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Brad Stevens compliments players’ anthem statement Tuesday as ‘incredibly thoughtful’ 10.04.16 at 8:08 pm ET
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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.

 

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Pregame report: Brad Stevens says preseason ‘totally about growth’ at 6:47 pm ET
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Brad Stevens addresses reporters before Tuesday’s preseason opener. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

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.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier
Practice report: Gerald Green points to return next week after nursing hip, intensity picks up 09.30.16 at 12:10 am ET
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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.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Gerald Green, Isaiah Thomas
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’ 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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Read More: Al Horford, Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas,
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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Read More: Boston Celtics, Marcus Smart,
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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