|Brad Stevens on Stephen Curry’s amazing 3-point skills: ‘It’s why the game is great’||02.29.16 at 7:30 pm ET|
When he wasn’t jumping off trampolines and dunking or rebounding shots for his 10-year-old son Brady this weekend, Brad Stevens was joining his son and his friends in watching the amazing feats of Stephen Curry Saturday night.
In a performance for the ages, the amazing shooting guard for the Golden State Warriors made 12-of-15 from 3-point range Saturday night in an overtime win at Oklahoma City. The coup de grace was Curry’s pull-up 32-foot three that was the winning dagger in the 121-118 Warriors’ victory.
“My son had two friends sleeping over and we were all watching the game,” Stevens said. “It was great. It was great as a fan to watch and see. I’ve gotten a chance to grow up and see some of the greats play and see some of the greats make plays. It was fun to watch a group of 10-year-olds react to all those shots and react to all those things going in. It’s why the game is great.”
Stevens has always been a fan at heart of the game. When he played at Zionsville High in Indiana, he wore No. 31 in tribute of his favorite player, another 3-point wizard by the name of Reggie Miller.
Curry’s game-winner Saturday reminded everyone watching that his range is literally anywhere across the timeline, something that is rare. Has Stevens ever coached against something like that?
“Twice a year, twice a year since I’ve been here,” Stevens said of Curry, who he will see again in Oakland on April 1. “Very, very few guys. I think the amount of difficulty he hits shots with is incredible.”
While Curry is by far the leading MVP candidate in the league this season, there are others that are having remarkable statistical seasons, including Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook, both of whom enter Monday’s action averaging double-doubles so far. Westbrook is averaging 24.4 points and 10.2 assists while Davis is at 24.1 points and 10.2 rebounds.
“It’s interesting. There are a few guys, though, that are having incredible years and doing incredible things and not talked about quite as much,” Stevens said. “I think the whole idea of range and extending range and widening the court for everybody else with your range, it’s in vogue and he’s taken it to a new level.”
Brad Stevens has absolutely no hard feelings when it comes to David Lee. As a matter of fact, he’s very happy that the veteran big man has landed on his feet in Dallas.
Lee, who was bought out of his final season of his contract ($15 million) the day after the trading deadline, has contributed in a big way off the Mavericks’ bench almost immediately. He scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds in 22 minutes in a 128-101 win Sunday in Dallas. Two nights earlier, he had 14 points and 14 rebounds in 25 minutes in a 122-116 win over the Nuggets. Dallas is 32-28 and tied for sixth in the West.
“I just sent a text after I saw [Sunday]. I watched a little bit of the comeback against Denver,” Stevens said before Monday’s game against the Jazz. “It was a great game. It was a great win for them. Just saw [Sunday] night and they won looks like pretty handily. As much as you go through with everybody and guys play or don’t play, whatever the case may be, you want everybody that leaves here to do well. So, we’re rooting for him to do well and happy for how he’s started.”
Stevens still insists it was hard for him to wave goodbye to Lee, who didn’t play at all in his final 18 games in Boston.
“It was really hard, and it was really hard for him, It’s harder on him than anybody else,” Stevens said. “But we talked about it a lot. We didn’t have hardly any injuries with our bigs and we had a lot of bigs, especially at the end of games, we’re going to be in relatively the same position. It put a lot of guys on the bench, and it was different guys at different times. To his credit, when we eventually settled on playing others, he handled it really well, and kudos to him. I’m happy he’s doing well.”
Lee told reporters over the weekend that part of the reason for his resurgence is that he’s in better game shape than in Boston, where he didn’t play in 21 of his last 22 games.
“I don’t know if that’s semantics or how he meant to say it,” Stevens said. “I think the biggest thing that he was probably saying there was was that when you’re not playing you have to find other ways to stay ready. Maybe I’m wrong but I think he certainly took diet. He worked out hard. He worked out hard enough that if he would’ve played, he would’ve been gassed in the games. Sometimes, you can’t do that if you’re going to be playing 15 minutes a night. He was going two or three times hard a day during that stretch. So no, I wasn’t frustrated by it. In fact, I thought it set a pretty good example for the other guys who weren’t playing.”
|Brad Stevens has a lot of respect for ‘great job’ Erik Spoelstra has done in Miami||02.27.16 at 3:18 pm ET|
When Brad Stevens talks about Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, you can sense a great deal of respect and admiration. You can also sense that he wouldn’t mind having his track record some day. When Spoelstra took over for Pat Riley in 2008, he was just 37, the same age Stevens was when he took over the Celtics in 2013.
In his eighth season in Miami, Spoelstra has been to the NBA Finals four times, winning twice with LeBron James. After going just 37-45 last season, and missing the playoffs for the first time, Spoelstra has bounced back strong this year. His team is 32-25 and what’s more impressive is that he’s doing it short-handed.
“I don’t know him all that well,” Stevens said. “I’ve obviously met him in a couple of the coaches’ meetings and seen him at the summer leagues and those types of things real briefly but I haven’t spent a lot of time with him. I’m really impressed by him and have been since I got a chance to first watch his teams play. I didn’t know him when he was a video guy or an assistant in his earlier years either.”
While both were wunderkinds when hired for their first NBA head coaching gigs, Spoelstra and Stevens are from very different backgrounds.
Spoelstra was hired by then-Heat GM Dave Wohl and personnel director Roya Vaziri in 1995 as a video coordinator at the age of 25. He worked his way up, eventually impressing Riley with his work ethic as a video coordinator and eventually a scouting director in 2001. He’s been a Heat lifer. As for Stevens, everyone knows the story how he wowed the basketball world by taking Butler to the NCAA finals in 2010 and ’11, in the process becoming the youngest coach ever (34 years old) to reach the Final Four twice. Stevens didn’t shoot out of the gate and make the playoffs in his first season like Spoelstra but he is commanding the respect of stars young and old around the league. Even Rajon Rondo was impressed with Stevens the first time they met.
But what impresses someone like Stevens is how even-tempered someone like Spoelstra can be, even when things seem to be falling apart around him.
Last week, the Heat’s leading scorer, Chris Bosh, was sidelined with a blood clot in his calf. That was just the latest in a long line of injuries to significant players. Beno Udrih had surgery Friday on his foot and is out three months. Tyler Johnson is out with a shoulder injury. Udonis Haslem had an allergic reaction this week but made the trip to Boston for his short-handed teammates.
|Isaiah Thomas relishes in Suns GM Ryan McDonough admitting mistake: ‘I’m starting to get more and more respect’||02.25.16 at 11:39 pm ET|
Isaiah Thomas cracked a smile from ear to ear when he was asked about Suns general manager Ryan McDonough admitting Thursday morning on a Phoenix radio station that it was “a mistake” to trade Thomas to the Celtics at the 2015 NBA trade deadline.
Thursday night, after scoring a game-high 27 points and dishing out seven assists in a 112-107 Celtics win over the Bucks, Thomas took a little time to savor the recognition of his former employer.
After making a couple of stunning passes to find open teammates, including one over three Bucks to Jae Crowder for a game-clinching three, Thomas was asked if he heard McDonough’s admission.
“Yeah, did,” Thomas said. “I mean it’s cool. I’m starting to get more and more respect, I guess. It feels good to hear him finally say that. But like I always say, I’m focused here on the Celtics. I’m not focused on what happened in the past. When I saw that this morning, it was nice to see somebody say something like that.”
Thomas might have felt snubbed by the Suns when he was traded but he’s turned himself into an All-Star scoring point guard for the third-best team in the Eastern Conference, so there is satisfaction in that.
“I’ve always felt overlooked,” Thomas said. “Ever since All-Star selection, guys are kind of liking what I do, I guess.”
Thomas admitted that he’s a much different player than the one that played in Phoenix even two years ago.
“The game’s slowing down for me,” Thomas said. “For the most part, I’m a better decision-maker. I’m not just trying to score every time. That’s something I’ve done my whole life where scoring has been easy for me but now, it’s just trying to pick and choose my spots, knowing when to be aggressive for myself and knowing when to get other guys going. I think that’s my next step, just becoming a more complete basketball player, just being unpredictable and going out there and trying to make the right play, each and every time.
“I think just because I’m labeled as a scorer. If you score too much, guys say you don’t pass. If you pass too much, like [Rajon] Rondo, they say you can’t score. They’re always going to say something so you’ve just got to take what the defense gives you.”
Speaking of Rondo, does Thomas think Rondo could’ve pulled off that behind-the-head, no-look pass with 50.6 seconds left Thursday night?
“No doubt. You all probably seen that before. He probably did something even crazier than that.”
|Brad Stevens working to keep young guns in the mix||at 9:16 pm ET|
While there was some discussion pre-game Thursday of how a veteran like Joe Johnson might add valuable versatility, there was also acknowledgment of the potential of the youth that remains on the roster.
The team they played Thursday, the Bucks are next at 24.5 and the Sixers come in at 24.7. The Celtics are by far and away the most successful in that foursome of youth.
The Celtics have three rookies on their roster in Terry Rozier, Jordan Mickey and R.J. Hunter. Marcus Smart and James Young hail from the 2014 draft and Kelly Olynyk represents the Class of 2013 and Jared Sullinger was drafted in 2012.
Of the last two drafts, only Smart is seeing significant minutes and Young’s yo-yo between Boston and Maine is well documented.
How are the young guns handling not playing?
“I think it’s hard. They’ve played their whole lives,” Stevens said before Thursday’s game. “They’ve never had a year where they’ve sat. But it’s probably not all that unanticipated. It’s part of life as a young player, especially on a team that’s like ours. We’ve talked about that there’s not a ton of separation up and down the roster but there is a lot of depth.”
With David Lee gone to Dallas, the Jonas Jerebko and Amir Johnson are the oldest at 28 years. Only five of the 14 players on the active roster are over 25.
“All of our older players, and I say older kind of tongue-in-cheek, but they all are productive NBA players and have a real niche and role,” Stevens added.
R.J. Hunter has had the biggest impact of the 2015 class, averaging nearly 10 minutes a game in the 26 games he’s played. Rozier has played in 20 games and Mickey has seen action in just six games but does have three blocks.
|Avery Bradley: ‘We didn’t play hard enough, consistently’||02.23.16 at 12:20 am ET|
The Celtics nearly pulled off a miracle Monday night in Minneapolis.
But when Marcus Smart’s potential game-winning three fell short at the final buzzer, the Celtics were left to wonder why they couldn’t beat a Timberwolves team that came in with a 17-39 record.
“I feel like we can learn a lot from this game. We didn’t play hard enough, consistently, throughout the whole game,” said Avery Bradley, who scored 22 points in the 124-122 loss. “That’s the real reason we lost. We gave ourselves a chance.”
Bradley gave the Celtics a real shot when his three with 6.2 seconds left drew the Celtics to within one, 123-122. But after a Zach LaVine free throw, Smart dribbled up the right side and instead of dishing to a wide open Isaiah Thomas, he decided to pull up for a three of his own that fell short off the front iron.
“The last play, or anything like that, that wasn’t the reason we lost the game,” Bradley told reporters afterward. “We just weren’t playing hard enough on a consistent basis.”
The Celtics went small late in an effort to spread the court and space out the Minnesota bigs, who the Celtics couldn’t handle all night. Rookie Karl-Anthony Towns finished with 28 points and 13 rebounds while Gorgui Dieng added 17 points and 12 boards.
“They’re a young, athletic team as well. We let their young guys get going early, and it was hard to slow them down, to be honest,” Bradley said.
Towns served notice early that he was going to be a force, scoring 15 points and grabbing seven rebounds in the opening quarter.
“Yeah, we had no answer for him. We had no answer for him in any type of isolation I thought,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters. “That’s why we went zone for a couple of possessions, and actually played it pretty well. And then we just trapped everything late and played five guards and just tried to fly around. The problem with that was obviously rebounding.
“Towns had his way with us the whole night and obviously, their other guys did, too. Certainly, he stood out.”
|Studs and Duds: Evan Turner, Celtics strike gold in Denver||02.21.16 at 7:28 pm ET|
There were rocky moments in the Mile High city but, in the end, the Celtics got the win they desperately needed out West.
Facing a young and rebuilding Nuggets team, Isaiah Thomas (22 points, 12 assists) and Jared Sullinger (16 points, 11 rebounds) each posted double-doubles leading the Celtics to a 121-101 win at Pepsi Arena in Denver. Avery Bradley added 20 points for the Celtics, who finish up their three-game Western road swing with a game Monday night in Minneapolis against the Timberwolves.
The Celtics (33-24) took complete command of the game with a 26-5 spurt in the first quarter, as all seven starters scored. The Celtics‘ bench, which scored just 28 points Friday night in the loss in Utah, matched that total in the first half, led by Evan Turner‘s 13. Turner nearly finished with a double-double, scoring 17 points and grabbing nine rebounds.
With the Celtics’ lead up to a game-high 26, 51-25, Denver went on a 10-0 run. That was the beginning of Denver’s deliberate crawl back into the game. Twice the Celtics answered runs with key 3-pointers, once by Turner and another by Marcus Smart.
The Nuggets (22-34) got the lead down to five, 67-62, and had a chance to trim it even more but Isaiah Thomas blocked a shot and then two possessions later converted a three-point play to build the lead up 10, 72-62. Thomas again took over with four minutes left in the third. He hit a reverse lay up and then converted a pull-up runner with 3:31, putting the Celtics up, 83-69.
The Nuggets appeared ready to make another run late in the third. But two missed threes were followed up by a Jae Crowder three-point play to make it 91-75. Will “The Thrill” Barton nailed a three with 0.4 seconds left to make it 91-78 Boston heading into the fourth.
The hustle was there all night for the Celtics, embodied by the trio of Marcus Smart, Evan Turner and Avery Bradley. Smart dove for a loose ball in the Denver offensive end. He tipped it ahead to Turner. Turner raced it down from half-court, saving the ball from rolling out of bounds. He flipped ball back with his right hand to a waiting Avery Bradley and he went running 10 rows deep into the stands. Bradley’s uncontested basket with 10 minutes left put the Celtics up, 97-82.
The Nuggets never got closer than 10 in the final seven minutes. The Celtics used a 16-6 run to build the lead back to 20, 117-97, before emptying the bench.
For a complete box score, click here. To go beyond the box, read on.
STUD OF THE NIGHT: Evan Turner. He single-handedly energized the bench and the team, as indicated above. He finished with 17 points and five assists, featuring a brilliant individual play around Nikola Jokic in the second quarter. Runner-up: Isaiah Thomas. It’s getting repetitive but the lefty scoring guard is carrying the Celtics right now. And he was the answer in big moments when the Celtics seemed in danger of blowing a 26-point first half lead.
DUD OF THE NIGHT: Kenneth Faried. Zero points in 13 minutes for the Nuggets starting power forward.
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