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Celtics notes: Brad Stevens gives ‘thought’ to lineup change, Al Horford cleared for non-contact, doubtful Friday 11.10.16 at 3:55 pm ET
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WALTHAM – The Celtics have been without Al Horford for four games now. The likelihood that streak goes to five is very high as Brad Stevens said it’s doubtful that the big man still in concussion protocol will be able to take the court against the Knicks Friday at TD Garden. 

But the Celtics did get good news on the Horford front. Horford, who did not travel to Washington for Wednesday’s blowout loss, did return to the court with the team for practice Thursday. 

But the practice was not one of high intensity and he has not been cleared for contact or physical work. 

“He did some light stuff with us, so he was cleared to go through some of it,” Stevens said. “We didn’t do anything contact, physical, competitive, so I don’t know where that puts him in the protocol. I haven’t gotten the update of what’s next. But he is progressing, He’s feeling a lot better.”

Stevens and Horford spent about 15 minutes talking after practice Thursday. 

As for his chances of playing Friday?

“I don’t know, but I would say that would doubt it,” Stevens answered. “But I don’t know what the official diagnosis is, as far as I don’t know the official next step.”

 Jae Crowder has missed three games with a sprained left ankle. Crowder was not with the team at practice on Thursday. 

“I would doubt we see him until maybe next week when we get back home,” Stevens said. “That’s not for sure either, but that’s roughly the time line we’re looking at, best case scenario.”

It’s no secret the Celtics have been getting their collective doors blown off in the last two first quarters of their last two defenseless losses to the Nuggets and Wizards. Against Denver they allowed 24 first-quarter points to Emmanuel Mudiay and fell behind 42-23. Wednesday in Washington was even worse. They were blown out 34-8 and lost, 118-93. 

What are the chances Stevens breaks up the lineup of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jaylen Brown, Amir Johnson and Tyler Zeller?

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Read More: Al Horford, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens,
Brad Stevens on Donald Trump’s victory: ‘It wasn’t my vote’ at 8:28 am ET
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Brad Stevens

Brad Stevens

Celtics coach Brad Stevens, while saying he is hesitant to discuss politics, felt strongly enough about the results of the Tuesday’s presidential election to reveal his view of Donald Trump.

“It wasn’t my vote,” he told reporters Wednesday in Washington, where his team was preparing to be routed by the Wizards. “Let’s put it that way.”

The Celtics learned of Trump’s upset victory while in the nation’s capital, and Stevens said he had to address it in an attempt to refocus his team.

“I think you have to be able to compartmentalize,” Stevens said (via MassLive.com). “We talked about that this morning, and that’s a hard thing. Everybody is — because it’s such a passionate topic right now, every team’s going to be feeling that this morning. It’s not going to be one team and not another.”

“I think the whole world’s talking about it and has been talking about it for quite some time,” Stevens added. “I read somewhere last week that the campaigning is double what it used to be. The coverage is probably 10 times what it used to be. The predictions are probably worse than they used to be. So I think that there’s a lot of discussion about it, there’s a lot of talk about it, there’s a lot of empty space, empty minutes of your day, that you’re turning on whatever and it’s constantly being discussed. So everybody was talking about it. I don’t think that was just our locker room or just anywhere else.”

All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas also tried to keep his comments to a minimum, although he previously had made it clear via Twitter that he opposed Trump.

“It was a rough night,” Thomas said of watching the election results. “But hopefully he’s good. That’s all I’m going to say.”

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Read More: Brad Stevens, Donald Trump,
Brad Stevens on defenseless Celtics: ‘You could see it coming’ 11.08.16 at 10:19 am ET
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Nov 6, 2016; Boston, MA, USA;  Denver Nuggets guard Jameer Nelson (1) shakes the hand of Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens after defeating the Celtics at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Celtics coach watched Sunday as Jameer Nelson (1) and the Nuggets ran Boston out of its own building. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM – The 3-3 start by the Celtics, featuring woeful defense, has caught many off guard.  

But that group would not include their coach. Brad Stevens could see cracks in the team’s defensive foundation in training camp. He could see some bad habits forming and now the coach is showing the players, in brutal regular season game detail, what he was trying to get across in camp. 

If you’re not in position to defend, you won’t. That was never more clear than in Sunday’s 123-107 loss to the Nuggets at TD Garden, a game they gave up 42 points in the first quarter and trailed 77-52 at halftime. 

“You could see it coming, but we also lost guys that I thought were pretty good defensively. ” Stevens said after Monday’s practice.

Stevens did cut his team some slack, noting that Jae Crowder, Al Horford and Marcus Smart haven’t been on the court together at the start of the season, and that does nothing to help team chemistry and rhythm on the court, not to mention spacing. 

“Losing guys out of our lineups, obviously Jae and Al and Marcus — we haven’t had all three of those guys in one game; those are three of our best defenders.

“But the reality is that even with that, even with the idea that one, two, or three of those guys are out at once, that we should be better than we’ve been. I don’t think the group that’s played will necessarily be, especially with the group that we had out last night, I don’t think we’re going to be a top-10 defense. But we can be 12th or 13th, right at the end of the season, that’s for sure.”

Stevens has some history to draw upon to think things can get better. Asked Monday what it will take to get better, he referenced his first Final Four team at Butler in 2010. 

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens,
Celtics notes: Al Horford not advancing in concussion protocol, Brad Stevens hasn’t decided on lineup changes 11.07.16 at 4:42 pm ET
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Nov 6, 2016; Boston, MA, USA;  Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown (7) drives to the basket while Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried (35) defends during the second half at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Jaylen Brown could be finding a seat on the Celtics bench at the start of Wednesday’s game. (Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM — There was some thinking that the sight of Al Horford with the Celtics Sunday night was a sign that perhaps he was advancing in the NBA’s concussion protocol. 

Celtics coach Brad Stevens put a damper on those hopes after practice Monday. 

Horford, who has missed three games after suffering a concussion in practice last week, was not able to take participate in any team activities Monday. 

“He has not advanced in the protocol, based on what I’ve been told,” Stevens said. “I have not gotten anything deeper than that but he did not do anything with our team today.” 

The team will not practice in Waltham Tuesday as they leave for Washington and Wednesday’s game against the Wizards. 

Stevens was asked if Horford is exhibiting any symptoms that might indicate where he is in his recovery. 

“I don’t know what that means yet,” Stevens said. “I’m gonna go find out. But I think that not advancing is telling that the symptoms have been at least prolonged through [Sunday].” 

The team’s defense has suffered drastically with Horford and Jae Crowder (left ankle) out of the lineup. They are allowing 118 points per game in their three losses and stand 3-3 on the season. As for Kelly Olynyk, who practiced again Monday, Stevens said he’s going to avoid specific timetables. 

“I don’t know. We’ll find out,” Stevens said. “He’s a good player. But I don’t want to make predictions when he’s gonna play or not. But he is around the corner, which I said last night.

With the team defense struggling and rookie Jaylen Brown (who has started last two games) working to pick up the system, there has been some speculation that Stevens might insert Marcus Smart into the lineup in his place Wednesday night. 


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Read More: Al Horford, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Marcus Smart
Brad Stevens on Celtics’ defensive struggles: ‘We play like a finesse team’ at 12:09 am ET
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Brad Stevens saw his team fix some things in earning their second win of the season. (Jeremy Brevard/USA Today Sports)

Brad Stevens says his team needs to sustain its aggressiveness on the defensive end. (Jeremy Brevard/USA Today Sports)

Following their 123-107 loss to the Nuggets on Sunday at TD Garden, Brad Stevens pointed to his team’s physicality — or lack thereof — as the biggest reason why the Celtics have struggled defensively in their first six games of the season.

The Celtics allow an average of 111.8 points a game — they’re second in most points allowed behind the Suns (113.3). Five of their first six opponents of the season have finished with no less than 105 points, as the Celtics (3-3) are now a .500 team. 

“I think we play like a finesse team, and they play physical,” Stevens explained after the Celtics’ loss on Sunday. “So I kind of saw that right out of the gate. You know, they were getting where they wanted to on their drives.”

How far are the Celtics from becoming a top three defensive team?

“I don’t even know if it’s statistically possible based on our week,” Stevens answered. “I don’t even know if you can make it up in 76 games but we can get a lot better. But it starts with holding your ground physically. You know, [Emmanuel] Mudiay goes nuts, that’s fine, but Mudiay also gets two putbacks — or at least one putback early — that gets you going. Makes you feel good about yourself. We brought a little bit of aggressiveness at the start of the third quarter but that wasn’t sustainable.

So, I don’t know. I don’t have the answer. Obviously we’ve got some guys that aren’t playing that will play, but this is about physically holding your ground.”

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Jae Crowder (sprained left ankle) expected to miss at least a week 11.03.16 at 11:07 am ET
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Jae Crowder

Jae Crowder

The Celtics will look to build off of their 3-1 record without Jae Crowder for at least a week, according to coach Brad Stevens. 

Crowder suffered a left ankle sprain in the second quarter of Wednesday night’s 107-100 win over the Bulls at TD Garden. He is the second player in the front court to sustain an injury this week for the Celtics.

Al Horford, who was placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol program on Tuesday, will not be making the trip to Cleveland for Thursday night’s game against the Cavaliers, and Stevens doesn’t expect to see Crowder back on the floor in the near future. 

“Jae sprained his ankle,” Brad Stevens said. “That’s all I know. I was told that it would be at least a week and then we’ll see after, but I don’t think we’re into it enough to make an assessment on that timeline. It doesn’t sound like he’ll be back anytime soon.”

Crowder came down on Rajon Rondo’s foot after making a jumping pass and hit the floor for a moment before he hopped off the court and straight to the Celtics locker room. 

All-Star Isaiah Thomas knows losing Crowder is a tough blow to his team, but he reminded everyone that the Celtics were in a similar position last season when the C’s were forced to play without their starting small forward.

“[It’s] very tough,” Thomas said after the Celtics’ win against the Bulls. “Last year we lost a back-to-back and beat the Warriors in their arena without Jae Crowder. There’s no excuses, they’re not going to feel sorry for us. Get our rest tonight and be ready for prime-time TV tomorrow.”

Thomas is confident in the Celtics’ depth and said he believes guys can come up big on the road against the Cavaliers. 

“We have a lot of good players who can step in at any given time,” Thomas said. “That’s our strength, our depth, and we have to keep going. Hopefully we can sneak one out of Cleveland.”

Read More: Brad Stevens, Jae Crowder,
Celtics Pregame Notes: On Opening Night, Celtics not looking to get ahead of themselves 10.26.16 at 6:25 pm ET
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Brad Stevens

Brad Stevens

With the start of the Celtics season set to begin Wednesday night against the Nets, it will also be the first regular season indication of what the 2016-17 Celtics — and all the hype, expectations and concerns surrounding them — have to offer.

Speaking prior to the game Celtics head coach Brad Stevens isn’t trying to get ahead of himself.

“I just hope we play well tonight. That’s the bottom line, there’s 82 of these,” Stevens said. “The last thing anybody is thinking in there is what happens down the road. We have to play well, and you look at this stuff, and I’ve said this before, we’re as close to second as tenth. So I understand [the pick to be contenders in the East], but I understand we better play well.”

The roster won’t necessarily have the look Wednesday that it will as soon as mid-November due to injuries to Marcus Smart and Kelly Olynyk, but that notwithstanding, there will still be indications left and right of what the Celtics look like both offensively and defensively.

And with some new faces via both the draft and free agency, there’s new roles to be established and claimed in the early going.

“I’m anxious to see what we look like on both ends of the floor. We’re going to have some guys that haven’t played as much here that are going to have to contribute for us to have success, so I think that’s another thing I’m interested to see how that goes,” Stevens said.

“We’re going to have to play well, and that’s going to be a constant thing. The team that plays the best and the team that plays the most together and the hardest and everything else usually wins and we’ve got to really challenge ourselves to be the best version of ourselves in as many of the 48 minutes as possible.”

There will be a void off the bench, however, as Kelly Olynyk is still some time away from returning to game action, something the 7-footer didn’t see any of during the preseason with a right shoulder injury. He saw the surgeon that performed the surgery on Tuesday, and though him timetable has become more clear — which was as much detail as Stevens divulged — he is still a few weeks 

“He’s still probably a couple of weeks away, but he’s doing 5-on-5 and it’s just a matter of ramping it up so that the next day the fatigue is less and less. He will not participate in every 5-on-5 segment, but each day will be ramped up and increased a little bit more. Again, it’s more about the fatigue in his shoulder after the fact,” Stevens said.

Even still, Stevens has an idea of how many players he’s trying to utilize in his rotation, even though Olynyk and Smart won’t be available anytime soon.

“Not tonight, just simply because the fact that two of them that are probably in it, or at least have been mainstays in it, are out,” Stevens said when if he knew who the guys are that will be consistently in the rotation. “I think ideally you’d like to play in the 9-to-10 range. I’ve got an idea right now, but it’s based on a month of work and the exhibition games and everything else. But this is why these are such important games for the guys that get to play when others are out, because this establishes a trust of consistency, right, so that you can see them doing their job on every possession.”

Read More: Brad Stevens, Kelly Olynyk, Marcus Smart,
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