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Celtics pregame notes: No final decisions have been made on roster spots 10.17.16 at 6:18 pm ET
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Demetrius Jackson

Demetrius Jackson

Since the Celtics rounded out their roster in September — complete with 16 guaranteed contracts and only 15 roster spots — the speculation has been near-constant as to who will be in and who will be out.

But with just one more preseason game and the first game of the regular season just over a week away, no final decisions have been made on the roster.

“We haven’t talked about any of that stuff, so I’m sure I’ll sit down with Danny [Ainge] at some point, but obviously we have 16 [contracts] and you can only carry 15,”  Celtics coach Brad Stevens said prior to Monday’s preseason tilt against the Nets. “It’s the unfortunate part of the business, but we haven’t talked in great depth about that. But I’m sure we’ll hit that in the next couple of days.

“Obviously we have conversations all the time, but we have not gotten to the point where we’re talking finality on anybody in large part because everybody has played very well or shown great strides.”

One player that has shown promise is guard Demetrius Jackson. In four games this preseason, the rookie out of Notre Dame has shot 7-for-14 from the field, as well as 4-for-6 from 3-point range, averaging 5.3 points per game. He’s helped run the offense as well, as he’s grabbed eight assists in his cumulative 38 minutes.

“I think he’s done a good job. You know it’s hard to sit for three quarters and play in the fourth, but I thought the other night he came in, handled the ball, made the right plays,” said Stevens. “His burst is pretty special, and he can go from zero to 60 in a heartbeat. He’s making shot and he’s doing a pretty good job of running that group when he comes in. So I’ve been impressed with him thus far.”

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Celtics Practice Report: Amir Johnson looking to diversify his game 10.13.16 at 11:11 am ET
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Amir Johnson

Amir Johnson

Expect to see Amir Johnson changing things up this season.

When the Celtics went out and signed Al Horford, the laundry list of things he brought to the table were apparent, but one thing that flew under the radar was how he can help other players. And just over two weeks into camp, he’s already found a way to make fellow starter and big man Amir Johnson better.

“Chemistry is great, you know, it’s just me working around Al, Al working around me and we’re just putting it together,” the 29-year-old Johnson said.

The now-12-year pro noted that one dimension of his game that he is looking to improve is his 3-point shot. Last season, Johnson pulled from deep 43 times, executing on just 10 occasions for a 23.3 percent 3-point percentage, well below his career average of 31.5 percent from deep.

But with the addition of Horford, who can already do it all, it provides Johnson the flexibility to test his shot.

“Guys are starting to step out to that 3-pointer, and guys are definitely guarding outside the 3-point line, so it definitely changes in that aspect there,” Johnson said. “Every big man wants to step out and shoot the 3 and handle the ball, but now guys are working on it.”

With a player like Johnson implementing a 3-point shot more into his game, it can also have a less clear benefit. Regardless of if the shot gets knocked down, if Johnson is able to lure an equally-tall defender out to the perimeter, it gives a natural rim-protector like Horford a chance to isolate and grab the offensive board.

But whether Johnson is shooting or not, Horford’s versatility makes his life a lot easier.

“Al’s definitely one of those versatile bigs, able to pass the ball, step out and shoot the shot. For me it just kind of makes it easier just to work around him because you know he can the pass, you know he can make the shot,” Johnson said.

The synergy between the two is helping Johnson on the other end of the court as well.

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Read More: Al Horford, Amir Johnson, Brad Stevens,
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/

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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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
Celtics practice report: Jaylen Brown, Al Horford eased into new surroundings on first day 09.27.16 at 12:49 pm ET
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Al Horford

Al Horford

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 3-4 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.”

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Read More: Al Horford, Brad Stevens, Isaiah Thomas, Jaylen Brown
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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