It’s a tradition for the Celtics to force rookies into making season-opening speeches in front of the Garden crowd, and so Terry Rozier found himself addressing fans gathered for the team’s open practice in Boston on Tuesday night.
“I’m Terry Rozier, and I just want to say thank you from me on behalf of my teammates for coming up here to cheer us on,” he said. “Hopefully you all will cheer us on to another championship this year. Appreciate you all coming out. Thank you.”
“If we continue to work hard, anything’s possible,” said Bradley, who now has the distinction of being the longest-tenured member of the team at age 24. “If you buy into what the coach is trying to do and this Celtics culture, I feel like anything is possible and we can definitely have a chance to make it to the championship if we do those things.”
For what it’s worth, Celtics coach Brad Stevens also lists a title as his goal for this season and every season.
“I had one goal at the last job, and that was to win the national championship, and I have one goal at this job, and that’s to win an NBA championship,” said Stevens, whose team was swept in the first round of the 2014-15 NBA playoffs. “That’s the only thing I’ll ever put down as a goal. That’s the only thing I’ll ever talk about as a goal to our players.”
As they should, the C’s think they’re contenders now. Of course, there’s a difference between believing and seeing.
For the record, the Green Team of Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebko, Amir Johnson and Kelly Olynyk handed the White Team of Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, Evan Turner, David Lee and Tyler Zeller a 63-59 loss at the open scrimmage, so at least half the roster will be starting the season as losers. These are the facts, people.
WALTHAM — Kelly Olynyk had quite the summer as he tried to get himself ready for the 2015-16 season with the Celtics.
The third-year big man out of Gonzaga starred for his home country Team Canada in the both the Tuto Marchand Cup (a preliminary to the FIBA Olympic qualifying tourney) and the FIBA tourney itself. Olynyk had 34 points and 13 rebounds in a 79-78 loss to Venezuela in the semifinals of the Olympic tourney, outshining fellow Canadiens Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett (both young stars for Minnesota). Had Canada won, they would have directly qualified for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, along with the U.S., Argentina and Venezuela.
Instead, Canada must now qualify in the 2016 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament. A lot was at stake but Olynyk looks at the loss as good experience, from a team and personal standpoint.
“It was definitely a tough game, especially for us,” Olynyk said. “We had gotten better every game as a team. We played so well, really night-in and night-out pretty much dominated that tournament. So it’s really a tough break for us to go out like that. Credit to Venezuela. They played a great game. They played tough, they played strong. They made shots. Unfortunately, that was pretty much the only game we didn’t make very many shots. They showed up and played and then they went back to back night and beat Argentina. It was something pretty special for them. Right now, we’ve got another chance next summer and we’ve got to look forward to that and make sure we’re ready to play.”
Olynyk averaged 11.5 points a game in 10 games in the FIBA Americas championship. There was a scary moment when he dinged his left knee in an 85-80 win over Argentina on Aug. 23 in the Marchand Cup in Puerto Rico. But Olynyk bounced back quickly and was able to play at full strength in the Olympic qualifying tourney, which involved playing 10 games in 12 days in Mexico City.
“A lot. I think it’s a great tournament. A lot of talent,” Olynyk said. “It’s a really physically demanding tournament. Talking about it with some of the people there, there’s really not another tournament in the world where you’re playing 10 games in 12 days, full-length, high level, high emotion games with something huge riding on the line. It’s definitely a tournament where you can take away a lot. You learn. You grew. You got better as a player and as a team. I think there’s definitely a lot to take from that, whether it’s confidence, skill, just experience in general.”
How does all of that translate to getting ready to play for the Celtics? Olynyk comes to camp this fall as the third-longest tenured player on the roster. Only Avery Bradley (19th overall in 2010) and Jared Sullinger (21st in 2012) have been with the Celtics longer.
“I haven’t really stopped to think about that a lot but I guess you are right, especially being in the coach’s system in the last couple of years,” Olynyk said. “I definitely know what’s coming down the pipe. For me, it’s about that leadership and just helping these young guys along their way after being through it.”
The reason Olynyk feels a bond with coach Brad Stevens is that both he and Stevens came to Boston at the same time, both entering the NBA before the 2013-14 season.
“Brad’s a real team-oriented guy,” Olynyk said. “He’s all about the team. He wants everybody to experience individual success as much as he does team success, which is pretty special. Brad’s a great guy and a great coach. I was just telling these guys, he’s going to help you on his way. He has supreme confidence in not only you but in everybody else in this room and the whole team as a whole. I think that’s something that’s really special. Just relax and come ready to learn every day. Feel free to make mistakes because mistakes are going to happen. Don’t play nervous or scared or try to play mistake-free. Go out and play the game the game you know and love and let things happen. You’ll learn and grow.
“You’re going to make mistakes. You can’t play in fear of making mistakes. You’re going to have the opportunity to play through mistakes. That’s something that really helps you.”
Last year, Olynyk was hurt when he landed on the foot of Portland forward Thomas Robinson in the fourth quarter of the Celtics’ 90-89 win. After being projected to return soon after the All-Star break, Olynyk didn’t show signs of being ready to return, and subsequently missed 18 games. Then there was the nasty elbow to his left eye brow from teammate Shavlik Randolph in April in a shootaround before a game with the Pacers.
Olynyk has plenty of battle scars. Now he hopes those make him a tougher, more prepared leader for the nightly wars of the NBA.
“With the run we had at the end and going into the playoffs, we definitely hit a stride,” Olynyk said. “We’re trying to keep running and keep that stride going. Talking to a lot of guys in the summer and as they’ve been back, we’re definitely a really close-knit group right now. Hopefully, we can continue that throughout the season and start off with a bang.”
Sam Packard is joined by his brother Nick, as he breaks down his favorite moments from Celtics Media Day. Sam then tries to compare each member of the Celtics roster to a character on The Wire, with varied results.
The Celtics held their annual Media Day on Friday and this reporter/blogger was there to ask the important questions. Jae Crowder, who the Celtics signed this off-season to a five-year contract worth $35 million, appears to have no qualms with being called Bae. In fact, I would characterize his fist pump and use of the phrase “Right On” as a ringing endorsement. I have been a fan of Crowder’s game ever since he was acquired from Dallas in the December trade of Rajon Rondo and I started referring to him as Bae shortly after his arrival. If he can develop a consistent jump shot to pair with his ability to defend multiple positions, I expect him to quickly emerge as Celtics fan’s collective “Bae” and one of the major reasons why the team wins the Atlantic Division.
WALTHAM — Brad Stevens has a lot to think about on his flight over to Europe to begin training camp.
First and foremost, who on the roster is going to step up and prove they deserve the most playing time – or any at all – in preseason and possibly the regular season.
That’s a question that needs to be answered before Stevens can even make decisions on who will fill out the backend of a roster that is nothing if not deep.
The forwards are David Lee, Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk, Amir Johnson, Jae Crowder, Jonas Jerebko, Tyler Zeller and Perry Jones. The guards are Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Evan Turner to go with rookies Terry Rozier and RJ Hunter.
That’s a lot of options but a lot of decisions for Brad Stevens to wade through.
“I’m excited. Anytime you’ve got a group that you can work with and you feel that way headed into the season, you’re focused on basketball,” Stevens said. “Even though we’ve got to figure out who’s going to play and at what times, I think we’ll be able to focus on all the right things.”
But then Stevens was pressed about how he’s going to deal with players like Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Evan Turner, all veteran guards who will be fighting for playing time in a crowded backcourt that added rookies RJ Hunter and Terry Rozier.
“Every good team, you’re going to have discussions like that,” Stevens said. “Every good team that is challenging to be better is going to have depth. We’re going to have good players on our team that aren’t going to play. That’s the reality of it. That’s hard part of the job in some ways but you just try to be really frank and talk about it. I’m not here to predetermine anything. That’s why I think sometimes we should probably have media day two weeks in because I don’t know yet. We’ll find out.
“I’ve never really thought about, ‘Hey, I’ve got to do this, this and this’ to connect with an NBA player. NBA players are human beings. I’m human being. We’re all human beings. The best advice I was given was be yourself. I’m comfortable enough now where maybe I wouldn’t have been at 30 when I was first named the head coach, maybe I wouldn’t have been when I was 25 or whatever but I’m comfortable enough that if being yourself isn’t good enough, it’s not good enough. If they [players] like me, that’s great. I certainly appreciate that relationship. I don’t think it’s a positive to have adversarial relationships with people you’re working with. But I recognize there’s going to be conflict as a natural part of this job because at times, people aren’t going to be playing. That’s part of it.”
“The best way to impact your playing time if you’re not a person that is go-to scorer or has a great speciality is to be able to guard more positions than one.”
“You meet with everybody. You recognize everybody is a human being. You recognize no matter how much of a team person you are, there’s disappointment when you’re not playing that visible spot. But the front of our jersey says Celtics. You’re good if you play good. Where we are on the food chain is yet to be determined. Knock on wood, we haven’t gone through any injury or anything like that. Nobody else has. We’ll see how it all separates itself when it’s all said and done.
“I feel good about where we are. We’ve got a good, committed group of people. They like being in Boston. They’re excited about playing with each other, and I thought that showed itself towards the end of last year. And I think the guys we added kind of add to that mentality.”
Naturally, it didn’t take long for Stevens to be asked about expectations for a team that, last spring, won its last six and 17 of its final 24 regular season games to make the playoffs. The Celtics didn’t just make the playoffs, they finished 40-42 before getting swept by the eventual Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
“I had one goal at the last job, and that was to win the national championship,” Stevens said. “I have one goal at this job and that’s to win an NBA championship. How long those things take to get there, that’s the only thing that I’ll ever put down as a goal. That’s the only thing I’ll ever talk as a goal about to our players. Now, I’ll only say it only once because the rest of the time, I’m focused on just the day-to-day, the process, how we need to be to prepare, how we need to perform well and the small margin between being good and not being good.
“We were as close to fourth as we were to 12th [in the Eastern Conference] last year,” Stevens said of finishing seventh in the East. “And we’ll continue to talk about that because that margin is a small one.
“Obviously, when you’re coaching the Boston Celtics, you’re playing for the Boston Celtics, making the playoffs and getting swept in the first round is not a pleasant experience but it was a great learning experience for all of us. And I thought it was something even as we’re here for the first time as a team, you’re reflecting back on some of those things right now. Hopefully, it’s a motivating thing that we didn’t play as well once we got there as we wanted to. Also, motivating from the standpoint that we did have some really good moments against the class of the East. We’ll find out if we’re able to take some of those lessons forward or not.
“I think that there’s the opportunity to carry some momentum forward but I think that just like anything else, that’s fragile. I think the less time we spend talking about that in terms of a building block and the more we just focus that we have built some corporate knowledge, we’ve got to move forward. We need to utilize the good things but we need to look ahead. I do think that we’ll be able to take some of our experiences and talk about those. And that’s where it’s beneficial. That team played well down the stretch of the regular season but it was a really connected group. It was a fun group to coach. Those things are never a given.”
In preparation for the 2015-16 season, James Young spent the majority of the summer working on his body and his one-on-one defense.
At yesterday’s annual media day, Young talked about gaining weight over the summer and how he’s entering his second season feeling more confident about his defense.
‘I just got in the gym and worked out harder. This season is going to be special for the team and me, I just want it to be great. Got in the gym every day, [twice] a day.
‘Just to absorb the contact from bigger and stronger guys, you can’t just go in the lane and be at 200 pounds, you’re going to get pushed over,’ said Young. ‘So you [have to] add weight and that’s what I did. I want to add more, not done yet.’
Young spent his rookie campaign playing basketball in Boston and Maine last season. He played 17 games for the Red Claws, averaging 21.5 points and shooting an impressive 44.2 percent from behind the three-point arc.
Young finished his rookie season with the Celtics averaging 3.4 points in 10.7 minutes per game. While adding weight to his frame to improve his offense, Young says he has a better understanding of what to do on the defensive end.
‘My footwork is a lot better, I know what to do now. Pulling over, communicating, everything is working a lot better now. I know what to do now, I didn’t know then but now I know.’
‘He’s really improved his defensive abilities,’ said Stevens. ‘His defensive awareness was great in summer league and he’s a guy that we know offensively has some skill and some talent. The other thing about James that I’m excited about is he’s bigger and stronger and he’s only 20 years old.
Among the cliches about taking the season one game at a time, Celtics guard Avery Bradley‘s stated goal for 2015-16 stood out during the team’s annual media day.
‘To get back to the playoffs and hopefully use all the experience we gained from last year to get further and have a chance to play in the championship,’ said Bradley. ‘Obviously, that’s our ultimate goal, and we’re going to try to prepare so we can get to that level.’
The championship? Really?
‘I feel like it’s definitely realistic,’ added the 24-year-old Bradley. ‘A lot of people laughed when I said we were going to make the playoffs last year, and we did.’
Well, he’s got a point there. Believe it or not, Bradley is the longest-tenured player of the Celtics, and as the lone remaining member of the team that reached the 2012 Eastern Conference finals, he should know what it takes.
‘I know that I want to take that role to help my teammates become the best players on and off the court,” said Bradley. “I’m going to try to speak up more this year. I’m definitely going to lead by example, no matter what, but I definitely want to try to be a role model for the younger guys and push them every single day so we can be the best players we can be, so we can achieve our ultimate goal — and that’s winning a championship.’
So, the goal really is winning a championship, then. (As it should be for every team worth its salt, by the way.)
‘If we continue to work hard, anything’s possible,’ said Bradley, who started for the 2014-15 team that got swept in the first round. “If you buy into what the coach is trying to do and this Celtics culture, I feel like anything is possible and we can definitely have a chance to make it to the championship if we do those things.’