|Brad Stevens sends a clear message to his Celtics: ‘We’ve got to have a defensive DNA’||04.17.14 at 9:30 am ET|
Brad Stevens saw a lot in his first season in the NBA as a head coach.
After the 57th and final loss of the season, he gave some insight as to what he learned from his maiden voyage in the pro ranks of basketball.
“I think the best thing I learned is that this is not fun to not win but it doesn’t define who you are or how you go about your business. One of the things that I’m probably most happy about with our team is that they didn’t change necessarily who they were. They didn’t let the losing or the multiple losses affect them or their approach, and I hope that I was the same way.”
The best advice for what would be a long season came at the start of the season, when Celtics assistant coach and long-time NBA veteran coach and scout Ron Adams offered some perspective on patience.
“I learned a lot about the NBA game and how it’s played,” Stevens said. “It’s a different kind of basketball. Ron Adams told me at the beginning of the year, ‘If I went and coached high school after 22 years coaching in the NBA, I wouldn’t know what’s going on. It’s 32 minutes, no shot clock. I’d really have to adjust to that.’ I think that’s probably true no matter which way you go. But it is an adjustment. The part I felt most comfortable was in the game, once we got used to the time outs, the 24-second clock and all that other stuff.”
All that other stuff for Stevens starts and ends with better and more consistent defense. It’s what separates talented teams from winning teams in the NBA. It’s what separates teams that can close out games and protect leads from those – like the 2013-14 Celtics – who lose close games time after time down the stretch. Stevens very rarely called his team out after games of this lost season, with a notable exception coming after a lackluster home loss to the Sixers on April 4. But after the final game Wednesday, a 118-102 defenseless loss to the playoff-bound Wizards, he delivered a clear and present message to any player that might return next season.
“So there’s a couple different ways to look at it: are you going to get better in your role, or are you going to expand your role? What I mean by that is: are you going to get better at what you do well, or are you going to get better at some other things that make you, that give you the chance to instead of be the eighth guy be the fifth guy, instead of be the fifth guy be the third guy. We have a lot of great data to be able to share and subjective thoughts as well, and I think we can get better with the guys in the room. I think we clearly are going to need to add to our team to be better, but I told them at halftime, I said, ‘We can start it on October 1st or we can start it right now.’ That is, we’ve got to have a defensive DNA to start next season at a little bit different level than I thought we did at the end of this season. I thought we tried to compete defensively early-on in the year; I didn’t think we made the strides that I would’ve liked to have made.”
Stevens took the time Wednesday at halftime of a game in which they surrendered 38 points in the first quarter and 68 points in the half to remind his team of exactly what he will expect going forward.
“At halftime, I was obviously disappointed in our defensive effort,” Stevens said. “I knew, just look out there, we were undermanned a little bit, but I thought we could play better defensively and it thought we came out in the second half with a great deal of spirit and fight, a little bit more aggressiveness, and it was great until we were worn out. And I thought we wore out and we didn’t have any juice in the last 10 minutes or so, prior to that little run at the end. Credit them; they put us in a world of hurt in a lot of different match-ups. It’s a good basketball team who’s playing well right now, who, as I said earlier, is really sitting pretty for the future because they’ve got really good players at the one and the two that are both very young, that have a chance to be elite at their positions.”
|Celtics, Jazz tie for NBA’s fourth-worst record||04.16.14 at 11:22 pm ET|
As a result, the teams split their lottery odds, each receiving a 10.4 percent chance at the No. 1 pick and a 33.5 percent chance at a top-three selection. A coin flip will determine their positioning should neither team end up in the top three on May 20, and the worst-case scenario for the Celtics is the eighth pick in the June 26 draft.
Meanwhile, the Wizards’ victory over the C’s pulled them even with the Nets at 44-38. Since the Celtics also own Brooklyn’s pick, another coin flip later this week will determine if they receive the 17th or 18th pick.
|Fast Break: Celtics lose, call it a season||at 10:19 pm ET|
Prior to the game, Jared Sullinger addressed the crowd on Celtics fan appreciation night, “Hopefully we’ll come back next year,” which wasn’t exactly a great omen for the final game of the regular season. While a handful of C’s scored in double figures, they fell under the Wizards spell, 118-102.
Kelly Olynyk led the Celtics with 24 points while adding seven rebounds and five assists. Jeff Green (20 points), Avery Bradley (18), Brandon Bass (16) and Chris Johnson (10) also reached double digits.
Sullinger, Rajon Rondo, Kris Humphries and Jerryd Bayless all sat out, nursing various minor injuries.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Rondo a no go: With what the team described as a sore left hamstring, Rondo called it a season before the final game of the year. His final home game came April 4. When all was said and done, the Celtics captain played 30 games this season, and the C’s lost 24 of them — including the final eight. Mission accomplished?
No defense: Prior to the game, Danny Ainge lamented his team’s lack of a post presence and a general absence of cohesiveness, and the Celtics held true to form on the defensive end. The Wizards shot better than 50 percent and reached 100 points midway through the fourth quarter. In the end, the Celtics were one of the NBA’s 10 worst defenses this season, and the C’s brass must address that issue from a personnel and tactical standpoint.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Turn up the Bass: The Celtics handed out the ninth annual Auerbach Award before the game, and there was no other choice but Bass. He’s been the most consistent green teamer all year, producing somewhere around his season averages of 11 points and six assists each month. And he had himself a game against the Wizards, too. Previous winners: Paul Pierce (twice), Al Jefferson, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo and Doc Rivers.
K.O. punch: Olynyk entered the night averaging 15.6 points on 62.1 true shooting to go along with 7.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game this month. As a result, he earned his third straight start to finish the season, and he didn’t disappoint. As Ainge said before the game, “I’ve been really happy with how he’s improved.”
Full-court Pressey: With Rondo on the mend, Phil Pressey made a serious case to stick around in the Celtics locker room next season as a backup point guard. He averaged five points and seven assists per game in the final month of the season and had at least nine dimes in four of his final six appearances of the year.
|Danny Ainge on all things Celtics, including trades||at 9:13 pm ET|
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge addressed the media before the final game of the regular season. Here’s a transcript of his press conference (with a few notes sprinkled in between).
On the season: “It was a long season — I guess not that long — but it was a tough, tough year, and I saw a lot of positive things from individuals. I thought our team gave good effort most nights. I think consistency was our biggest challenge, and I don’t think the team was a great fit, great mix, but individually I like what I saw in almost every player. I just feel like we didn’t have the size inside to protect the rim. I thought that was a big factor that cost us a lot of games. And we didn’t finish a lot of games down the stretch.”
(Notice Ainge liked what he saw from “almost every player.” One comes to mind. His name rhymes with Ref Mean.)
On the personnel: “I think we started the season out very concerned with the personnel. I thought Vitor [Faverani] gave us some size at times; his injury hurt us some there. He was a rookie and playing inconsistent, but showing signs of being a presence inside. I think all the way up the trade deadline we looked at opportunities to make our team better, but we wouldn’t sacrifice draft picks to make us better for just this year. But we look for opportunities to make our team better in the longterm.”
(Take note that Ainge offered the caveat of “just this year” in regard to trading draft picks.)
On Brad Stevens: “I think Brad did a great job this year. He’s a special person and a great coach, and the players see it. The players see his work ethic, they see his integrity, and they see his intelligence, so I think he’s earned the respect of the team in a really difficult situation this year. And I know he’s going to get better. He’ll be better next year, and he’ll be better the next year. He’s a sponge, and he’s very intelligent with a great work ethic, and I couldn’t be happier. … I have no worries about Brad. Brad is maybe the only thing in this whole organization I’m not concerned about.”
(As for those “rumblings” that were reported recently, it doesn’t sound like the coach is going anywhere.)
On the future: “I don’t know. How does anybody know that? What do you want me to like make a prediction or something? I don’t know anything about what we can do. I’m hopeful. I’ll work my tail off to duplicate what we’ve done in the past, but there are no guarantees.”
(That “I don’t know anything about what we can do” is a little reality check, huh?)
|Double ’07: Kevin Garnett, Kevin Love and Celtics restoration||04.15.14 at 7:56 pm ET|
This is the second in a series on the parallels between Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge‘s last team to miss the NBA playoffs and this year’s lottery-bound squad. A deeper look at the C’s player personnel, potential trade packages and financial flexibility should offer insight into whether or not Ainge can recreate the 2007 magic of acquiring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen seven years later in 2014. (Hence, Double ’07.)
In order to justify holding Pierce on ice as a keeper, Ainge needed to land a big fish who could restore a winning culture to the Bay State’s once proud basketball franchise. Garnett did that and then some. Now, seven years later, the C’s president must reel in another catch, and the solution may reside in the Land of 10,000 Lakes once again.
For all the bellyaching about whether or not Kevin McHale helped steer Garnett to his former team, the Celtics offered the best package at the time. In the end, the deal centered around a double-double machine in Al Jefferson, and it’s not Ainge’s fault the Timberwolves drafted Jonny Flynn over Stephen Curry.
Come to think of it, Minnesota’s failure to capitalize on that Garnett trade may ultimately force the T-Wolves to deal Kevin Love. If David Kahn had played his cards right in the draft since 2007, he could have revealed a starting lineup of Curry, Love, Jefferson, Paul George and DeMar DeRozan within three years.
But, alas, the Timberwolves aren’t an uber-exciting All-Star squadron. They’re a .500 team. In the Western Conference, that gets you a lottery pick, and it doesn’t sit well with a perennial NBA All-Star. Just ask Garnett. Like KG in 2007, Love is nearing the end of his contract (Garnett had two years left, Love has one) and would require some convincing to sign an extension in Boston beyond his current deal.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, Ainge must ask himself two questions: 1) Is Kevin Love the kind of franchise-altering player who can help return the Celtics to their former glory, and 2) Do they have enough to get him?
|Jeff Goodman on D&C: Celtics could go with Noah Vonleh||04.09.14 at 12:17 pm ET|
ESPN college basketball insider Jeff Goodman joined Dennis & Callahan on Wednesday to talk about the Celtics and who they could draft, Duke star Jabari Parker, and the rumors about John Calipari going to the Laker. To hear the interview, go to the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.
With the Celtics out of playoff contention and the season almost over, Celtics observers are looking at the upcoming NBA draft. Goodman sees a variety of players who could fit the Celtics, depending on where they are picking.
“If they go six, I would say a guy like Noah Vonleh,” Goodman said. “Local kid, from the North shore. Played in Indiana this past season. He’s about a [6-foot-9 1/2] 4 man and can kind of be a little bit of a 3. Played 5 this year at Indiana. A great, great high-character kid. He’s only going to get better. I think he’d be in the mix if they pick somewhere around that six range.”
Added Goodman: “They really need to get in the top three, and then if they’re drafting four or five, you’re probably talking about picking from a group of Julius Randle, who we saw really struggle the other night in Kentucky. Dante Exum, that combo guard from Australia who’s really athletic, got size, about 6-5. But a lot of people don’t whether he’s a 1 or a 2. Many people haven’t seen him against high-quality competition.”
Parker and Andrew Wiggins are considered two of the top prospects, with many analysts going back and forth on who is better. Goodman prefers Parker, comparing him to Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony.
“He’s as much of a given in this draft that you can’t miss,” Goodman said. “I know people are going to say, well, you shoot for the stars and Andrew Wiggins could be — I don’t know, who do they say, Tracy McGrady I guess. Jabari Parker could be Carmelo without some of the issues. That’s how good he is offensively. That’s how good he’s going to be. You’re not missing on Jabari Parker. But the bottom end of Jabari Parker, this is the worst-case scenario to me, is he’s a 13[-point] and six[-assist] guy. The top end is he’s Carmelo and he’s averaging 22 [points] and eight [assists].”
|Sad Brad: The night the Celtics broke Coach Stevens||04.05.14 at 2:22 am ET|
Following each of the Celtics‘ first 52 losses this season, Brad Stevens always seemed to find the silver lining. Avery Bradley‘s defense. Chris Johnson‘s effort. Even Chris Babb‘s shooting. You name it. But after a 111-102 home loss to a Sixers team fresh off a 26-game losing streak, a dark cloud hung over the coach.
The captain knew it. “They were playing harder than us,” admitted Rajon Rondo.
The rookies knew it. “They scored more points than us,” added Kelly Olynyk, “and we didn’t play that hard.”
And the coach sure as heck knew it. “They played well,” said Stevens. “We played not well. That’s it.”
Including Wednesday’s 26-point debacle against the Wizards, the Celtics just suffered perhaps their two worst losses — or best, depending on how you look at it — and that’s saying something in a season full of defeat.
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