|With all but perfect April record, Celtics’ Brad Stevens named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month||04.17.15 at 8:54 am ET|
Stevens guided the C’s to a 7-1 record, a perfect 4-0 on the road, and Boston finished the season on a six-game win streak. Not for nothing, too, as five of those teams are playoff bound. The Celtics also managed a plus-8.8 points-per-game differential during April as well.
With the run Boston has gone on, it has been able to slide into the seventh seed in the playoffs, punching its ticket to a first-round matchup with the second-seeded Cavaliers.
“The total buy-in is unbelievable,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey told SB Nation regarding how Stevens’ team responds to him. “They’ve got a young team. It’s almost like a college team playing hard, running through a wall and they’re relentless. Brad has them playing at a high level on both ends of the floor. If you don’t match their intensity you’re in trouble. They remind me a lot of us last year. No agendas, nothing but let’s go out and play hard and let’s win. That’s how they’re playing now and that’s how I think the game should be played.”
The NBA’s Western Conference Coach of the Month is familiar to Boston as well. Doc Rivers, the former C’s bench boss, was able to lead his Clippers to the only perfect record in April, going 7-0 and scoring 108.6 ppg while allowing 97.4 ppg in that time.
|An oral history: How Brad Stevens’ Celtics earned a playoff date with LeBron James’ Cavaliers||04.15.15 at 2:16 am ET|
JULY 9, 2014
In what seemed on the surface like a minor move, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge sent a $10.3 million trade exception — acquired for dealing Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets in 2013 — to the Cavaliers for Tyler Zeller, Marcus Thornton’s expiring contract and Cleveland’s 2016 first-round pick.
Ultimately, the trade transformed the NBA, allowing the Cavs to free up enough cap space to bring LeBron James back home. From a Boston perspective, the reward of a young center project and a couple more tradable assets was worth the risk of altering the Eastern Conference’s balance of power for the foreseeable future.
AUGUST 21, 2014
‘A lot of people might say that we can’t be this, we can’t be that,’ Celtics guard Avery Bradley — fresh off signing an oft criticized four-year, $32 million contract extension — told a group of bewildered reporters from a basketball camp. ‘I feel like with the coach that we have, we can be anything that we want to be. We just have to listen to [Brad Stevens] and buy into what he’s trying to do, his plan for us. I feel like we have a chance to make the playoffs and make a lot of noise this year if we listen to Brad.”
AUGUST 27, 2014
During a tour through Asia, Celtics captain Rajon Rondo declared himself ‘in great shape’ after his return from ACL surgery. ‘I want to win another championship,’ he told Hoop China, before adding, ‘You can’t have a great team every year.’ When asked if sixth overall pick Marcus Smart could eventually start for the Celtics this season, Rondo replied, ‘No. He’ll play a lot of minutes, but starting as a rookie at the guard position is probably impossible or one of the toughest things you can do.
SEPTEMBER 23, 2014
Asked by one reporter at the C’s annual preseason charity golf outing to name his favorites in the East this season, Ainge listed the Cavaliers, Bulls and Wizards.
‘You left off the Celtics,’ another media member countered.
‘I did. Yes, I did. Good observation,’ said Ainge, pausing, and then adding, ‘but I do believe the extraordinary is possible.’
SEPTEMBER 29, 2014
Amid widespread speculation that Rondo had broken a bone in his left hand at a trampoline park, the Celtics point guard addressed those rumors at media day, assuring everyone the injury resulted from a slip in the shower. In his 12-minute session, Rondo professed his love for both Boston and Stevens, confirmed his desire for a max contract and conceded again, ‘I know this isn’t a championship team.’
SEPTEMBER 30, 2014
‘We have one point guard healthy that has NBA experience, and that’s Phil Pressey,’ Stevens said as training camp opened. ‘And that’s not a lot of it. I’m not as worried about [the point guard position] because I think people are going to put you in a box for your position, and I’m just not going to do that. I’m not going to worry about it. [Evan Turner‘s] a ball handler, he can make plays, he’s smart. And then I think that keeps our other guys in the positions that they’re most comfortable.’
OCTOBER 2, 2014
Zeller drew rave reviews from his new teammates as the biggest surprise in camp. ‘He just runs the floor,’ Stevens said. ‘He’s a very unselfish player, he’s a smart player. He stands out because he does little things well. He’s a guy that can score on the block in the right matchup, but his strength is in beating people to spots.”
|Isaiah Thomas: Making playoffs would mean ‘everything’||04.13.15 at 8:49 am ET|
With the playoffs just a win away, Isaiah Thomas can sense a dream finally coming true.
Thomas has been a key spark to the Celtics improbable run to the postseason, and he was again Sunday. As the Celtics raced out to a 9-0 lead, a cakewalk seemed likely.
But the Cavaliers, playing without LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and JR Smith, actually made a 18-4 run and the Celtics were back on their heels. Enter Thomas. His energy and drive to the basket turned the Celtics back in the right direction and the Celtics outscored Cleveland, 34-9, in the second quarter. Game over.
“Just how locked in,” Thomas said of the second quarter. “What we’re trying to do is get to the playoffs so coach [Brad Stevens] said we were a very mature team, for 48 minutes. That’s a good thing.”
Thomas had a big impact with his 17 points off the bench Sunday. But he couldn’t control what happened in Indianapolis as the Pacers stayed alive with a win over Oklahoma City. So, Thomas had to wait another two days to celebrate his first playoff berth. If the Celtics can beat the Raptors Tuesday night at TD Garden, Thomas and the Celtics won’t have to worry about what the Pacers do against Washington.
“It’s everything,” said Thomas, who has toiled four years for the Kings and Suns. “In my NBA career I haven’t been to the playoffs so it’s something that I want to experience. I heard it’s fun, it’s exciting and it’s a new season. Once you make the playoffs, everybody’s 0-0 and it’s a new season so I’m excited about it, hopefully we do get it.
“We’ve just been trying to lock in and focus in on what we’re trying to do which is get to the playoffs. Staying in the moment, taking every day by day, game by game, and like I said, really focusing in on what we’re trying to do.”
Thomas is one of several Celtics who have fed off the mindset of Brad Stevens. The coach has drilled into his team the importance of not looking beyond the next game. It’s worked.
“He’s just laid back, you try to feed off of him as much as possible but he’s so even-keeled, you can’t really read his mind,” Thomas said. “He’s just always about staying in the moment, no matter what it is, good or bad, stay in the moment, don’t think about the future or the past, have a short memory. That’s one thing coach is very, very positive with.
“Your coach is your leader, basically. You look to him for advice, for confidence, things like that. He’s so even-keeled that he’s at the same [point], he’s never too high, never too low. That’s a great thing to have, everybody’s not like that.”
|Brian Scalabrine on MFB: ‘I don’t think [Brad Stevens will] ever want to go back to the college life’||04.02.15 at 12:39 pm ET|
CSNNE Celtics/NBA color analyst Brian Scalabrine joined Middays with MFB on Thursday to talk about all things Celtics related, including Brad Stevens and the college coaching rumors. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
With the Texas basketball coaching job opening this week, rumors surfaced Stevens could be a candidate. Speaking before Wednesday’s game, Stevens shot those rumors down saying he would be staying in Boston. Scalabrine doesn’t think he will ever go back to coach in the college game.
“That is an interesting question. I can only give you my opinion of what he would do,” Stevens said. “For whatever reason if he can’t get next year’s team or something like that to buy in like this year’s team, just lay it all on the line. When we watch after the trades, this team has been great. They play hard. They play together. If somehow in there you see just a lack of effort from the NBA players, which I don’t think because Danny [Ainge] will get guys that play hard, then I could see something like that.
“Brad wants to succeed at this level and I think he’s a great coach at this level. He knows how to motivate guys. I don’t think he’ll ever want to go back to the college life. The college life is hard just because of recruiting. Right now in the NBA all you have to do is coach — I’ll present you a team and you go out there and make these guys great.”
Scalabrine talked about the team’s playoff push, and even went as far to say they could give the Hawks a potentially good series in the first round of the playoffs.
“Play hard for 48 minutes. Move the ball. Do what Coach Stevens wants them to do, they’ll be in,” Stevens said. “Going forward, I actually love the Atlanta matchup. Atlanta has been resting guys. I know they are good, but they don’t defend the rim very well. They don’t defend the three. Celtics could get hot, steal a couple games and push the series to six or seven games.”
Rookie Marcus Smart has received some criticism of late, but Scalabrine is one of Smart’s biggest fans, especially on the defensive end of the court.
“Completely disagree. I think Marcus is the type of guy that will continue to get better on the offensive end,” Scalabrine said. “Can anybody complain about his defense right now? The guy can guard three positions, any three. If Paul George played last night, Marcus Smart could guard Paul George and George Hill in the same game. Love his defensive versatility. Offensively has shown signs of being a good pick-and-roll player. That doesn’t mean scoring, it means good decisions out of the pick-and-roll and I think his shot will continue to get better. His shot is inconsistent right now, but he’s had games where he’s hit five three’s in a game.”
|Brad Stevens avoids talking playoffs: ‘Nothing is more important than the next game in our world’||at 10:06 am ET|
Maybe it’s superstition or maybe it’s just part of sending a message. But Brad Stevens didn’t mention the word playoffs once in his post-game press conference Wednesday after a 100-87 win over the Pacers that keeps his Celtics right in the hunt for the final two postseason spots in the East.
The way Stevens talked made it feel like he wants his team focused only on the here-and-now, knowing that any slip up in focus on the game at hand will likely cost them any chance of advancing to the playoffs for the first time in his two-year NBA coaching career.
“All 82 count the same,” Stevens said. “That’s kind of the way I’ve always looked at it. Every game carries equal weight and equal importance. Obviously because of the hole we dug, we’ve been fighting uphill all year. It adds more importance at the time but nothing is more important than the next game in our world, and we have to keep it that way.”
As Stevens was talking, the Nets were hanging on for a 100-98 win over the Knicks that kept them a half game ahead of the Celtics for the eighth and final playoff spot. The game-by-game approach should come in handy as the Celtics have LeBron James and the Cavaliers and the division-leading Raptors twice apiece in the final two weeks.
“At the same time, as we enter these last couple of weeks, it’s so very important to stay in the moment and take advantage of every day and focus again on the things we can control,” said Stevens. “If we get to the point where you play beyond that, maybe I’ll feel differently. Maybe this feels a little bit more like late February than the NCAA tournament.”
The Celtics have shown in their last two games the ability to do something that was sorely lacking for much of the season: the ability to close out. On Monday, the Celtics found a way to pull away from the Hornets in the final minutes and hang on for a valuable road win. On Wednesday, the Celtics led 77-71 with 8:23 left in the fourth. They went on a 17-7 run in the next four minutes to put the game away.
“The effort was really good,” Stevens said. “We talked about it before the Charlotte game; we have to play with a defensive DNA. And the last two games we have. But you know it’s one of those things like, you don’t now all of a sudden it’s not part of who we are; we have to make it part of who we are every day and that’s got to continue to be the emphasis. And I think that’s a good emphasis to have, because you’re focused only on what you can control and nothing else.”
That focus needs to continue at home on Friday against another desperate Eastern team with playoff aspirations, the Milwaukee Bucks, at TD Garden. They’ll be no talk of playoffs then, either.
|Kelly Olynyk proves he’s as tough as any hockey player||at 9:34 am ET|
Too bad Kevin Garnett never played with Kelly Olynyk.
Garnett, one of the most fierce competitors in recent Celtics lore, would’ve been proud to watch how Olynyk handled himself Wednesday night. The second-year swing man out of Gonzaga insisted on playing with his left eye shut thanks to a pregame accidental elbow from teammate Shav Randolph.
Good thing since Olynyk made seven of his 10 shots, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range, scoring 19 off the bench in a 100-87 win over the Pacers that keeps Boston right in the mix of race for the final two playoff spots in the East.
“It didn’t affect me a lot except I couldn’t see that well from that eye,” Olynyk said. “I felt good, we played well as a team, moved the ball, got open looks from the start and just got rolling.”
“I gave him no hope of playing,” marveled Tyler Zeller, who matched Olynyk’s team-high 19 points. “He looked like he just got out of a boxing fight. I was impressed with his ability to go out and play and be able to produce like he did. He couldn’t have been able to see out of that eye so he did a great job of playing through it.”
What was particularly amazing was how his teammates, realizing he had the hot hand with just one eye, kept feeding him the ball. His three-ball with 3:53 left in the fourth quarter was the perfect capper on the night, extending the Celtics‘ lead out to 16, 94-78.
“[Tuesday] night I went in the gym and got a lot of shots up, just kind of repped it out and just felt really good,” Olynyk said. “I was feeling good, before the game I was feeling good even after I got hit, I came back out and tried it out so I knew I was going to have a good one.”
|Texas, like everybody, is chatting about Brad Stevens||03.31.15 at 12:40 pm ET|
A knowledgeable source informs me that as of this morning there have been no direct talks b/t Texas and Shaka Smart. Not sensing momentum.
‘ Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) March 31, 2015
The University of Texas, which recently fired head men’s basketball coach Rick Barnes, has reportedly joined the growing list of Brad Stevens suitors. Of course, the University of Texas has also joined the growing list of institutions Danny Ainge will laugh at before hanging up the phone.
Brad Stevens is under contract through 2019 at a bargain average annual rate of $3.7 million. Unlike collegiate sports — where contracts aren’t worth the paper they’re written on — the Celtics would have to agree to let their coach out of the deal, and let’s be clear: That ain’t happening.
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