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Brad Stevens named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month 03.01.16 at 4:57 pm ET
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Celtics coach Brad Stevens is so hot right now. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Celtics coach Brad Stevens is so hot right now. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Brad Stevens probably doesn’t even want the award, but the NBA gave it to him anyway.

The Celtics coach earned Eastern Conference Coach of the Month honors after his team finished the month of February with a conference-best 9-3 record, including victories against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Clippers. Stevens also won Eastern Conference Coach of the Month honors in April 2015.

Stevens edged Charlotte’s Steve Clifford and Toronto’s Dwane Casey. The C’s coach isn’t much for awards, so long as they’re not the Larry O’Brien Trophy, and he probably has little use for one that honors the best coach in the shortest month of the year — made shorter still by a weeklong All-Star break. But, hey, it’s recognition for the tremendous job he’s done with these Celtics (36-25), who enter March with the conference’s third-best record.

Ironically, the NBA honored Stevens on the same day he revealed in an interview with Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast that he was rejected by a Division III program when seeking a head coaching job in 2007.

“I actually applied for a Division III coaching job a week before (former Butler) coach (Todd) Lickliter left to go to Iowa, and I got a letter in the mail that said I wasn’t one of the finalists because I didn’t have my master’s degree,” said Stevens, who ultimately succeeded Lickliter as the head coach at Butler that year, “because I’d stopped going to school full-time, and they wanted people, obviously, with the ability to teach at the Division III level as well.”

For the record, Stevens’ Butler squad reached the NCAA championship game for the first time in his third season as head coach. This marks his third season as head coach of the Celtics. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.

 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, NBA,
Avery Bradley rejects Gordon Hayward’s game-winning attempt at 1:05 am ET
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Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) blocks the shot of Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (back) during the second half at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) blocks the shot of Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (back) during the second half at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

On a night when the Celtics blocked more shots than they had in seven years, it was only appropriate that one of the smallest players on the court came up with one of the most important rejections in a 100-95 win over the Jazz at TD Garden.

With the Celtics clinging to a 96-95 lead, the bigger Gordon Hayward trying to back the 6-foot-2 Avery Bradley down into the post for a turnaround. But Bradley came off the seal and played it perfectly. He timed his jump perfectly and blocked Hayward with 20.9 seconds left and the Celtics closed out the game with the final four points.

“It was good,” coach Brad Stevens said of the Bradley block. “He had been guarding [Rodney] Hood most of the game and had done a great job on Hood and you knew they were going to one of those two guys and it just felt like he would be our best bet on Gordon late because Gordon had tried to drive it a few times there recently, at the end. And he made a really good play. He guessed right on his turnaround and blocked the shot, came up with the loose ball, and then Amir [Johnson] came up with the loose ball, and I thought that was really a well-played game by both teams, for the most part.

“And it was a heck of a game; it was a heck of an execution game late. They were making plays, we were making plays, and we were just fortunate enough to get those two loose balls off of the block and then off the free throw to kind of seal it.”

Bradley took advantage of his familiarity with Hayward to time his jump.

“I was just trying to play great defense,” Bradley said. “I know Gordon, I knew they were going to go to him and I just wanted to make it hard on him and not foul him, and that’s what I did and I was able to get the block, read the play. I tried to force him in to it, tried to force him into the middle so I could be right hand to right hand and I was able to get the block.”

Hayward’s reaction?

“He timed it really well,” Hayward said. “It was a good play.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Avery Bradley, Boston Celtics, Gordon Hayward, NBA
Jordan Mickey gets the (text) message, plays key role in win over Jazz 02.29.16 at 11:03 pm ET
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Celtics forward Jordan Mickey (55) shoots the ball against Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors (15) during the first half at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Celtics forward Jordan Mickey (55) shoots the ball against Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors (15) during the first half at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Brad Stevens had a special message for Jordan Mickey Monday morning. And in keeping with the times, there was no better way to communicate to his first-year center than through a text. 

“I texted him actually [Monday morning] that, ‘you need to be ready to go at anytime because there could be any time that those have to contribute and help us win a game,'” Stevens said. 

“I got the text early this morning and I read it about 10 times before I even got here,” Mickey said. “I was just trying to prepare myself to be ready for the opportunity and you never know when you are going to be able to get in, or when you are going to get that opportunity. It happened to be kind of early in the night and I was excited about it.” 

Safe to say, Mickey was ready. The 33rd overall pick out of LSU played one of the more important roles of his rookie season, coming on with 9:09 left in the second quarter and the Celtics down 11, 36-25, to the Jazz, who were imposing their will through their big front court. Mickey was a big reason the Celtics were able to stabilize the game, cut the deficit to three at the half. The regulars did their part in the second half in the 100-95 win over the Jazz at TD Garden. 

He played just seven minutes, all in the second quarter, but in those seven minutes, he scored three points, grabbed three rebounds and blocked two shots while getting his hands on a third shot that went in the basket. 

“I just thought we need a boost,” Stevens said. “And I thought that every time we’ve put him in, he’s blocked a shot and come up with some loose balls. I think he’s just got to get … He was in Maine for a long time and then he had the ankle (injury). He’s probably not as up to speed as he needs to be on some things that we’ll get him up to speed on as he continues to be with us more and more. Hey, we’re not overly deep at the big spot without Kelly [Olynyk].”

Will Mickey’s performance be a sign of things to come or just a one-shot deal in his rookie season? That depends on how long Olynyk is out with his bum right shoulder and how much faith was earned from his performance Monday night. 

“It’s always nerve-racking to go out there a little bit and you are a rookie. You haven’t played that much, but also exciting to be out there and show what you can do, just being able to compete.”


Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Jordan Mickey, NBA
Brad Stevens on Stephen Curry’s amazing 3-point skills: ‘It’s why the game is great’ at 7:30 pm ET
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Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) reacts after hitting the game winning shot against the Oklahoma City Thunder in overtime Saturday night.  (Mark D. Smith/USA Today Sports)

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) reacts after hitting the game winning shot against the Oklahoma City Thunder in overtime Saturday night. (Mark D. Smith/USA Today Sports)

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.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Golden State Warriors, NBA
Brad Stevens sends congrats text to the revitalized David Lee in Dallas at 6:34 pm ET
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David Lee (42) has found new life in Dallas. (Matthew Emmons/USA Today Sports)

David Lee (42) has found new life in Dallas. (Matthew Emmons/USA Today Sports)

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.”


Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Dallas Mavericks, David Lee
Brad Stevens has a lot of respect for ‘great job’ Erik Spoelstra has done in Miami 02.27.16 at 3:18 pm ET
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Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra (right)  is a role model for Brad Stevens.  (Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports)

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra (right) is a role model for Brad Stevens. (Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports)

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Erik Spoelstra, Miami Heat
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
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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.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, NBA, Phoenix Suns
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