|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|
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.
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.”
|Jae Crowder (sprained left ankle) expected to miss at least a week||11.03.16 at 11:07 am ET|
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.”
|Celtics Pregame Notes: On Opening Night, Celtics not looking to get ahead of themselves||10.26.16 at 6:25 pm ET|
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.”
|Defensive versatility is everything to Brad Stevens, and Terry Rozier ready ‘to take care of business’||at 11:54 am ET|
WALTHAM – How will the Celtics cope without Marcus Smart for the first two weeks of the season?
Ask Brad Stevens that question and he’ll give the same answer that he has for everything involving his defense-based system.
“I think we were third or fourth last year, so it was pretty good. The bottom line is we have to be more versatile defensively,” Stevens said Tuesday when Smart and the team announced that his left ankle would sideline him for at least two weeks.
“You have to be able to do more things. We have to be able to tweak on the fly, we have to be able to adjust if something is killing us and be able to play either big or small. I think it will be interesting to see what our best lineups are that separate themselves. But our idea is that we should have some versatility. But, again, I think defense is one of those things that you gotta go out there and do it. It’s not about talking about it. It’s not about the anticipation of how good we can be. That’s an everyday commitment and thus far we’ve done it at a pretty good level, but we’ll see.”
Smart’s injury also means significantly more opportunity for Terry Rozier to continue what he showed in Summer League and camp and preseason.
“He comes off the bench and he’s not playing, so it’s a bigger opportunity for me,” Rozier said of Smart. “It’s a step up, something where I have to be ready when my number is called. Be ready to take care of business. I want to come in and play my part, whether it’s scoring some nights, or just getting starts. The main thing is I want to play hard and do that every night.”
In Rozier’s mind, the best preparation for an increased role has been facing Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley every day in practice.
“I think IT said it best – when you play against those two every day in practice, when you get out there in a real game it’s looser,” Rozier said. “You’re not having guys all over you like it is in practice. That’s a big help, something you have to take advantage of when you get out on the court, because in practice you’re not getting that breathing room.
|Celtics pregame notes: No final decisions have been made on roster spots||10.17.16 at 6:18 pm ET|
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.”
|Celtics Practice Report: Amir Johnson looking to diversify his game||10.13.16 at 11:11 am ET|
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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