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Brad Stevens isn’t about to look ahead to the playoffs: ‘There’s a lot of hard work in front of us’ 09.27.16 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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Read More: Bill Belichick, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Gregg Popovich
Brad Stevens ‘putting the pieces together’ for upcoming season 09.08.16 at 12:39 pm ET
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Brad Stevens

Brad Stevens

Despite the seemingly constant drama surrounding the Celtics this offseason, head coach Brad Stevens has been surprisingly quiet. At the ABCD Hoops for Hope event at the TD Garden on Tuesday, Stevens opened up about a number of things that defined this offseason.

And though he’s been quiet, it hasn’t stopped him from planning constantly and paying mind to the outlook of the upcoming season.

“I think as a coach, you get away a little bit, but at some point you’re antsy to get back at it,” Stevens told reporters. “So maybe re-writing the third version of what you’re doing? I don’t know. You think about it all year. I’m just going to be ready for September 27th. Ever since the end of July I’ve had a pretty good idea of what we’re going to look like as a team and who’s going to help us in what way. It’s just a matter now of putting the pieces together and hopefully playing well”

The Celtics that fell in the first round of the 2016 postseason, though similar, will have some major changes. There was the addition of big man Al Horford, former Celtic Gerald Green, as well as No. 3 draft pick Jaylen Brown. 

With such additions, there’s been incessant changes to the outlook of the roster and thus the approach the team will have to take.

“I think you’re always tweaking and changing and you’re always making adjustments,” he said, “But I think you have to put a lot of time and thought into what your new guys have done well, how that plays within what you’ve done or if you need to change some of what you’ve done to fit them better. You go through that, and you make sure you come up with a plan that fits everybody the best to bring out all of their best strengths.”

Defense was never an issue for the Celtics in 2015-16.

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Read More: Al Horford, Brad Stevens, Evan Turner, Gerald Green
R.J. Hunter on competing for a roster spot: ‘I trust myself more than ever’ 08.30.16 at 11:37 am ET
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R.J. Hunter

R.J. Hunter

R.J. Hunter should not be in the position he is in.

The incessant griping about the Celtics’ lack of perimeter shooting is justified, with there being few — if any — options both in the starting lineup and off the bench for reliable 3-point shooting.

However, Hunter, a first-round pick in 2015, is known for his shot, so this should be his wheelhouse. Instead, he’s on the fringe of making the final 15-man roster.

“It’s just spurts where it’s like, ‘Bro, what I am I doing wrong?’ ” Hunter said, speaking to MassLive.com on Saturday at the Basketball Hall of Fame. “And it’s nothing. You’re just on a really good team.”

Hunter brings up a good point. On most any other NBA team, Hunter would have been a much more heavily utilized asset, not the eight minutes per game player he was in his 36 NBA games last season. Conversely, the 22-year-old didn’t do himself many favors when given the opportunity from Brad Stevens to play.

The shooting guard shot a pedestrian 30.2 percent from 3, while putting together a 36.7 percent field goal percentage, totaling a 2.7 points per game total over the course of the season. As a result of the underwhelming performances, he found himself in the D-League for eight games during the middle of the season. While there he shot slightly worse from 3-point range than in the NBA, with a 29.6 percent mark, but ultimately averaged 13.8 points per game.

“At that point, it was just so completely mental,” he said. “I’m not going to lie, my ego got in the way of me making shots. It was almost like for me, whatever I do, I’m in the D-League, and if I don’t do well, it looks worse. And that’s just the wrong attitude to have instead of just going in there. When you have that mentality, now I’m rushing shots. I’m not finishing shots. I’m not really putting in preparation like I have to on every shot. That’s part of growing up, though — you’re in the league, and you’re caught up in it.”

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Read More: Brad Stevens, Danny Ainge, James Young, R.J. Hunter
Brad Stevens sings praise of Avery Bradley: ‘You could make a strong case for him to be defensive player of year’ 06.06.16 at 6:18 pm ET
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Avery Bradley

Avery Bradley

WALTHAM – If Brad Stevens has anything to say about it, Avery Bradley and his $8 million per year salary isn’t going anywhere this offseason. 

The Celtics coach spoke for the first time since the star defensive guard was chosen first-team NBA all-defense last week. 

“I think it was clearly deserved. I think that you could make a strong case for him to be Defensive Player of the Year or in consideration for that because he is so versatile in his ability to defend guards,” Stevens said after the second of two pre-draft workouts Monday in Waltham. 

The Defensive Player of the Year award went to the Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard, who won the honor for a second straight year. 

But that didn’t keep Stevens from pointing out that Bradley could arguably be placed among the best defensive guards in basketball. 

“I think if you polled the guards in the NBA, really 1 through 3, Avery’s name would come up a lot,” Stevens added. “So, obviously it’s against great competition. The guys who got honored all deserve it. But I don’t think it’s as simple as saying there’s one Defensive Player of the Year when you have somebody of Avery’s caliber and his ability to impact the game.”

Stevens said that he has been in contact with Bradley, and that rehab on his right hamstring is coming along after straining it badly in Game 1 against the Hawks, forcing him to miss the rest of the playoffs.   

“I don’t have an update on where he is in the physical rehab part, but obviously after he won the award we communicated, and he’s getting better,” Stevens said. 

Bradley’s name could come up in trade talk at some point this summer, as he is not only considered one of the more underrated guards in the league, he is affordably priced. Bradley is entering the third year of a four-year contract totaling $32 million.

Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens,
Brad Stevens says ‘there’s seven or eight guys’ targeted for the No. 3 pick at 4:51 pm ET
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WALTHAM  –  The Celtics are beginning to narrow down their potential choices for the No. 3 spot in the draft. 

Brad Stevens acknowledged Monday that he is watching video clips of all the possibilities and discussing their strengths with his staff. 

“I’ve got a good idea when I talk to Danny and the front office about who they are really targeting and focused on, as far as, again, there’s seven or eight guys,” Stevens said after Monday’s doubleheader workout that involved 12 players from college and Europe.

The names that come to mind most frequently after Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram are Buddy Hield, Jaylen Brown (who worked out last Wednesday), Dragan Bender, Kris Dunn and Jamaal Murray. 

But what Stevens made clear is that, with eight picks overall, including five in the second round, the Celtics have to be ready to pick wherever and whenever, depending on what deals may or may not be made. 

“We’ve got so many picks that you can’t stop there,” Stevens added. “Whether you’re watching clips, individual clips or highlight films or whatever the case may be, what I like to do is I like to watch full-game footage, and specifically end-of-game footage on a lot of different guys. We have so many picks, any game you turn on, almost might include somebody, so it’s pretty good.”

Austin Ainge joked that Stevens asked, as part of his new contract, that he not have eight rookies to coach next season. Stevens, appreciating the humor, said the number of picks doesn’t make the job any easier in terms of evaluation.

“I don’t know about easier. I think it’s hard any time you’ve got the volume of potential picks that we have and all that goes with that. I think that, again, my job is just to give an opinion when asked,” Stevens said. “So those guys have been watching all year. Those guys know what they are looking for, who they are looking at. Again, these workouts, I think, sometimes help validate some things for them. They are probably more beneficial for our staff because we haven’t seen guys as much, specifically we haven’t seen guys live.”

Read More: 2016 NBA draft, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens,
Full Court Press: How the Brad Stevens deal got done, the kids are alright with Danny Ainge 06.04.16 at 8:46 pm ET
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Jul 5, 2013; Waltham, MA, USA; New Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens and his wife Tracy are interviewed after he was introduced as the new coach during a news conference. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Brad Stevens and his wife Tracy have worked closely on all contractual matters with the Celtics. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

When Brad Stevens eventually took the plunge and decided to move his family to Boston in the summer of 2013, he did so having completed a very thorough vetting process of what he was getting into.

After all, what would any Stevens move be without first having given plenty of thought to it beforehand?

Helping him to uncover every stone and make sure he was ready to jump in with both feet (as he and Danny Ainge made reference to this week) was his representative — and wife — Tracy Wilhelmy Stevens. An attorney by trade, she negotiated the initial contract with Wyc Grousbeck, Stephen Pagliuca, Rich Gotham — and, of course, Ainge.

“She gets a fee,” the Celtics coach deadpanned in classic Stevens form.

She played a big role this time again, when the Ainge told Grousbeck he was perfectly happy staying in Boston and that the real priority should be to lock up the prized head coach beyond the three years left on his $22 million deal signed around Independence Day 2013. Stevens said this week that actual talks on an extension began in the middle of this season.

“The first time I was approached it was midseason, and it was a real brief conversation,” Stevens said. “But it was during a time when we were weren’t exactly lighting the world on fire, so it makes you feel even better about where you are when that happens. And so, after the season, Danny came in and we talked real briefly about it. It’s never been much of a question for me. Obviously, I’m flattered to be considered to be here. Then also to get a chance to continue to do it.”

That means it was early January, when the Celtics had lost six of seven, including consecutive ugly home defeats against the Lakers and Nets. That stretch just happened to coincide with rumors swirling of some prime college gigs possibly opening up.

“I guess I was kinda surprised,” Stevens said of the extension with still three years remaining on the original deal. “Again, it tells you the way that they think and the way that they value people around here. It’s why you enjoy working here.

“I’m not big into negotiations and I don’t have a third party doing that for me. It’s just, ‘Hey, we want to extend you, here’s what we’re thinking and what do you think?’ Then, a little bit of back and forth between us. It was a pretty quick process. It wasn’t very long. Again, we were flattered to be asked to do that and it provides good stability for our family, too. I understand that these things can change in coaching. Ultimately, we’re excited to be offered that opportunity.”

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Read More: Andre Iguodala, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Danny Ainge
Wyc Grousbeck says Red Auerbach ‘would be very happy’ with Danny Ainge, Brad Stevens 06.01.16 at 5:47 pm ET
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WALTHAM — Back in the day, Red Auerbach did the job Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens do now and won nine NBA titles, including a remarkable eight straight. 

Obviously, the NBA world of today is significantly more complicated and involved and it takes two people like Ainge and Stevens to try and win just one championship. 

Still, these are the Celtics, and anytime you talk long-term goals, as was the case Wednesday with the extensions of Ainge and Stevens, you go back to Auerbach for a reference point. That’s what owner Wyc Grousbeck did Wednesday at the press conference at the Celtics practice facility. 

“These jobs – the president of basketball operations and the head coach of the Boston Celtics are storied positions. Both were held by the incomparable Red Auerbach,” Grousbeck said. “I personally believe that Red would be very happy. This is the right thing for the Celtics, you represent excellent and Celtic pride on and off the court. These are the exact people we want to run the Celtics.

In signing Ainge and Stevens long-term, Grousbeck believes the team is setting a foundation for years to come.

“It’s the principal job of ownership to find the very best people, to run the basketball side, to find them, recruit them, bring them in and offer them all the support and encouragement we can and retain them – create an environment where they want to stay. These conversations happened recently, very forthrightly,” Grousbeck said. “There was great interest on both sides. They were easy conversations. It just represented a great re-commitment from Brad and Danny to the Celtics.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Danny Ainge, NBA
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