with 12 points.
The Celtics showed their intensity on defense to the very last possession. Marcus Smart forced a Philadelphia turnover with 12 seconds left on the sideline, giving Boston a chance to tie. Smart missed a fadeaway three from the left wing with six seconds remaining and the loose ball went out of bounds to Philadelphia. Then after a Smart foul, the Sixers tried to inbound but turned the ball over, giving Boston one final chance with 3.6 seconds left. Jordan Mickey missed a three with one second left to end the game.
With just under three minutes left in the third quarter, a loud “Let’s Go Celtics” chant broke out.
And early on, the fans had plenty to cheer about.
AMHERST – Brad Stevens likes a lot more about his players than just their basketball skills.
The Celtics coach made that clear before Tuesday’s preseason opener at the Mullins Center when he articulated the sensitivity of his players and how well they communicated their desire to make a public statement about unity.
That statement came in the form of a crossed-arms chain with each other during the national anthem before the game with the Sixers.
“We’ve had a lot of sit-down discussions about it,” Stevens said. “We’ve had a lot of individual discussions. We’ve had three or four meetings after practices, sometimes just players, sometimes just us, sometimes people we’ve invited in from the outside to spend time with our guys.
“Our guys have been incredibly thoughtful and I think, like from what I’ve seen across the NBA early on, I think our guys are really focused on promoting positive unity, togetherness, progress, and all those types of things. But those have been, as far as deep, certainly good discussions, they’ve been great. And I commend our guys for sharing and for thinking and for really looking at this in a really insightful way.”
Stevens says he’s constantly learning about his team and their individual personalities.
“I think one of the great things about being a part of a team is you all come from different backgrounds and you learn about each other and you all come together for the common cause, and that’s why we all love sports, right? We can all rally around that common cause and we can rally around teams,” Stevens added.
“But I think when you really get into deep, impactful stuff, those are special conversations and sometimes those are uncomfortable and sometimes there can be tension around those, but I think that’s the beautiful part about our group, is that they all appreciate one another, really support one another. And again, I think you’ll see, like I think they’re very much into what the teams that I’ve seen thus far, in talking about togetherness and continued progress.”
Shortly after the anthem, the team released a video statement from the players on why they decided it was appropriate to make a “Unity” statement before Tuesday’s game.
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) October 4, 2016
AMHERST — Brad Stevens finally is getting the chance to see what his new-look team can do against an opponent.
Stevens knows full well that a preseason opener against the perpetually health-jinxed Sixers does not rise to the level of what his team will be in three weeks when they open the season against the Nets on Oct. 26. But still, Stevens put out a lineup that projects to opening night when Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Al Horford, Jae Crowder and Amir Johnson took the floor.
“Just want everybody to play well when they have their opportunity in the game,” Stevens said of the first of seven preseason games. “I think there’s guys that we’ll limit minutes-wise but the bottom line is that will kinda be as we go in the game. I’ve got a pretty good idea of what I want keep guys at. But whether they play first half or first stint of the third quarter, I’m still not completely decided on.
“So we’re one week in. I think the one thing about both those guys is they are both pretty versatile, they both pass the ball well. They both can roll or pop, they both can defend a couple of positions. But we’ll keep evaluating whether or not that’s our best group moving forward. And we’re still very much in the evaluation stage.
“You have to balance some of [lineups], but also I want these guys to get good stints. It’s not important that they play 30 minutes tonight. But it is important that the stints they play are hard and they get good conditioning out of it. Again, we’re a week in. We didn’t start thinking or talking about playing a game tonight until this morning. We still have a long way to go to get to where we want to be from a performance standpoint on both ends of the floor.”
Safe to say, the Celtics are playing more against against themselves than worrying about a Philly team that will be without No. 1 draft pick Ben Simmons indefinitely after surgery to repair a Jones fracture in his foot.
“Everybody practices hard, everybody plays hard, there’s seven exhibition and 82 regular-season games — it’s just an unfortunate of this, that there will be injuries,” Stevens said. “You always hope that they are not long term, you always hope that they’re not something that somebody can’t recover from quickly. And, at the same time, we have 20 people on our roster right now and we’ll play whoever is available.”
Jaylen Brown getting pre-game jumpers up before preseason opener vs Sixers pic.twitter.com/wYPQTs4bVr
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) October 4, 2016
|Practice report: Gerald Green points to return next week after nursing hip, intensity picks up||09.30.16 at 12:10 am ET|
WALTHAM – Gerald Green knows he’s no longer the 18-year-old the Celtics drafted 18th overall in the 2005 draft.
Now, the 30-year-old 6-foot-7 shooting forward comes to camp working harder to stay in shape and get ready for the season. In this process, Green suffered a minor setback.
While working out in two-a-days this week, Green strained his hip in practice.
“I don’t think I stretched properly,” Green said Thursday. “I’m not 25 no more, so just trying to come out there and go full speed, just one of those things I’ve got to learn now since I’m 30.”
The hip didn’t keep him from firing up jumpers at the end of practice and working up a sweat.
“Sometimes it’s hard to watch,” Green added. “I kind of like to work a little bit. I’m not pushing myself too hard, just enough to where I can get a nice little sweat.”
Coach Brad Stevens didn’t seem overly concerned about it after Thursday’s sessions.
“Gerald is still the only person that didn’t participate in any of the practice drills, but obviously he’s out here shooting and should be good to go by the start of next week,” Stevens said.
How exactly did it happen?
“I can’t really recall. I just did some research on it. A lot of times you strain a hip flexor it’s from not warming up properly,” Green added. “I think now since I’m 30 I’m at the age where I have to start stretching a lot more. It’s feeling better, having a second day off of practice and today, just doing a lot of treatment right after practice and coming back this evening and doing treatment, so kind of just almost like precautionary thing, making sure it doesn’t get worse.
|Isaiah Thomas explains how he recruited Gerald Green (back) to Boston||09.29.16 at 7:50 pm ET|
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.”
|Al Horford tells Isaiah Thomas he’s ready to do whatever it takes: ‘I have their back’||at 4:47 pm ET|
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.
|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|
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.”
Latest from Bleacher Report
- Isaiah Thomas to Play vs. Wizards After Missing 2 Games with Knee Injury
- Ray Allen Not Invited to Rajon Rondo's NBA Title Celebration After...
- Isaiah Thomas Will Miss Next 2 Games for Celtics with Knee Injury
- Al Horford, Avery Bradley Out vs. Suns with Elbow, Hamstring Injuries
- Avery Bradley Returns from Achilles Injury for Celtics vs. Hawks
- Isaiah Thomas Criticizes DeMarre Carroll for Flagrant Foul in Celtics vs...