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Isaiah Thomas puts up 19 points in 15 minutes as Celtics run through Nets 10.17.16 at 9:51 pm ET
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(Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

(Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

The time remaining for the Celtics to tune up for the season is running thin — but they’re already looking to be in midseason form. Playing the same Nets team they will see in nine days on opening night, the Celtics ran through Brooklyn 120-99.

It only took 15 points for Isaiah Thomas to drop 19 points on the flimsy Nets defense. The point guard cruised into the paint — oftentimes untouched — en route to a perfect 6-for-6 from the field including a 3-pointer, as he played exclusively in the first half. 

“The lane was just open, I guess. Teammates just put me in position to try and be a little more aggressive for myself. I haven’t been that way this preseason yet. But teammates got me the ball in the right spots and I just did what I do, I guess,” Thomas said.

Thomas’ pace throughout his time on the floor was contagious and apparent from the onset, as halfway through the first period the Celtics surged to a 14-to-2 run that put them up by 13 points.

“We’ve been playing a lot better, things are slowing down for us,” Thomas said. “For the most part we’re getting there, we’re ready for the regular season to start so things can count, but we’re still working.”

The Celtics were playing with a regular season tempo that left the Nets visibly overwhelmed and outmatched. Though passing wasn’t as precise as it could have been at times, overall the Celtics transition game was quick and largely effective.

The bench didn’t make upcoming roster decisions for Brad Stevens much easier, as each player coming on demonstrated quite a bit of value in one form or another. The shooting stroke that James Young has struggled to consistently find was present on multiple occasions. R.J. Hunter continued to shoot the ball well from the perimeter. Demetrius Jackson grabbed the hustle play of the preseason, grabbing a steal and finishing it with a layup off an inbound pass following a Celtics basket, forcing the Nets to take a timeout from sheer frustration. 

“I thought they all had really good moments,” Stevens said. “I thought they all played well at times, and certainly we gave up some baskets in transition, we did some things we’d like to do better throughout the course of the night, not throwing the ball to the other team as a team. But that’s across the board, that’s not just young, that’s young and old.

“But everybody showed as they have the whole time that they continue to improve, which is a good thing.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, Jaylen Brown,
Celtics’ 10-man rotation set to create some odd men out 10.15.16 at 12:15 pm ET
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Celtics guard Terry Rozier looks to take a step forward this year and crack Brad Stevens' 10-man rotation. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Terry Rozier looks to take a step forward this year and crack head coach Brad Stevens’ 10-man rotation. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Prior to Thursday night’s game, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens made an announcement that wasn’t so much surprising, rather thought-provoking. 

“Ten (players) is what we usually play at the start of the season,” Stevens said. “It could be eight to ten, nine to ten.”

“Anytime you can get to a solid eight or nine in a rotation, that’s beneficial.”

That is conceivably going to leave a valuable asset out of the rotation. With his starting lineup of Al Horford, Amir Johnson, Jae Crowder, Avery Bradley and Isaiah Thomas all but in ink, there would be two to four players vying for minutes.

Marcus Smart will also be a lock as the first man off the bench — as Stevens has often referred to him as a “sixth starter.” Once healthy, Kelly Olynyk will likely be in the same situation.

There is some fluidity after that, however.

Stevens did note that his rotation can, and likely will, change on a game-to-game basis.

“We have to have everybody ready to go,” said Stevens who added, “and some days it’ll be a solid eight plus 2 (players) but that plus 2 may change game to game depending on who we’re playing, how they played against them, how they played in practice, how they played the game before.”

With the summer league and preseason that Terry Rozier has had, reasonable minds can believe he would be in the rotation. However, ball handling and distribution are two things you could essentially get out of Smart, plus he would provide better defense. In an event where the Celtics are going to need to attempt to matchup in height with opposing teams, Rozier could see himself squeezed out of the rotation. 

Then there’s Jaylen Brown. The rookie is a fascinating case because if he’s not going to be in the rotation, then he would be better suited playing in the D-League, which is not exactly the best PR move for a team’s No. 3 pick in the draft. That aside, however, he’s proven that his game has translated well to the NBA and the Celtics could definitely use his athleticism.

Jonas Jerebko is a perplexing case as well. Seemingly every time he appears to be falling out of Stevens’ good graces, he pops a 12-point performance off the bench, as he did Thursday (and lest we forget the 2016 postseason, as well). His problem, however, is that he’ll be more or less absent for stretches, and when his shot from 15-to 18-feet is off, he can render himself useless on the offensive end.

Bottom line, Stevens knows what he’s getting with Jerebko. He doesn’t have to worry about developing him, he’s a slightly above-average defender, who has a shot that can be lethal when it’s on. It’s hard to imagine him being phased out of the rotation — especially early on in the season — but it’s a legitimate possibility if he hits a cold streak.

Another veteran in a precarious position is Gerald Green. Green didn’t even see the floor until about five and a half minutes remained in the third quarter Thursday. There are too many enticing options at Stevens’ disposal to allow Green to get meaningful minutes. Conversely, he posesses one of the biggest tools the Celtics as a whole lack: a shot. However, he’s yet to exhibit any reliability as a shooter in his two preseason appearances, going a combined 0-for-4 from deep. He’s otherwise 9-from-20 from the field. He is the type of player destined to be the first man out, especially when his shot is cold.

Tyler Zeller hasn’t exactly had a camp to remember thus far. And with his history of fluctuating minutes, it already looks as if he’s destined for the same scenario as 2015-16, where he could be playing three minutes one night, but 18 the other. 

One player that is making more of a case for himself is Jordan Mickey. A big leader in the late surge that pushed the Celtics bench past the Nets on Thursday, Mickey has started to look much more acclimated to the NBA than last year, even after tearing up the D-League. He may be an afterthought to start the season, but the amount of meaningful minutes he may get could certainly increase.

It should all come down to matchups. Stevens isn’t afraid to play small, and there is enough diversity in skill amongst bench players to where he has a quality arsenal to work with. As camp continues and more players begin to establish — or hurt — their value, the rotation should begin to take more of a shape, with some understandable flexibility taking place as well.

Read More: Gerald Green, Jaylen Brown, Jonas Jerebko, Jordan Mickey
Terry Rozier warns rest of NBA about Jaylen Brown 10.06.16 at 11:45 am ET
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Terry Rozier has been saying it for a while: Jaylen Brown is eventually going to be a nightmare for the rest of the NBA. 

How bad of a dream is up to the rookie out of Cal. 

On Tuesday night, in 20 minutes, Brown was 4-of-9 from the field for eight points and four rebounds. 

It wasn’t pretty at the start. He had a one-handed dunk attempt partially blocked by Hollis Thompson with eight minutes left in the second quarter. 

He had one turnover and was a minus-9. 

In the second half, he was moved to the ‘4’ on the post from the swing spot. It worked. He found his rhythm, finishing 3-for-6 with three rebounds. In short, he found a comfort level. 

“Yeah, I’m comfortable at the 4, wherever coach needs me to play,” Brown said. “That’s just part of being versatile; part of versatility is just being ready when somebody calls your name. You’re a rookie, so you can’t really have any excuses. If he wants to play me at the ‘4’ I’m down [with that].

“You can’t be surprised. You’ve just got to be ready at all times. Whenever somebody calls my name, I’m ready, focused, locked in. Rookies can’t be surprised.”

The highlight of the game came when the still 19-year-old Brown threw down a Tomahawk one-handed dunk with four minutes left, bringing the Celtics within three points. Terry Rozier was in Brown’s shoes last season, a first-round pick trying to show he was worth the pick. 

“He had the crowd going, going crazy, had our bench going crazy,” Terry Rozier said. “That’s something he’s going to be good for doing, jump out of the gym. He’s going to see a lot of minutes this year. Once the game really slows down for him, it’s going to be scary for a lot of people. I’ve been telling him this since summer league.” 

Truth of the matter is that Brown, as a third overall pick, is under the microscope much more than Rozier, who was a 16th overall pick. And there are bigger expectations. Brown has just begun to fulfill those expectations.

“It felt really good,” Brown said. “The floor opened up, felt like I could close out and it was just like the lane was wide open. I like to attack, close out and be aggressive, and if somebody had collapsed, I would’ve just kicked it to the corner for the open shot.

“It’s like a blur. This is all happening at once. It helped a little bit. Just getting up and down and getting to the basket. Just touching the ball when you’re getting up and down the floor is a great feeling, and nothing beats that. That feeling when you first walk in the arena. Nothing beats that feeling. When I got on floor, everything else just goes on the way.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier,
For (preseason) openers, Al Horford, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder shine, Jaylen Brown wows in loss to Sixers 10.04.16 at 9:24 pm ET
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AMHERST —  The growth spurt officially is underway. 

With expectations sky high entering the preseason, the Celtics didn’t disappoint Tuesday night, showing off a new-look roster that is loaded with offensive options and tenacious defense. 

Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder each scored 11 points in the first half while Al Horford made his debut, scoring eight points in a 92-89 loss to the injury-plagued Sixers in front of a sparse 4,532 fans at the Mullins Center. The game was officially a home preseason game for Philadelphia, as their parent company, Comcast/Spectacor manages the building. But nearly every fan was cheering for the Celtics. 

Jaylen Brown fired up the crowd with several athletic moves, including a one-handed jam late in the fourth to bring the Celtics close. The first-rounder out of Cal finished with eight points. Isaiah Thomas also had 11 points in his 19 minutes. 

Terry Rozier led the Celtics with 12 points. 

The Celtics showed their intensity on defense to the very last possession. Marcus Smart forced a Philadelphia turnover with 12 seconds left on the sideline, giving Boston a chance to tie. Smart missed a fadeaway three from the left wing with six seconds remaining and the loose ball went out of bounds to Philadelphia. Then after a Smart foul, the Sixers tried to inbound but turned the ball over, giving Boston one final chance with 3.6 seconds left. Jordan Mickey missed a three with one second left to end the game. 

With just under three minutes left in the third quarter, a loud “Let’s Go Celtics” chant broke out. 

And early on, the fans had plenty to cheer about.

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Read More: Al Horford, Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder
Pregame report: Brad Stevens says preseason ‘totally about growth’ at 6:47 pm ET
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IMG_0866

Brad Stevens addresses reporters before Tuesday’s preseason opener. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

AMHERST — Brad Stevens finally is getting the chance to see what his new-look team can do against an opponent. 

Stevens knows full well that a preseason opener against the perpetually health-jinxed Sixers does not rise to the level of what his team will be in three weeks when they open the season against the Nets on Oct. 26. But still, Stevens put out a lineup that projects to opening night when Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Al Horford, Jae Crowder and Amir Johnson took the floor. 

“Just want everybody to play well when they have their opportunity in the game,” Stevens said of the first of seven preseason games. “I think there’s guys that we’ll limit minutes-wise but the bottom line is that will kinda be as we go in the game. I’ve got a pretty good idea of what I want keep guys at. But whether they play first half or first stint of the third quarter, I’m still not completely decided on.

“So we’re one week in. I think the one thing about both those guys is they are both pretty versatile, they both pass the ball well. They both can roll or pop, they both can defend a couple of positions. But we’ll keep evaluating whether or not that’s our best group moving forward. And we’re still very much in the evaluation stage.

“You have to balance some of [lineups], but also I want these guys to get good stints. It’s not important that they play 30 minutes tonight. But it is important that the stints they play are hard and they get good conditioning out of it. Again, we’re a week in. We didn’t start thinking or talking about playing a game tonight until this morning. We still have a long way to go to get to where we want to be from a performance standpoint on both ends of the floor.”

Safe to say, the Celtics are playing more against against themselves than worrying about a Philly team that will be without No. 1 draft pick Ben Simmons indefinitely after surgery to repair a Jones fracture in his foot. 

“Everybody practices hard, everybody plays hard, there’s seven exhibition and 82 regular-season games — it’s just an unfortunate of this, that there will be injuries,” Stevens said. “You always hope that they are not long term, you always hope that they’re not something that somebody can’t recover from quickly. And, at the same time, we have 20 people on our roster right now and we’ll play whoever is available.”

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier
Jaylen Brown getting used to Boston, high expectations 09.29.16 at 5:00 pm ET
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Jaylen Brown (Nick Laham/Getty Images)

Jaylen Brown hopes to make a name for himself with the Celtics this season. (Nick Laham/Getty Images)

The Celtics have had selected in the top three of the draft only three times since the 1960s, choosing Len Bias second in 1986, Chauncey Billups third in 1997 and Jaylen Brown third this year. Thus, it’s fair to say there is some pressure surrounding the 19-year-old Brown to succeed.

Speaking at his first professional media day Monday, Brown was calm and direct, taking all the questions in stride.

“To me first it’s a blessing just to be drafted just as high and be on a team that’s winning,” the rookie said. “I like to win. That’s what it’s about. I think this year is going to be a great year for me. It won’t be difficult at all because I’m winning. So that’s how I look at it. That’s kind of my mindset about it. I’m learning a lot and things like that. Just going forward, I’m about that more than the individual kind of statistics.”

In most cases, players drafted as high as Brown are taken by teams coming off forgettable seasons, and they are looked at with high expectations as part of a rebuilding process. In Brown’s case, the expectations still are high, but he’s on a team looking to win right away.

“There’s going to be highs, there’s going to be lows. Just the peaks and valleys,” he said of his acclimation to the NBA. “But, just to stay with the process, just to keep confidence and keep working. Just stay with the process.”

Known more for his defense than his offense, Brown knows right off the bat that his parlay into playing time is through his defense, but also the need for him to hit shots.

“Defensively I think I add it right way,” he said. “I think I talked to Brad [Stevens] a lot about that. Just being able to get on the floor, defending at a high level. It would be one thing, and just hitting open shots would be another. Those are two key things to get me on the floor and that will help me add to this team.”

From an administrative standpoint, big things are expected of Brown as well. President of basketball operations Danny Ainge carried on about his prized pick’s fit in the system more so than his skill. And while that garnered much criticism when he was initially drafted, with training camp now underway, the practicality of the pick seems much more useful than a big-splash, high-risk, high-reward pick.

“Systemically, he’s perfect for what we need: versatile defender and a guy that can play multiple positions defensively,” Ainge said. “I think that Jaylen has to learn our terminology and learn our system. He seems like a bright kid and a hard-working kid and a kid that wants to learn and is capable of learning. I’m excited about him this year.”

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Celtics practice report: Jaylen Brown, Al Horford eased into new surroundings on first day 09.27.16 at 12:49 pm ET
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Al Horford

Al Horford

WALTHAM — The Celtics had about 90 minutes to get a feel for each other, with their first of two practice sessions Tuesday. There was little impact, and “a lot of five-on-zero” said head coach Brad Stevens in describing the morning’s events.

Jaylen Brown, who admitted he got little sleep Monday night due to excitement, showing up to the practice facility 3-4 hours early Tuesday, doled out pass from the elbow to the perimeter with precision and showed good finesse around the rim while partnering up well with Jonas Jerebko during pass-and-shoot drills.

“It was good, I’m just glad to be out here,” Brown said. “I’m learning a lot, a lot of different things today. It’s exciting, you know first day of practice it’s a new journey. I’m happy to be here and I’m having a good time.”

A frequent topic of conversation was the iPads the team hands out so players can take a look at plays. Each player is distributed one of the tablets, which are frequently updated with plays and schemes for them to study. 

“Probably just as much time as I spend at the gym, probably twice as much,” Brown said when asked how much time he’ll spend going through the iPad. “Understanding the game and just trying to speed up that learning curve. Everybody plays the game differently so just trying to speed up my learning curve and learn as much as possible so I can be ready.

“I’m looking forward to the new challenge but I know it’s going to take time, but that’s a very important thing is speeding up my learning curve.”

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Read More: Al Horford, Brad Stevens, Isaiah Thomas, Jaylen Brown
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