|Irish Coffee: The case for Brad Stevens as NBA Coach of the Year||03.25.15 at 3:28 pm ET|
For starters, I’m not saying Celtics coach Brad Stevens will or even should win the NBA’s Coach of the Year honor. Mike Budenholzer and Steve Kerr are the heavy favorites, and rightfully so, considering their Hawks and Warriors respectively perch atop the East and West.
Rather, this is the argument one could make for Stevens should anyone choose to do so.
There has been much discussion about the difficulty in evaluating a perceived increase in coaching influence around the league, but there are certain truths about a coach’s role we hold self-evident ‘ their ability to effect wins and losses, design effective offenses and defenses, and manage ebbs and flows of rosters often altered by trades and injuries.
With those in mind, let’s examine eight statistical measures as they relate to all 30 teams: 1) win percentage, 2) point differential, 3) offensive rating, 4) defensive rating, 5) net rating, 6) pace of play, 7) roster turnover and 8) total games missed by its members. The first five are objectively obvious, and the final three allow for subjective interpretation.
For example, no team slowed its pace more than the Lakers since last season, if only because of new coach Byron Scott’s grinding approach, no team turned over its roster more than the Cavaliers, as a result of King James and his court, and no team missed fewer man games during the 2013-14 regular season than the Thunder ‘ a stark contrast to this year’s edition.
So, let’s first look at how significantly each team changed from 2013-14 to 2014-15.
|Brad Stevens has no regrets about putting game in hands of Evan Turner||03.23.15 at 11:06 am ET|
Brad Stevens is obviously a historian of buzzer-beaters.
His Butler Bulldogs almost pulled out the most dramatic last-second shot in NCAA tournament history when Gordon Hayward’s bank shot from half-court went off the front rim and out in the 2010 NCAA tournament final.
More recently, he’s seen Evan Turner do the trick for and against his team many times. There was the game-winner against his Celtics for the Sixers last season at TD Garden in a 95-94 Philly win. Later that season, Turner did it again against the Nets. That late-game magic may have been one of the reasons Danny Ainge wanted to bring Turner to Boston this season.
It’s worked pretty well. Three times this season, he’s beaten the buzzer at the end of regulation. Twice it won games, and once it sent the game into overtime. Against two of the top teams in the NBA, it provided the winning margin, as the Celtics beat the Trail Blazers and Hawks this season.
So naturally, with Sunday’s game against the Pistons tied, 88-88, at the end of regulation, Stevens looked to ET for another otherworldly end to a game.
“We just wanted to do a little misdirection for Evan to drive and let him create space,” Stevens said. “I thought if he gets that shot off, that’s his shot. I felt good about it to be honest, it didn’t end well because it got knocked out of his hand or maybe it even slipped out of his hand; I haven’t seen the replay. I thought he had separation and I thought he was going to get a good look and when the clock was winding down I felt pretty good about our chances.”
As it turned out, fate was not on Boston’s side Sunday night. Turner couldn’t get a clean shot off because he could never get a grip.
“Part of the ball just slipped out of my hand and I knew Reggie [Jackson] was going to try and contest it. I tried to put a little arc on my shot. When I came up with it, it just slipped. He drew up a good play. Kelly did what he was supposed to do down there. I felt confident but the ball slipped. I felt confident going to the right baseline and doing a pull-up. I’ve done that shot a million times but unfortunately the ball slipped and we couldn’t [regroup].”
|Isaiah Thomas on MFB: Back feeling better, but ‘I have to do what is best for myself and try and get as healthy as possible’||03.17.15 at 12:38 pm ET|
Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas joined Middays with MFB on Tuesday to discuss his back injury and also what his short time in Boston has been like. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
Thomas has been out since March 9 when he landed on his back in a game against the Heat. It was learned Monday night he likely won’t make the next road trip, which includes stops in Oklahoma City and San Antonio. Thomas admits it’s been hard to miss time, especially against good teams, but knows his health is the most important thing.
“It is, but at the same time I have to do what is best for myself,” said Thomas. “I have to do what is best for myself and try and get as healthy as possible. All the best players they want to go against the best players, so I am upset I have to miss this, but it is for the sake of my health and I have to get healthy.”
“A little better,” he added of how he feels. “It’s progressing slowly, but it’s getting there. For the most part I can’t really do any activity right now, but I am just trying to get back and get healthy enough that we can have a good stretch at the end of this year.”
In six games in March, Thomas is averaging 20.8 points per game.
Thomas was traded to the Celtics from the Suns at the NBA trade deadline. He said he’s enjoying his time in Boston, and hopes to stay long-term. He adds if the team starts winning it could become a free agent destination once again.
“I hope it’s long term,” he said. “I am having a great time. I am having fun. I am playing. We’re winning. We have a chance to make the playoffs, so I have nothing to complain about other than the weather, but that will be OK. I think it’s somewhere when you start winning and see you’ve seen years ago when the team was winning people wanted to be here. I think at the end of the day when you win that is where people want to play.”
Following are more highlights from the conversation. For more Celtics news, visit weei.com/celtics.
With Monday’s 108-89 dispatch of the lowly 76ers, the Celtics had posted their first five-game win streak since the Doc Rivers era. They are 30-36, heading into a two-trip across the heartland, beginning with a game against the red-hot Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday and ending with a game against the defending champion Spurs in San Antonio Friday night.
They are tied with Miami and Indiana for seventh in the East but technically would not make the cut right now because of their 18-21 record against the East. Indiana would be seventh by virtue of its 22-18 mark while Miami is eighth with a conference record of 20-20.
With all the newfound excitement abound, Stevens was asked if he’s hearing the team talking about the playoff race
“I don’t know. I haven’t heard them talk about it once,” Stevens insisted. “I’m dead serious. I mean, we’ve talked about it, we’ve seen the standings, like you see it but I don’t hear it. I have not hear them say whoever Miami’s playing today, or who’s Charlotte playing today? They haven’t talked about it around me; maybe they are, I don’t know.
“But I just want to play good basketball and I think our guys just want to play good basketball, and I think as a result you have a lot more fun when you spray the ball around the way we’re spraying it around and when you’re competing together and pulling for one another and five guys playing together on a string defensively. And we’re still not as good as we need to be, even with ‘ I think our team that’s out there right now without Isaiah can play better. And you know, we’re going to need to play better in the next two games to have a chance to win.”
|Marcus Smart, Isaiah Thomas shine as Celtics set new record for ball-handling||03.05.15 at 12:52 pm ET|
The Celtics certainly were not perfect Wednesday night. They shot miserably from the floor (33-of-88) and from the line (11-of-20).
But when you commit just three turnovers the entire game leading to zero points for the opposition, your margin of error is as wide as the Grand Canyon they couldn’t find with a jump shot. Or, at least, it should be.
The Celtics set a new franchise record for fewest turnovers in a game (3) since the NBA started keeping such records in the 1970-71 season. Think about that. That covers a period that included Jo Jo White, Tiny Archibald, Dennis Johnson and Rajon Rondo. Never had a Celtics team taken such meticulous care of the rock than they did Wednesday night in the heart-pounding 85-84 win.
“You only end up the game with three turnovers, you should win the game,” Marcus Smart said. “That’s what we did. We turned the ball over a lot against [Cleveland]. We just wanted to come out and be strong with it and execute on the offensive and defensive end.”
Added Isaiah Thomas, “That was great. We were decisive, we played with energy and we made the right plays for the most part.”
The Celtics committed just eight turnovers against Golden State on Sunday night and should’ve won the game, but fell apart down the stretch offensively while not getting any transition stops.
“That’s one of our five things that we have made a big deal for our team and moving forward,” coach Brad Stevens said. “We went into the game eighth in the league in turnover percentages, which is good, and last time we allowed Utah back in the game because we threw the ball all over their gym and almost lost that game there. So we placed a huge priority on it, but it helps to have Isaiah handling the ball because he’s a hard guy to get it from.”
If there was one person in the building not surprised by the brilliant adjustment made by Celtics coach Brad Stevens on the game-winning inbounds play from Marcus Smart Wednesday night, it was Gordon Hayward.
He was, of course, a star player for Stevens at Butler University when the Bulldogs went to back-to-back national title games, losing to Duke and UConn. Hayward was also the man who scored what appeared to be the game-winning basket with 1.7 seconds left, giving Utah an 84-83 lead.
Then the Celtics called timeout. They wanted Smart to inbound the ball. But the rookie was having all sorts of problems getting the ball in. Another timeout. Then Stevens diagrammed a play to get the look that would free Tyler Zeller at the rim, if Smart could get the ball in.
“They switched the play before when Marcus couldn’t get it inbounded with Hayward and (Derrick) Favors,” Stevens said. “So, we wanted to try to get that switch again, so we just ran a little action to get that switch again and then (Rudy) Gobert was on the ball so he wasn’t at the rim. So we were hoping to slip and catch it a little bit cleaner and lay it in, but, you know, that was the goal – and it ended up being Ok.”
Was Stevens surprised that Gobert was on the ball?
“That’s a hard call, and I think that with Marcus Smart taking it out and Gobert on the ball it’s hard to deliver a good pass,” Stevens said.”If Gobert tips it the game’s basically over, unless it tips right to us. So it’s easy to second-guess that stuff, but I won’t because I saw how long Marcus had to throw over just to get the pass to where it was. It’s another reason why we had to throw the ball in the air, though.”
“Coach Stevens drew up a great play,” Smart added. “The first play was supposed to go to Jae Crowder, Utah played it very well and he came back with the counterattack. It was tough, they put a tall defender on the ball and I had to pass-fake the ball to get him leaning one way and Tyler did a great job shoving his man off and just put it at the back of the backboard.”
Zeller caught the ball, gave a quick pump fake and delivered the game-winner as time expired.
‘It was a great pass,” Hayward said of the Smart entry pass from midcourt. “That’s what Coach Stevens does. He’s excellent in those situations of coming up with a play, I know it better than anybody. It’s a great play, great design, they knew we were switching. The pass had to be perfect to get over Rudy (Gobert) and Rod (Rodney Hood), and it was. And then (Zeller) made a good finish too. Credit them with their finish, too, but that’s not where we lost it, though. We should have been better.” Read the rest of this entry »
|Playoffs are real possibility for red-hot Celtics||02.28.15 at 5:55 pm ET|
Don’t look now, but the Celtics are making a playoff push — and a strong one at that, having won seven of their last 10 games.
At the beginning of the season, if you had to pick the three best players on the Celtics, your answer probably would have been Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger. As we now know, Rondo and Green were sent packing, and Sullinger is out for the season with a stress fracture in his foot.
Enter the likes of Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and Jonas Jerebko — players who were on three separate rosters at the start of the season (none of which were the Celtics). Those players have been dominating games off the bench in Boston’s last two wins. We know the NBA has been trending toward “small ball” lineups, but this unit often takes things to a whole new level.
Thomas is undersized for his matchup every night at just 5-foot-9, but he plays far above his height in the sense that he is constantly comfortable battling in the paint. Crowder (typically a small forward) and Jerebko (a power forward) moved up to power forward and center, respectively, in the new “small ball” lineup. The other two positions are often filled by 6-foot-2 Avery Bradley and 6-foot-4 Marcus Smart. Like I said, a whole new level.
“Well, with a two-game sample size I would say it’s been good, but I don’t know that we can determine if it’s good long-term or not,” Brad Stevens said of his new lineup that he seemingly stumbled upon. “I think that the biggest thing for me has always been if you can find somebody with enough speed and skill that can guard above their size. Then you can create some havoc on the other side of the court, and that’s what Jae has done. Jae’s ability to guard the post has given us some options as we’ve been smaller here, and Jonas too. But we had to double Al [Jefferson] still and we had to do some of that stuff, but Jae did a great job on Al Jefferson. He did as good as anybody can.”
So what’s been the difference in the C’s recent success?
“Isaiah Thomas,” Bradley said without hesitation when asked what sparked the change in the team. “Not only him, Jae Crowder, I can go down the list. Everyone’s just buying in to what Brad’s trying to do, and that’s team basketball.”
“That’s pretty nice,” Thomas replied to Bradley’s compliment. “It’s not me, though, it’s just this team. We’re playing hard, coach is putting us in a position to be successful and that’s the big key. We’re believing in each other.”
Come April, team basketball could be something that carries the C’s to the playoffs — something Bradley admitted has been a goal he’s thought about since the beginning of the season. Thomas concurred, admitting that Friday’s atmosphere felt much like a playoff game to him. Turns out Thomas might not have to wait as long as we thought to get his first taste of the postseason for real.
Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow.
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