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Rebuild Spotlight: What to expect from Brad Stevens 09.17.14 at 11:01 pm ET
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The Celtics are coming off of their worst season since 2006-07. Despite high expectations this offseason, the team is entering 2014-15 with a similar roster to last season, which comes with similar expectations. However, Brad Stevens will be in his second season as coach, Rajon Rondo will begin the season healthy and Danny Ainge has added some new, young talent. But it’s still clear that the Celtics are entering yet another rebuilding season, leaving us with some major questions. We’ll try to find some answers in this five-part series called Rebuild Spotlight.

Brad Stevens showed signs in his first season with the Celtics that he can be an elite NBA coach. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Brad Stevens showed signs in his first season with the Celtics that he can be an elite NBA coach. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Despite just 25 wins in Brad Stevens‘ debut season in Boston, the verdict is in on the coach: He’s the real deal. That was the hope when Ainge lured Stevens away from Butler with a six-year contract, but now we have clarity. After dazzling in his first season on the NBA sidelines, Stevens has made it clear that he is going to be as much a cornerstone of the Celtics’ rebuild as anyone.

Of course, much like the young players he coaches, Stevens must reach his full potential if he is going to lead the Celtics back to contention. The C’s were a solid defensive team right away last season; they were 14th in defensive rating heading into the All-Star break, but finished 20th at season’s end. Stevens wants to establish a defensive identity, and with Avery Bradley (who sees Boston having a top-10 defense this season) returning and the addition of Marcus Smart (whom scouts believe is the league’s next great perimeter defender), improvement on that side of the ball is expected.

Defense will be Stevens’ focus when training camp begins, but the Celtics’ offense, untraditionally, is where the biggest improvements are needed. Frankly, last season was a mess offensively, regardless of whether Rajon Rondo was on the floor or not.

Boston finished the season 27th in offensive rating and 28th in turnover rating. Until those numbers change, the losses are going to continue to pile up. Last year’s plan was to make Jeff Green the featured piece on offense. Yet, he failed to prove himself as a consistent option when all signs pointed to Green compiling career numbers.

On the other hand, Bradley (23 years old) and Jared Sullinger (22) stepped in as strong offensive options when healthy. Stevens would be silly not to present his younger stars with larger roles in the offense this season. Obviously, beginning the season with a healthy Rondo to go along with the additions of Smart, fellow rookie James Young, Tyler Zeller, Marcus Thornton and Evan Turner have to prove to be of some help.

Stevens likely will be dealing with an offense by committee like he was last season, this time with Rondo at the helm from the get-go. Bottom line is that there must be more offensive fluidity if the Celtics expect to up their win total from a year ago, particularly in terms of attempting to find some sort of consistency that Green couldn’t provide.

When it comes down to it, Brad Stevens is a fantastic leader for the Celtics going forward. His job is certainly not in any kind of jeopardy at all, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expect improvements this season. Stevens has had a year to settle in and learn the ropes of the NBA. This season, prepare to watch him take the next step toward becoming one of the elite coaches in the league.

Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow

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Kris Humphries praises Celtics coach Brad Stevens 08.14.14 at 11:22 am ET
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Kris Humphries

Kris Humphries

After a disappointing 25-win campaign, few Celtics changed uniforms, but the only outgoing veteran to play all of last season in Boston gave coach Brad Stevens high marks, and that should sit well with the organization.

In a conference call introducing the new Wizards forward to the media in Washington, D.C., Kris Humphries lauded the first-year Celtics coach for helping him improve his game 10 years into his NBA career.

“€œI talked to Brad all the time, and it’€™s just one of those things where, ‘€˜Man, you got me a lot better,'”€ Humphries told reporters Wednesday. “Handling the ball, making plays, things like that. Shooting. I’€™m grateful for that. I’€™m grateful for the opportunity to keep playing in a lot of situations like the one I was in.”

Arriving early to training camp last summer, Humphries won over skeptics inside the Celtics organization and out by taking younger players under his wing, keeping quiet early in the season despite limited minutes and eventually earning a spot in the starting lineup through continued effort. Ultimately, his numbers per 36 minutes (15.1 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.6 bpg, 55.2 TS%, 18.2 PER) ranked among the best of his career.

His patience during a trying year was commendable, and while another former Celtic will receive much of the applause when the Wizards make their only trip to Boston this season on Dec. 7, a tip of the cap should be reserved for Humphries, too. The 29-year-old publicly remained open to returning to the Celtics this summer, but ultimately chose a chance to contend for an Eastern Conference crown with the Wizards, and who can blame him?

“€œWhen you’€™re on a team like [Washington], which I feel blessed to be in this situation, everything you do is important and you feel important,”€ Humphries added in the conference call. “Whatever you do on a winning team is magnified. You feel better doing stuff when you’€™re working towards something. It’€™s a little tougher when you’€™re playing the right way, making sacrifices, and your team doesn’€™t have a chance to make the playoffs.”

His sign-and-trade with the Wizards also gave the Celtics a $4.3 million trade exception, so a Humphries era that began in Boston with one inopportune photo wasn’t so bad after all. As for the Keith Bogans experience …

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Kris Humphries, NBA
Celtics coach Brad Stevens accepts Ice Bucket Challenge 08.12.14 at 12:02 pm ET
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On Sunday, I issued the Ice Bucket Challenge to Celtics coach Brad Stevens in hopes of raising awareness about ALS and benefiting The Pete Frates #3 Fund‘s mission of finding a treatment and cure for the disease. Within the allotted 24 hours, Stevens accepted the challenge in an email Monday with the subject line, “On its way tomorrow …” Sure enough, the Celtics posted their coach’s response on the team’s YouTube account Tuesday.

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Ice Bucket Challenge, NBA
Celtics being ‘very, very smart’ with James Young as they leave for Orlando 07.03.14 at 3:27 pm ET
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WALTHAM –€“ The Celtics held their final practice in Waltham on Thursday before heading down to Orlando for the Summer League.

With such a young roster that includes two big name rookies, the Summer League is going to carry significantly more weight for Boston than in past years. Marcus Smart is considered the most exciting talent that everyone is expected have their eyes on. Smart is just excited to get his first taste of the NBA; even if it’€™s just Summer League action.

“€œIt’€™s still going to be a big deal because it is my first game,” Smart told media members before practice started.

Smart expects his Celtics squad to fare well when they take the court at the Amway Center practice floor in Orlando.

“€œActually, we’€™ve come pretty far,”€ said Smart of his team’€™s progress over the last three days. “€œ[We’€™ve] got all these new guys in, [Coach Jay Larranaga is] putting in some new plays, trying to learn some things and playing with different type of style. We’€™ve come a long way.”

We know Smart is ready to begin polishing his game in Orlando before his first season as a professional begins, however, fellow rookie James Young is in a different boat. Young is still recovering from a neck injury suffered in a June car accident.

“€œI haven’€™t heard from Ed [Lacerte], or Danny [Ainge] or Brad [Stevens] on what the plan is for James,” Larranaga told reporters.

Young’€™s status, in terms of playing in Orlando, sounds as if it’€™s up in the air at the moment.

“€œHe did some more stuff yesterday as far as non-contact on the bike,”€ Stevens added on Young. “€œI think he’€™ll be continuing to do some of that stuff today, but I haven’€™t been given a timeline on it. And, obviously, he was in the car accident a couple weeks ago. It’€™s Summer League, we want to be very, very smart about this with him. He’€™s anxious to play, he’€™s antsy, he wants to [play]. But at the same time, I want to be cognizant of the big picture here.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, James Young, Jay Larranaga
Marcus Smart: ‘We embrace these banners’ 06.30.14 at 5:54 pm ET
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WALTHAM — It was a day for coronation.

Two would-be cornerstones of Boston’s basketball future – Marcus Smart and James Young – were formally indoctrinated publicly into the Celtics mystique on a six-seat dais on the team’s practice facility court. In five days they head out for the NBA Summer League in Orlando on their first basketball excursion as formal members of the most hallowed team in the NBA.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge, co-owner Steve Pagliuca, head coach Brad Stevens and team president Rich Gotham introduced first-round picks Smart and Young on Monday at the club’s training facility on Monday, three days after they were chosen sixth and 17th overall, respectively, last Thursday in the NBA draft.

“We’re just excited to be here,” Smart said. “We embrace these banners. It means a lot to us, the tradition that’s here. We just want to go out and play our game and just feel part of this tradition and embrace it all.”

“Really just come out here and do what we did to get to this point,” added Young. “The empty banner up there, just look at it as motivation, that’s about it.”

As was the case before the team won the 2008 NBA title, there is a blank white banner with green trim next to the team’s last NBA title banner up on the wall in the practice facility.

Family members of both draft picks were on hand and formally welcomed by Ainge during the 15-minute press conference at the Sports Authority complex in Waltham.

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Danny Ainge, James Young
James Young on MFB: ‘Definitely wanted to come here’ to play for Celtics at 3:37 pm ET
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New Celtics guard James Young joined Middays with MFB on Monday afternoon, following his introductory press conference, and the former Kentucky standout said he’s “honored” to have been selected 17th overall. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.

“I definitely wanted to come here,” Young said. “When I came out here for my last visit, me and coach [Brad Stevens] really had that connection from right there, and Danny [Ainge] was a great guy to talk to. So, this is a place that I definitely wanted to come to.

“When I got my name called I was very surprised and happy. I was just very glad that my parents got to support me. They were very happy with my choice, too. I’m glad that I landed here.”

Young said he thinks he’ll fit in at shooting guard, wing or wherever the team wants him to play.

“I’m very versatile,” he said. “Length definitely helps me. I can shoot the ball very well and come off pick and rolls, definitely a thing that I’ve been working on. But playing the 2 spot is what I’ve been playing a lot. I’m definitely good at playing the 3; that’s what I played this past season, switching off like that. I played the 1 and the 4, too, so we’ll see how that goes.”

A Michigan native who grew up rooting for the Pistons, Young said his game is comparable to that of Rockets guard James Harden, who like Young shoots left-handed.

“I feel like James Harden, his game’s just all-around good,” Young said. “He’s a great left-hander, shoots the ball very well and attacks the basket with aggressiveness, just aggressively attacks the basket. I kind of tried to [model] my game after him, just try to study his game a little bit.”

The 18-year-old said he and fellow first-round pick Marcus Smart have established a fast bond despite never having played with or against each other before.

“I feel like we’re going to connect really well on the court,” he said. “We have that connection off the court, so I definitely feel like on the court. If one of us is having a bad game and can’t get open, we’ll definitely look for each other just to get it going.”

For more Celtics news, visit the team page at weei.com/celtics.

Read More: Brad Stevens, James Harden, James Young, Marcus Smart
Brad Stevens on rebuilding with Marcus Smart and James Young: ‘I don’t want to sell our team short’ 06.27.14 at 12:57 pm ET
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Rebuilding is a four-letter word to Brad Stevens.

More to the point, it’s something the second-year coach of the Celtics doesn’t have time to consider. Let Danny Ainge be concerned about the semantics of “putting young pieces in place” or “restructuring the roster.” For Stevens, his focus is on the here and now and near-future.

He made that much perfectly clear when asked if adding 20-year-old Marcus Smart and 18-year-old James Young to the roster Thursday night meant that he was entering the second year of a rebuilding program.

“That’s going to have to be a question for all of you and maybe pose that question to management or pose that question to people who aren’t coaching,” Stevens said. “At the end of the day, when you’re a coach and you’re in the midst of it, you’re trying to win every game and you’re trying to win the next game. You don’t look at anything as rebuilding. You look at it as the next opportunity. As long as you can prepare and strive and do your best, it’s hard for me to say that because I don’t want to sell our team short.”

Stevens is excited about this much — he’s getting two young talents that know how to create their own shot, something that was missing last season in the 25-win campaign.

“The only thing I would say that we were at least discussing coming into play with the second pick was perimeter scoring,” Stevens said, referring to the selection of Young at No. 17. “I guess the current roster construction you might say that played a role in that. But at the end of the day, we wanted to take the best players available, that we thought were the best players available for us.

“I feel a lot better standing here today than I did on July 4 last year, with how I feel heading into things, how much more comfortable I am understanding the schedule of the NBA, the way to get the most out of our team as we move forward, the way to get the most out of our individuals. We’ll have a lot of guys back that have been a part of this and understand how we want to do things. I think we’re adding two good workers. I think we’re adding two guys that will be hungry to help and I think that’s all a positive. Can I predict how many wins that creates? I can’t predict that. I think we’ll be a lot more prepared from the standpoint of the big picture, both on the court and in our preseason and everything else than I would’ve felt last year at this time.”

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