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Brad Stevens: ‘I have one goal at this job and that’s to win an NBA championship’ 09.27.15 at 12:57 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Brad Stevens has a lot to think about on his flight over to Europe to begin training camp.

First and foremost, who on the roster is going to step up and prove they deserve the most playing time – or any at all – in preseason and possibly the regular season.

That’s a question that needs to be answered before Stevens can even make decisions on who will fill out the backend of a roster that is nothing if not deep.

The forwards are David Lee, Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Amir Johnson, Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebko, Tyler Zeller and Perry Jones. The guards are Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Evan Turner to go with rookies Terry Rozier and RJ Hunter.

That’s a lot of options but a lot of decisions for Brad Stevens to wade through.

“I’m excited. Anytime you’ve got a group that you can work with and you feel that way headed into the season, you’re focused on basketball,” Stevens said. “Even though we’ve got to figure out who’s going to play and at what times, I think we’ll be able to focus on all the right things.”

But then Stevens was pressed about how he’s going to deal with players like Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Evan Turner, all veteran guards who will be fighting for playing time in a crowded backcourt that added rookies RJ Hunter and Terry Rozier.

“Every good team, you’re going to have discussions like that,” Stevens said. “Every good team that is challenging to be better is going to have depth. We’re going to have good players on our team that aren’t going to play. That’s the reality of it. That’s hard part of the job in some ways but you just try to be really frank and talk about it. I’m not here to predetermine anything. That’s why I think sometimes we should probably have media day two weeks in because I don’t know yet. We’ll find out.

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James Young improves defense, gains weight 09.26.15 at 8:08 pm ET
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James Young

James Young

In preparation for the 2015-16 NBA season, James Young spent the majority of the summer working on his body and his one-on-one defense.

At Friday’€™s annual media day at the Celtics‘ Waltham practice facility, Young talked about gaining weight over the summer and how he’€™s entering his second season feeling more confident about his defense.

“€œI just got in the gym and worked out harder,” said Young. “This season is going to be special for the team and me. I just want it to be great — got in the gym every day, [twice] a day.

“€œJust to absorb the contact from bigger and stronger guys, you can’€™t just go in the lane and be at 200 pounds; you’€™re going to get pushed over. €œSo, you [have to] add weight, and that’€™s what I did. I want to add more — not done yet.”

Young split his rookie year between Boston and Maine. He played 17 games for the Red Claws, averaging 21.5 points and shooting an impressive 44.2 percent from behind the 3-point arc.

Young finished his rookie campaign with the Celtics averaging 3.4 points in 10.7 minutes per game. While adding weight to his frame to improve his offense, Young says he has a better understanding of what to do on the defensive end.

“€My footwork is a lot better,” he said. “I know what to do now. Pulling over, communicating, everything is working a lot better now. I know what to do now. I didn’€™t know then, but now I know.”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens also discussed Young’€™s progress at Friday’€™s media day.

“He’€™s really improved his defensive abilities,” said Stevens. “€œHis defensive awareness was great in summer league, and he’€™s a guy that we know offensively has some skill and some talent. The other thing about James that I’€™m excited about is he’€™s bigger and stronger, and he’s only 20 years old.”

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Sadly, Tyler Zeller concedes Celtics won’t finish 82-0 this season 09.23.15 at 1:16 pm ET
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Brad Stevens couldn't be more excited about the 2015-16 NBA season. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Brad Stevens couldn’t be more excited about the 2015-16 NBA season. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

When Celtics coach Brad Stevens says, “We have to play better than last year overall to make the playoffs again,” it’s not merely a motivating tactic in hopes of curbing complacency. He’s right.

If the C’s finish with the same 40-42 record they produced in 2014-15, they may not only fail to claim a No. 7 seed again, but miss the playoffs entirely. Just about every Eastern Conference team that finished below Boston last season has since upgraded its roster, save for the 76ers.

“From a coaching standpoint, I always go into a season looking at what I think we’€™ll be able to do well, and I think you look at what your potential challenges will be,” Stevens told the media gathered at Old Sandwich Golf Club in Plymouth for the team’s annual charity golf fundraiser. “So, I just look at it more as a job. I don’€™t look at it as what expectations are from results.

“We have such a long way to go to be where we want to be. We have to play better than last year overall to make the playoffs again. The East is better. Teams that didn’€™t make it really improved. We were as close to 12th as we were to fourth, so time will tell if we make the right strides, but if we take shortcuts or if we’€™re not connected, then we won’€™t. So, that’€™s our job.”

In what has also become an annual tradition, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge offered his list of contenders for the Eastern Conference crown this season.

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Brad Stevens on M&F: Draft picks Terry Rozier, R.J. Hunter, Jordan Mickey ‘workers’ 08.19.15 at 3:55 pm ET
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Celtics coach Brad Stevens joined Merloni and Fauria on Wednesday as part of the Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon to talk about basketball and his connection to cancer research. To hear the interview, go to the Merloni and Fauria audio on demand page.

Stevens said he has a strong connection to cancer research because his wife, Tracy, lost her mother to cancer in 2004. Since then, the two of them have tried to be active supporters. While at Butler, Stevens said he and the team used to run tournaments that would bring in corporate teams to play and help raise money for the local American Cancer Society. Now, he and his wife have been able to tour Dana-Farber and learn more about the Jimmy Fund to get involved in both the patient care and research standpoints.

“The negative connotation of cancer has always been there, but it was really negative 15 years ago,” Stevens said. “I think we all now have learned so much, and the awareness is so high, and we’ve all invested in this fight against cancer for whatever organizations you’re working with that there’s also a positive outlook on competing against it, beating it and then living your life after it.”

Stevens said that when his players do hospital visits and see sick patients, the idea is that seeing one of the Celtics could brighten someone’s day, but it does twice as much for theirs.

“I think that that’s the same no matter who’s ever done anything or given anything back to the community,” he said. “You always feel like you got a lot more in return just from spending time with those patients, seeing how resilient they are, seeing how tough they are, all ages. But certainly the pediatric patients are the ones that certainly pull at the heartstrings, seeing young kids having to go through it. We’ve been affected by that in our family very closely, and the one thing I’ll always say about young kids, man, they’re a resilient, resilient group, and it’s the ultimate example of toughness. We throw around words like toughness pretty regularly in a team sport or a sport that’s covered closely. That’s not real compared to what these guys are going through.”

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Danny Ainge: ‘[Terry Rozier] was always that high on our draft board’ 06.30.15 at 11:42 am ET
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Terry Rozier was selected No. 16 overall by the Celtics. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Terry Rozier was selected No. 16 overall by the Celtics. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge introduced the team’s 2015 draft class at a press conference Tuesday at the team’s practice facility in Waltham.

Ainge sat alongside coach Brad Stevens, team president Rich Gotham and the Celtics’ newest members — Terry Rozier, R.J. Hunter, Jordan Mickey and Marcus Thornton.

With Ainge and the Celtics taking a lot of heat since the draft about potentially overrating Rozier, who they selected at No. 16 overall, much of the dialogue centered around the Louisville guard and how he managed to move so far up the C’s draft board.

“It started in my college career, I just got in a lot of work in the gym,” Rozier told reporters. “I left a lot of coaches with great impressions then I came here. I just work hard and show what I can do, which is toughness, defense, showing I can shoot the ball a little better than my college stats show. … I’m just excited to be playing for a … great franchise with 17 world titles and just to meet my new teammates and get it started.”

Ainge followed up to Rozier’s answer, saying he was always high on the team’s draft board. Rozier averaged a team-leading 17.1 points per game last year.

“He was always that high on our draft board,” Ainge said. “For the last couple months he’s been a guy that we had known and looked about and thought was very underrated based on the media and how they perceived him. Terry, because of the quality of player he is, was moving up rapidly in the last few weeks of the draft process as far as the attention he was getting around the league and that started scaring us because we thought we had a diamond in the rough that nobody really was valuing all that much.”

Though many expected the Celtics to emerge from the draft with solid, rim-protecting big men, Ainge surprised many when he selected guards with three out of his four picks. When asked about how he can set himself apart on a guard-heavy roster, Rozier conversely described how he intends to fit in with the rest of the Celtics’ roster.

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Brad Stevens details exactly what Celtics get out of pre-draft workouts 06.03.15 at 9:15 am ET
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Brad Stevens is in a good place right now.

The Celtics coach is coming off a season in which his team surprised everyone by making the playoffs, winning 15 of their final 21 games to make the postseason for the first time in the Stevens era.

Now, Danny Ainge and son Austin are bringing in players who could serve as reinforcements to a roster that was overhauled midway through the season, and it’s Stevens’ job to identify players they might want to scoop up with any of their four picks they have in the upcoming draft.

“There have been some guys that been through that I think could help, but there are also some guys that have been through that are pretty impressive [who play positions where] I think we have pretty good depth,” Stevens said. “So then it becomes a decision of do you draft a young guy and develop him at a position where you already feel pretty strong, or do you try to fill positional needs? Luckily that’s above me and I just run the workouts.”

That is somewhat unusual for an NBA head coach, as assistants are usually delegated to such tasks. But with Stevens, he prefers to be hands on and have some input into what he might be working with next year.

“I really like it,” Stevens said. “You get a chance to really interact with guys, meet them face to face, spend time with them, watch them go through tough things, watch them go through good things, and respond to both. It’s good. These guys [front office] have said it many times, and I totally agree with it: it’s not the end-all, be-all. These guys have watched these guys play for years in games, this year, so for me you can maybe go and watch film on some of these guys, and then the workout validates what you saw. Or maybe it doesn’t. So it is fun to have them in here.”

Tuesday was a day to focus on point guards, as the Celtics brought in five, including Boston College product Olivier Hanlan.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, NBA, NBA Draft
LeBron James says Brad Stevens ‘put [Celtics] in position to win’ 04.26.15 at 11:38 pm ET
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For all the harsh words between the players Sunday after Cleveland ended Boston’s season with a 101-93 win in Game 4, LeBron James had nothing but respect for the job coach Brad Stevens did in getting his team to play hard to the final buzzer.

After losing by 13 in the first game, the Celtics lost three straight, all by eight points. In each game, the Celtics made a late run to keep things interesting before succumbing to the better team.

“I highly respect their coaching staff and especially their head coach,” James said. “[They’re] a very well-coached team. He put those guys out there every night and put them in position to win the game and I think Brad Stevens is a very good young coach in our league.”

For a team that finished 40-42, the Celtics gave the Cavaliers about as much of a fight as could’ve been expected.

Then James spoke to what it means to have finally beaten the Celtics in the playoffs with Cleveland, after losses in 2008 and 2010.

“This franchise is one of the most winning franchises in NBA history, [along] with the Lakers,” James said. “So, everyone knows the history between the Lakers and the Celtics and what they’€™ve done for this league. So for me, to have a chapter in my career, multiple chapters, of playing against the Celtics, I think it’€™s great for the story that [the media can] tell.”

This is the second time James has sent the Celtics packing, beating them in seven games in the Eastern finals in 2012. That year, the Heat went on to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, giving LeBron his first NBA title. James is now eight wins away from his fifth straight trip to the NBA finals, a goal that is clearly again on his radar.

“Our long term goal is obviously to win the championship but right now we have short term goals and that’€™s to prepare ourselves for the next round and get ready for the challenge that presents itself,” James said. “It was a great first test for our team. We’€™re a young team, we have some vets but we’€™re a young team together. The Celtics gave us the test that we needed. Some things that we haven’€™t seen in the regular season, and it will prepare us for the second round, which will be much tougher, we know that.”

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