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Full Court Press: Brad Stevens, Gregg Popovich, Bill Belichick and link 3 share, Isaiah Thomas ‘a tricky little dude’ and nasty David Lee 11.26.16 at 6:36 am ET
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Nov 25, 2016; Boston, MA, USA;  San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich yells at his players during the first half against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Gregg Popovich yells at his players during the first half against the Celtics at TD Garden. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

In Philadelphia, they “trust the process.” In Boston, where they are light years ahead in the NBA galaxy, it’s not the process but the system that matters.

And Brad Stevens has two mentors that have set the standard in two professional sports.

This past spring, Belichick was the guest of the Celtics and Stevens courtside at the end of the regular season and in the three home playoff games against Atlanta.

In the fall, Belichick invited Stevens to speak at his foundation’s event and said it was actually the 39-year-old Celtics coach who provided “a lot of insight” into coaching. Stevens said Belichick was very supportive and offered advice.

On Friday, one of the people Belichick respects the most in the coaching ranks, Gregg Popovich, was in town. The two have had lengthy conversations in the past about coaching and what it is to manage modern-day pro athletes. Belichick and Popovich are the two undisputed kings of coaching in their respective sports and Brad Stevens has a relationship with both.

Popovich has five rings and six NBA finals appearances with the Spurs, and Belichick has four rings and six Super Bowl appearances with the Patriots.

Now that Stevens — in his fourth NBA season — is the coach of a team with expectations to make a run into the NBA stratosphere that includes perennial power San Antonio, Friday provided a good chance for Stevens to measure up to what Popovich has built over the last 20 years in San Antonio. 

“I talk to him occasionally,” Stevens said before Friday’s matinee. “But I’ve said this before, he’s always been very kind, open and helpful whenever I’ve called or needed something. Couldn’t respect a coach or a person more.

“I just think they have a clear way of doing things with regard to every detail matters, every possession matters on both sides of the ball. They’ve always had an emphasis on skilled players, but sometimes those guys come in different positions. And they’re just outstanding at what they do.”

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Gregg Popovich
Celtics notes pregame Friday: Brad Stevens starting to see what his team is like healthy 11.25.16 at 12:53 pm ET
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Tony Parker fires up jumpers pregame Friday at TD Garden. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

It was pretty obvious what Brad Stevens was most thankful for on Thursday. 

For the first time this season, his team is fully healthy and the result has been a spike in the win column.

For the last three games, Stevens has been able to fill out a starting lineup consisting of Avery Bradley, Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, Jae Crowder and Amir Johnson. The result? A spotless 3-0 mark. 

As a matter of fact, the Celtics are 5-1 this season when Horford starts. So for just the second time this year at home, Stevens was able to declare, “everybody’s good to go,” Friday morning in his pre-game update with reporters. 

“I think we’ve seen a little bit of what that would be like the last couple of games,” Stevens said.

Indeed, with the projected starting lineup back, the Celtics have allowed 92, 93 and 93 points in three wins over the Pistons, Timberwolves and Nets to improve to 9-6 on the season. 

“Obviously, there’s times in each of the games where I played the bench a little bit more or a little bit less than you would,” the coach added. “But I feel pretty good about how we’re going to rotate as we continue to move forward. Obviously, we’ve played a lot of numbers thus far, but I feel like if we have a better matchup or something we haven’t tried, I’ve got a lot of trust in those guys that have been playing to put them in there even if they haven’t played.

“Tyler [Zeller] being a good example in each of the last couple of games played less minutes than the other bigs, but came in and gave us great minutes in that third quarter against Brooklyn and kind of turned the game back towards our favor. That group turned the game back towards our favor.”

As for the early Black Friday matinee start of 1 p.m., Stevens said there should be no turkey hangover. 

“It’s a 1 o’clock start and Thanksgiving for them, too. So there’s no excuses there,” Stevens said. 

The Thanksgiving start shouldn’t be a problem but the 12-3 Spurs certainly are. They are again off to a machine-like start, like the Patriots in every sense. Bill Belichick’s close friend Gregg Popovich once again has the Spurs playing great basketball, ranking ninth in team defense at 98.3 points allowed per game. Leading the defensive charge is two-time defensive player of the year, Kawhi Leonard. 

JBL_CMYK_NoHarmanNoRBallWEEI is how you listen to Celtics coverage. JBL cutting-edge wireless headphones and speakers are how you feel like you’re there. As the official Sound of the Celtics, Isaiah Thomas and the NBA, JBL is Made for the Biggest Stage.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Gregg Popovich
Brad Stevens isn’t about to look ahead to the playoffs: ‘There’s a lot of hard work in front of us’ 09.27.16 at 9:51 am ET
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Sep 26, 2016; Boston, MA, USA;  Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens during media day at the Boston Celtic Practice Facility. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Brad Stevens shows his laser focus during media day. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM — Brad Stevens knows there’s a ton of work to be done between now and the beginning of April. 

That’s why he laughs when he’s asked about what his expectations are for making the playoffs and advancing this season. 

Entering his fourth season, Stevens has taken his team from 25 to 40 to 48 wins and playoff berths in each of the last two seasons. The natural assumption, with the additions of free agents Al Horford and Gerald Green and first rounder Jaylen Brown, is that a 50-win season with a deep playoff run is in store. 

Then the Celtics coach, on media day on Monday, reminded everyone of what he told his team before the media session began.  

“See, I’m a basketball coach so I don’t really – I know certainly I want to do my job as well as I can to make sure that we are improving every day and are striving for that ultimate objective. We have a long way to go to be considering talking about any of that stuff.

“And to be quite frank as I told our team real briefly before we walked out here, there was not a lot of room between finishing 10th and second last year in the East. Ultimately we want to be the best, we want to be among those considered the best. There’s a lot of hard work ahead of us, and it’s day by day. I don’t feel any more pressure from what ultimately happens. I’m making sure that practice tomorrow is structured right.”

To Stevens’ point, the Celtics finished tied with the Hornets, Hawks and Heat with 48 wins. The ninth place team were the Bulls with 42 wins and the tenth-place Wizards won 40. The 40 wins would’ve been good enough for seventh seed two seasons ago, the spot the Celtics found themselves in. But not last year. And the East is quickly improving. 

“My expectations never change,” Stevens said. “It’s all about getting tomorrow and making sure we’re as good as we can be. It’s a very simple, boring process but it’s the way that I go about it. And I think that the results take care of themselves.”

 What would be a successful season?

“Being better the next day. That’s my perspective,” Stevens said in his best Bill Belichick tone. “The one thing I’ve been asked about – last week I got asked about a number of wins goal, I got asked about a playoff goal or a playoff rounds goal or whatever the case may be – right when you define something as success and you reach it, you don’t go any further. You set the limit for your team.

“And I’m certainly not into setting ceilings. And I think that’s why you focus on what you can do and try to put your best foot forward. And go into that next game, and if you do that you can win the game. And that’s my job.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Gregg Popovich
Kelly Olynyk raves about meeting Tom Brady, calls him ‘an unbelievable individual’ 09.26.16 at 5:48 pm ET
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WALTHAM – Kelly Olynyk is pretty psyched that Tom Brady is coming back to the NFL after next week. 

The Celtics center said one of the highlights of his summer of rehab from shoulder surgery was listening and talking to Tom Brady as the Patriots quarterback spent time on Long Island trying to lure Kevin Durant to Boston. 

“Brady’s an unbelievable individual,” Olynyk said during Monday’s media day. “He’s really, really smart. Just to be able to pick his brain for a half-hour, an hour, going down there was awesome, his philosophies, the way he lives his life. How professional he is, the way attacks every single game, every single moment and just kind of year-round, 24/7, it was awesome to see through his eyes, and hear it through his mouth, what he does and what it takes to be great.

“He’s really exemplified that at a lot of different stages so I’m excited to see him get back in the action, too, man.” 

As for his shoulder, the seven-footer said he’s getting better and better but still hasn’t been cleared for contact following surgery on the right shoulder on May 16. 

“Shoulder’s doing well. It’s coming along,” Olynyk said. “It’s been a long haul of rehab but it’s getting stronger and improving every day. Seeing visual improvements now. It’s doing well. It just needs to get a little bit stronger so that muscles can protect it and take a hit.” 

Olynyk re-aggravated the shoulder in Game 1 of the playoffs against the Hawks after suffering the initial injury in the final game before the All-Star break in February against the Clippers. 

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Read More: Boston Celtics, Kelly Olynyk, NBA, New England Patriots
Isaiah Thomas tweets (then deletes) recruitment of Kevin Durant 05.31.16 at 11:05 am ET
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Isaiah Thomas tweeted to Kevin Durant in the moments after the Thunder's Game 7 loss to Golden State.

Isaiah Thomas tweeted to Kevin Durant in the moments after the Thunder’s Game 7 loss to Golden State.

Isaiah Thomas had good intentions in his immediate recruitment of Kevin Durant after the Thunder’s Game 7 loss to the Warriors Monday night. 

Just about an hour after Durant and the Thunder fell, 96-88, to the Warriors, Thomas took to Twitter to plant a seed in the mind of the superstar, who will be a free agent this summer.

But the Celtics point guard quickly deleted his tweet to Durant, which featured the No. 35 with a Shamrock to the right. 

There are a couple of reasons Thomas might have taken it down, not the least of which is realizing the sensitivity of the moment, after Durant’s dreams of reaching the NBA finals for a second time came to a crashing end. The Thunder became just the 10th team in NBA history to lose a 3-1 lead in a best-of-7 series and the first in the conference finals since the Philadelphia 76ers blew a 3-1 lead to the Celtics in 1981. 

Another reason might lie in another sensitivity. The No. 35 is already retired in Boston, as it was raised to the rafters in honor of the late Celtics captain Reggie Lewis, who died in 1993. 

Thomas is not the first Boston athlete to openly recruit Kevin Durant to the Celtics. New Patriots nose tackle and lifelong Celtics fan Terrance Knighton said last week during OTAs that he would be in the ear of Durant as soon as Durant’s season was over. 

The efforts of Thomas and Knighton might be in vain as ESPN’s NBA insider Marc Stein reports that those close to the situation see Durant signing a two-year max deal to stay in Oklahoma City, with an opt-out after the first year.

Durant will become a 10-year vested NBA veteran after next season, and is eligible to take up a significant portion (up to 35 percent) of any team’s payroll. Durant is currently at the 30 percent threshold. 

 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Isaiah Thomas, Kevin Durant, New England Patriots
Terrance Knighton continues to recruit Kevin Durant to the Celtics: ‘I’ll be in his ear a lot, trust me’ 05.26.16 at 2:47 pm ET
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Terrance Knighton isn't giving up on Kevin Durant coming to Boston. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Terrance Knighton isn’t giving up on Kevin Durant coming to Boston. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

FOXBORO — Terrance Knighton is busy learning the playbook for the Patriots in their spring practices, workouts and OTAs.

But when he’s not in the playbook, he’s planning out different ways of recruiting Kevin Durant to the Celtics.

Apparently, Knighton didn’t hear Jackie MacMullan on OM&F on Tuesday, throwing cold water on the idea of Durant actually coming to Boston.

She said Celtics fans “can forget about Durant” leaving Oklahoma City for Boston.

That’s not going to keep the big nose tackle, a long-time Celtics fan from Hartford, from trying. He is close friends with the Thunder superstar.

“I’m leaving him alone right now, letting him finished it up. I love how he’s playing. I hope he wins it. I kind of hope he doesn’t,” Knighton said of Durant, who entered Thursday’s Game 5 in Oakland leading Steph Curry and the Warriors, 3 games to 1.

“As soon as the season’s over, if he’s hoisting the trophy or not, I’ll definitely be texting him every day, calling him, flying down to [Oklahoma City]. I’ll be in his ear a lot, trust me.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Kevin Durant, New England Patriots, Oklahoma City Thunder
Isaiah Thomas wants a meeting with Tom Brady: ‘I need to pick his brain’ 03.08.16 at 3:13 pm ET
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Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) celebrates against the New York Knicks during the second half at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) celebrates against the New York Knicks during the second half at TD Garden. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM — Those who aspire to greatness always want to learn from other great ones.

That’s why Isaiah Thomas took to Twitter on Tuesday in a very public attempt to get a sit-down with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

I want to sit down and talk to Tom Brady… I need to pick his brain,” Thomas posted on Twitter Tuesday before practice. 

A day after Peyton Manning’s retirement, was there something that spurred the request of the other legendary quarterback?

“Not really. Sometimes I’m thinking on my drive to the facility, and just thinking about that,” Thomas said after practice Tuesday. “I mean, I’m in his backyard. It would be nice if somebody could make that happen to formally meet him, and like I said, just picking his brain about the road to winning a championship, like what it takes and how to focus in on being great.”

What was fascinating about Thomas’ discussion was his comparison with another current NBA star who is headed out the door like Manning.

“It would just probably be like sitting down with Kobe,” Thomas said. “I got the chance to talk to Kobe. I’m real good friends with Floyd Mayweather so I get to pick guys’ like that’s brain. I just would like to sit down and actually meet him and also just pick his brain about winning championships, and how he goes about his day, how he prepares. I like his preparation to everything. I like to pick guys’ brains, especially the best in the business, best in their field, and see what he has to say to me. Hopefully I can make it happen.”

Thomas was reminded that he is from the West and a Broncos fan. Wouldn’t that get in the way?

“He shouldn’t be mad at that,” said Thomas, a native of Tacoma, Washington and a product of the University of Washington. “I didn’t grow up here. It’s not like I grew up here and I’m not a Patriots fan. But I’m a fan of his. I like how he carries himself. He carries himself like he’s the best quarterback ever.”

Like Brady, Thomas was somewhat overlooked when he played for the Huskies in the Pac-10, becoming the NBA equivalent to the NFL’s Mr. Irrelevant in 2010 when he was the last pick of the NBA draft by the Sacramento Kings.

“No doubt. He was definitely not – coming into the NFL he wasn’t supposed to be a Pro Bowler, wasn’t supposed to be a franchise player, wasn’t supposed to win Super Bowls and be arguably the best quarterback ever,” Thomas said of Brady. “And I want to be on that path. I’m not saying I’m going to be the best player ever but…”

As for taking a leadership role on the Celtics, like taking Marcus Smart aside on Saturday and settling him down, Thomas says he’s enjoying the responsibility.

“I just want to grow. I want to grow,” Thomas said. “Not just being a basketball player but being a leader in all aspects, all facets of the game. And why not learn from the best. Especially, I think it’s better to learn from different guys in different sports in how they lead and how they get respect from their teammates.

“Like I said, I would love to pick his brain, ask him a few questions. I got to do it with Kobe. I got to do it with Floyd Mayweather, always do it with him and things like that. Manning’s retired so I can’t do it with him. So I’d love to do it with Brady.”

Read More: Boston Celtics, Floyd Mayweather, Isaiah Thomas, NBA
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