Al Horford (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Al Horford (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM — The Celtics had about 90 minutes to get a feel for each other, with their first of two practice sessions Tuesday. There was little impact, and “a lot of five-on-zero” said head coach Brad Stevens in describing the morning’s events.

Jaylen Brown, who admitted he got little sleep Monday night due to excitement, showing up to the practice facility three-to-four hours early Tuesday, doled out pass from the elbow to the perimeter with precision and showed good finesse around the rim while partnering up well with Jonas Jerebko during pass-and-shoot drills.

“It was good, I’m just glad to be out here,” Brown said. “I’m learning a lot, a lot of different things today. It’s exciting, you know first day of practice it’s a new journey. I’m happy to be here and I’m having a good time.”

A frequent topic of conversation was the iPads the team hands out so players can take a look at plays. Each player is distributed one of the tablets, which are frequently updated with plays and schemes for them to study. 

“Probably just as much time as I spend at the gym, probably twice as much,” Brown said when asked how much time he’ll spend going through the iPad. “Understanding the game and just trying to speed up that learning curve. Everybody plays the game differently so just trying to speed up my learning curve and learn as much as possible so I can be ready.

“I’m looking forward to the new challenge but I know it’s going to take time, but that’s a very important thing is speeding up my learning curve.”

Brown added that it is similar to being at school and that Stevens is like the professor.

Having been through multiple camps before and already having an established rapport across the league, the big thing for Al Horford was working on learning the plays and the system.

“It was a little different, just starting to get used to some of our concepts, getting familiar with the offensive system, but a lot of energy, a lot of positive energy,” Horford said. “Guys were ready to go from the beginning.”

OTHER PRACTICE NOTES

— Though playing non-contact, Kelly Olynyk, who is still nursing a shoulder injury, looked confident both shooting and playing around the rim. He had no issues finishing dunks with authority but also stepped back and drained multiple 3-pointers.

— Players and Stevens alike noted that the initial drills were to be done at roughly 40 percent, but everyone elected to go at a much higher intensity. Isaiah Thomas said that if that was 40 percent, he was interested to see what 100 percent would be like. Stevens jokingly brushed it off as a misjudgment of what was and was not 40 percent.

Blog Author: 
Logan Mullen

Gerald Green (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Gerald Green (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

When Gerald Green took part in his first professional Media Day, he was fresh out of high school in Houston, 19-years-old and a member of the Celtics. He was once again a member of the Celtics when he took the podium Monday, much different than the kid who took the podium 11 years ago.

“I was fresh out of high school so I didn’t really know any better,” said Green. “Now, this is my 12th season professionally so I’m very mature now. I still got a lot in the tank. Legs feel good, everything feels good about myself. I feel like I’ve learned so much about myself. I feel like I’m way better defensive player. I know I’m a way better defensive player than when I first came here. I know all the schemes and terminology. I just can’t wait for [camp to begin].”

Green exited Boston as part of the trade that brought Kevin Garnett to Boston after his second professional season. Since his departure, he’s become the epitome of a journeyman, playing for seven NBA different teams, along with a two-year stint in Russia.

“It’s a great feeling to be back. I’ve been telling everyone since I’ve been back that I never really had hard feelings. Shoot, I would trade myself for Kevin Garnett, too,” he said. “There’s never been any hard feelings at all. I don’t think I left on bad terms. For me to be back here to be playing for the city that has drafted me after all these years, after all of the years that I’ve learned, it’s good to finally be back.”

The stint in Russia vtook a toll on Green. While the situation geographically was not ideal, it was further affirmation that he was an NBA player, not someone with NBA experience that should be buried overseas.

Since his time in Russia, he has been a serviceable contributor, averaging 11.4 points per game with a 42.1 percent field goal percentage since coming back to the States in 2011.

Not only did he return as a more experienced player, but also as a changed teammate.

“You know, when I was in Russia in the freezing cold, eating soup, not really eating right because I didn’t like the food out there. There was a point where I felt like I was an NBA player. I didn’t want to be out there anymore. I didn’t want to play overseas or play in Europe. I wanted to be an NBA player. It was something I had to change for myself,” he said.

“I always used to sit here and point the finger at what everyone else was doing. At that point, I just told myself, ‘What could I do to change? What could I do to change myself? What could I do to change off the court and on the court to be a better basketball player?’ That’s what I tried to do. It worked out for me. I got a 10-day call up in New Jersey and I haven’t looked back since.”

Aside from being the team that drafted him, there was a lot going for Boston when Green decided to make a return. His kids still live in the area, and since playing together in Phoenix, he’s been close with Isaiah Thomas. With a few other teams showing interest in the swingman, however, the close contact with Thomas and his family was enough to coax the veteran back to where his journey began.

“There were a few other teams, but not too many. There were a few other teams I could have decided to go to, but like I said, with my kids being here, [Thomas] being here, great coaching staff, I’ve already been here before, the odds were way more for going to Boston so that’s the way I went.”

He added when asked about Thomas’ impact, “Me and Isaiah always talk. We talked in the summer time. I go to his camps that he has in Seattle. I wasn’t able to go this past summer because of playoffs but we actively talk all the time. During free agency, I remember Danny gave my agent a call and said, ‘Hey, we might be interested in you.’ Then I talked to Isaiah and said, ‘Hey, what’s up? I might be going to Boston.’ He was like, ‘Man, you need to come here.’ I was like, ‘Let’s make it happen,’ so we made it happen.”

Green has made his living as a swingman that can score off the bench — and all things considered, he should be able to fill that role this season. But he is still in a bit of a limbo that goes with the territory of being a veteran journeyman who’s on a team-friendly deal. There is no set role for him entering camp, and as seasoned of a player as he is, he knows it’s about being professional at this point.

“Obviously they told me a lot of scoring. Somebody that can score off the bench. Somebody who can fill the need of athleticism,” he said when asked about what he’s been asked to provide.

“I’m a veteran player so what I’m going to do is be professional. Whatever role they give me, I’m going to do it. If it’s starting one night, coming off the bench one night, not playing another night, whatever it is, I’m going to be a professional about it. I’m going to make sure these young guys get their work in like how I was when I was young. I’m just going to make sure this team has got it together and are ready for this battle that we’re going to have to go through. It’s an 82-game battle before we get to the war.”

Blog Author: 
Logan Mullen

Terry Rozier is ready for bigger opportunities with the Celtics (Josue Pavon/WEEI.com)

Terry Rozier is ready for bigger opportunities with the Celtics. (Josue Pavon/WEEI.com)

Terry Rozier appears to be ready to take on a larger role with the Celtics this season. The confident young point guard is coming into his own, and his teammates have noticed the strides he’s made throughout the offseason.

Rozier points to the playoff opportunity he received against the Hawks last year as a catalyst to his newfound confidence. He played five games, averaging 4.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 19.8 minutes. It was the kind of experience Rozier — as a rookie — believes he needed.

“I feel that anytime a rookie can get on the floor and play in the playoffs, it feels like a boost going into the next season. So that definitely played a big factor,” Rozier said at Monday’s media day. “I’m just excited for next season.

[I’m] just mainly more comfortable out there. I know that myself, if I’m comfortable playing this game that I love, then I’ll be fine. I can just about play with anybody. So just slowing my mind down and just being comfortable out there and just relax and play.”

One teammate who has noticed Rozier’s great offseason is Marcus Smart. When he was asked about the team’s vacant sixth man role, Smart mentioned Rozier as one of the lead reserves the Celtics have coming off their bench.

“With the absence of Evan, he’s going to be missed here. The things he brought to the team, he created his own jump shot. He created for others,” Smart said. “Everybody else understands the role that he left us with and we have to step up as a team, I have to step up as an individual, but this team has to step up. And there’s a lot of players. We’ve got guys coming off the bench like Terry Rozier, who’s been real good in the offseason. And as you guys saw in the summer league, he’s been playing his butt off.”

Even Al Horford — who has only played with Rozier for a month — is impressed with the strides Rozier has made. In talking about the Celtics’ young players, Horford singled out the second-year guard as one of his teammates who improved their game from last season.

“There’s a lot of the younger guys who were very, very athletic,” Horford told reporters Monday. “Guys that have definitely gotten better — Jae Crowder came in and played with us one day and his 3-point shot has gotten better. That was good to see. I was encouraged by Terry as well. He’s looked good all month. It just excited me to see that a lot of these guys are making progress in their game.”

Blog Author: 
Josue Pavon

Sep 26, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (36) during media day at the Boston Celtic Practice Facility. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Smart will be a focal point this season for Celtics. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM — The Celtics have a wealth of riches in the backcourt. 

Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley come into camp as the two players projected to be the starting backcourt, with Terry Rozier and Demetrius Jackson in the wings. 

Then there’s Marcus Smart. The 22-year-old point guard in his third year out of Oklahoma State could be in store for a breakout season. 

One reason the Celtics let Evan Turner leave for greener pastures in Portland is because they think they have the perfect sixth man candidate to step in and take his place. It would appear Smart will get a chance to fill that role early on in the season. 

Along with teammate Avery Bradley, he is considered one of the best and most physical perimeter defenders in the East. He has also shown the ability to handle bigger bodies in the low post (like when he was called on to slow down Atlanta’s Paul Millsap in Games 3 and 4.)

This could be the year Smart takes that next step. But as it stands now, he’ll still likely be doing it as the first man off Brad Stevens’ bench. And that’s OK with him. 

“If that’s what this team needs me to do, then that’s the role I’ll take,” Smart said Monday during media day. “With the absence of Evan, he’s going to be missed here. The things he brought to the team, he created his own jump shot. He created for others. Everybody else understands the role that he left us with and we have to step up as a team, I have step up as an individual, but this team has to step up. And there’s a lot of players.

“We’ve got guys coming off the bench like Terry Rozier, who’s been real good in the offseason. And as you guys saw in the Summer League, he’s been playing his butt off. Everybody has to step up and everybody understands that.” 

Smart knows full well that to reach his full potential as a sixth man, he needs to work on his offense, in particular his shooting, something he repeated Monday during media day. 

“My decision-making, coming off ball-screens, working to get into the lane and finishing. And as everybody knows, still working on my jump shot and becoming a more consistent shooter,” Smart said. “As I get in the paint, different looks [coaches] have been thrown at me. Working with these coaches, they throw different looks. If a guy does this, make this read. This read is that read what this happens and things like that.

“It feels good to be back, to be around this organization, these players, this group of guys and this coaching staff. We’ve got us some new additions to the team, with Al and Gerald and those guys. It feels good to have them out there. I think I speak everybody when I say we’re excited and I’m excited to get it started [Tuesday].” 

With the key additions and the team relatively healthy coming into camp, Smart senses the heightened expectations. 

“The goals for this team is: The sky is the limit. As long as we work hard and do what we’re supposed to do and stay together, anything is possible is the words of the great KG,” Smart said, channeling Kevin Garnett’s spirited yell after Game 6 in 2008.

Smart insists that the Celtics are in position to challenge the defending champion Cavaliers. 

“We’re right there. We have the right pieces,” Smart said. “Any team can be beat on any given night. We’ve just got to come out, as long as we believe in ourselves and stick together, anything is possible for this team.”

Smart also believes there’s a tremendous focus and sense of purpose, even with so many new faces. At just 22, Smart is in a position where he can start to take some leadership of the team, even with the likes of Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Al Horford on board. 

“First off, this team understands and knows, and we’ve been talking about it, this is a new season,” Smart said. “We haven’t done anything yet. We’ve got to continue to stay hungry. When we start getting complacent and listening to the outside and everything and what everybody’s projections say, and you start letting it creep in and you start letting things come in and interrupting what you’re trying to do. Like I said, we have to stick together and keep our mindset right and stay hungry.

“Something that’s unacceptable for this team is not sticking together, allowing distractions to get in and interrupt what we’re trying to do,” Smart said. “That’s what every team will tell you trying go for that banner, that next one. We have the right pieces to get it. The question is: Are we going to keep doing the right things from Day 1, from Game 1 to Game 79, 82 and into the playoffs. Are we going to continue to do the right things?”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

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 tenth 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.”

Was last season a success?

“We got better. But I think there are things we can hopefully continue to improve. For me it’s about continuing what we’re trying to improve.”

Speaking of Belichick, the Patriots coach praised him on Sunday. A day later, Stevens said his conversation with the Patriots coach was enlightening on several levels. 

“I think that coaches – and I’ve said this when Pop [Gregg Popovich] said stuff, I think they’re really nice when asked.  I haven’t taught any of those guys anything. I think the reality is that I really enjoy being around high achievers, people that strive for continuous growth and are always challenged to meet the next challenge,” Stevens said. “And I think that whether it’s in coaching or whether it’s in business or higher education, whatever the case may be, those type of people inspire me. So I will eat up whatever they’re telling me. And I certainly appreciate Bill’s willingness to open his doors to me and let me learn from him, as others, and I’ve gotten a chance to be better by being around.”

Will all that knowledge add up to Stevens leading his team deep in the playoffs this season? 

“So, again, you’re talking about success in different terms than I think about that,” Stevens said. “And I know you have to talk about it, and ultimately I think it’s easy to talk about in terms of objective numbers. I understand that. I understand the desire to write about it or argue about it, whatever the case may be.

“But it’s not where I am. We have to work on getting good for practice tomorrow so we do it right so that we can start to build to have a chance to even be in that discussion. I mean, at the end of the day it’s hard to make the playoffs and it’s hard to be good against the best teams. It’s hard to be good against every team in this league. Every team is capable of playing exceptional basketball on a given night. That’s why you have to prepare to do so as much as you can.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Isaiah Thomas has made lifestyle changes that he thinks will carry over to the court (Josue Pavon/WEEI.com)

Isaiah Thomas has made lifestyle changes that he hopes will carry over to the court. (Josue Pavon/WEEI.com)

WALTHAM — Isaiah Thomas has been in the NBA long enough to know just how important health and conditioning is during the offseason. At Monday’s media day, he told reporters how the changes he’s made will make him a better player this year.

Entering his sixth season, Thomas sounded like a seasoned veteran in discussing the changes he’s made in his eating habits and sleeping pattern as he aims to extend his career to the age of 40.

“I changed my diet,” Thomas said. “I hired a personal chef back home, and I’m eating vegetables for the first time since when my dad used to make me. I eliminated fast food. You guys have heard it before — I want to play until I’m 40, and I know it starts with little things like that. Last week I got in contact with Dr. Z [Charles Czeisler] over there at Harvard, the ‘Sleep Doctor.’ I’m trying to learn how to sleep longer and sleep more. Not only am I going to eat healthier, I’m going to get a lot of sleep. Instead of watching TV and playing video games, I have to learn to get more sleep. That will help me be a better basketball player. Those are the little things I am trying to figure out. The older I get, the more I’m trying to figure those little things out to be a better basketball player. It’s not all on the court.”

Thomas also admitted that he’s still bitter over last year’s first-round playoff exit against the Hawks. He explained how he’s never given so much effort on the basketball court like he did in the playoffs, and that he’s using last season as motivation heading into the 2016-17 season.

“Whole offseason that’s all I thought about,” Thomas said. “Losing that series left a bad taste in all of our mouths. We want to get past that first round. I do, I know that. I want to go further. We have a good team, and people to make that happen. Last season hurt me especially because that’s the first time I can say I gave everything I had. I had no more left in me, and that’s why I hurt so much. Having everybody back for another year, we’re looking for bigger and better things. What that may be we don’t know, but hopefully we can jell faster than we did last year with the additions we have on this team.”

Despite the Celtics being bounced out of the playoffs in back-to-back appearances, Thomas believes the C’s are good enough to compete against the best teams in the league. And he is confident his team can reach new heights this season.

“We’re not that far away — not a championship, we’re not that close — but we know we can compete with everyone in this league, whether it’s Cleveland or Golden State,” Thomas stated. “Those top teams. We know we’re right there. We just have to put it all together. We know we’re a special group. There’s a lot of anticipation and expectations, but we’re not worried about that. We’re worried about things we can control. We have to be ourselves, whatever is your role do it at the highest possible level. We have a great group of guys.”

Entering his third season with the Celtics, Thomas is very familiar with the city’s passion for hard work and knows that one’s effort can go a long way when you’re playing for the C’s.

“Once you put on that Celtics uniform you know people aren’t satisfied with getting to the first round or whatever. They’ve seen greatness,” Thomas explained. “They have all those championships for a reason. Once you come on this practice court or go play in the Garden, if you play every game like it’s your last, then people in this city and community are going to love you.”

Blog Author: 
Josue Pavon

WALTHAM — All the Celtics of recent memory have heard is that they’re just missing “that” piece. There’s no exact definition of what that piece is, but there is belief that Al Horford is said piece. 

Al Horford does the rounds at Celtics Media Day. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

Al Horford does the rounds at Celtics Media Day. (David Butler II/USA Today Sports)

WALTHAM — All the Celtics of recent memory have heard is that they’re just missing “that” piece. There’s no exact definition of what that piece is, but there is belief that Al Horford is said piece. 

He can run the floor, play defense in the low post, step out and shoot 3-pointers, play strong around the rim and grab rebounds in the process — nearly all things the C’s needed to address this offseason. And while his addition came at the cost of $113 million over four seasons, it appears that if he continues the trend that has defined a successful nine-year career, he will help the Celtics take another step forward.

“He’s going to open the floor for everybody,” said Avery Bradley during the Celtics’ Media Day on Monday. “He’s a great player on the offensive end, defensive end. He knows how to play the game of basketball. To have him be a part of this team, I’m just happy about it.”

Added Celtics president Danny Ainge (who was exceptionally giddy throughout his press conference), “As much as anything he’s been very consistent over his career. Shooting the ball, playing multiple positions. He’s a guy that fits in with our system with big guys handling the ball a lot.”

With the hefty contract he’s signed, and the track record he’s had in his career, the 30-year-old Dominican is being fancied as the shepherd to take the Celtics to the promise land.

And while it may be steep to put that all on Horford — especially on a team-centric squad like the Celtics — his all-around skill should fit into the Celtics’ system.

“We’re not asking Al to be anything more than him,” said head coach Brad Stevens. “He’s a good fit for how we play on offense. He’s a good fit for how we play on defense. He’s a professional. He has a routine. He works hard at his craft. He’s a guy that guys can follow by example.”

The decision to come to Boston started even before the free agency period for Horford. In fact, it came well before this season even ended.

“Even though I was with Atlanta last year and we beat the Celtics in the playoffs, I was very impressed with how hard the guys played, and how good the team could be under Coach Stevens,” Horford said. “What I saw, it just really intrigued me.

“In the free agency process — at beginning I would say I was really comfortable with Atlanta. As time went on and I met with the Celtics, it just became real to me. Looking at my career, going into my 10th year, I wanted to be able to be a part of something special and win a championship. And with the type of guys that we have, we have that opportunity.”

Horford noted that the banners hanging amongst the rafters at the TD Garden have always been overwhelming, even since he was a rookie. Tucked away in the corner of the Celtics’ practice facility in Waltham, Horford sat along the 17 banners that preceded, while each scoreboard and shot clock illuminated with the number 18.

Leading up to this moment, however, he could tell something was different even during the postseason. While fans nearly booed Dennis Schroeder out of Atlanta for a spat with Isaiah Thomas, the same people were surprisingly benevolent with the arguably then-Hawks’ most valuable player.

That was for a good reason.

“The fans here, they can get pretty intense,” Horford said. “But I did notice that the fans would say, ‘You’re going to be here next year’, things like that. I did notice that people weren’t coming at me like in the past. It’s a very smart fanbase and they were kind of aware of the possibility, so they caught me a break.”

In the meantime, Horford is just going to get going Tuesday, see how he fits in and not try and build Rome in a day.

“We have some great leaders here already,” Horford said. “I want to be able to help our team grow, get acclimated as fast as I can, and just help us be a better team. I want us to grow. I took a chance on coming here, and I believe in the guys we have here, the organization, and the potential that there is here.”

Blog Author: 
Logan Mullen

WALTHAM — Danny Ainge had the chance to pay tribute to a pair of all-time greats that combined to bring home one title to Boston and nearly another. 

Hours before Monday’s media day in Waltham, 38-year-old Paul Pierce announced that this season would be his last in the NBA after 19 seasons. 

“Well, first of all, I think Paul could play for a few more years, but I’ll believe it when I see it,” the Celtics president of basketball operations said. “Paul loves the game. He loves basketball and I think that it’s hard to see him walking away. I know there will come a time when he will. He’s one of the great Celtics of all-time, he’s a great competitor.

“The thing that stands out more to me than anything about Paul — after all the great shots and great plays and everything else he did here — was just watching him, sitting right outside my office, seeing him come in at midnight and work on his game, work on his conditioning. He really loved the game and took it very seriously.”

Ainge was also asked about Kevin Garnett, who announced his retirement last week. 

“I think I said in a statement that KG had as big an impact as anybody that I’ve been around in an organization,” Ainge said. “I think the thing that stands out the most to me about KG is just his team-first mentality. He never wanted it to be about KG. He never wanted his individual success to trump team success. He lived that in his day-to-day practice, and that’s something that I’ll remember about him.”

Will the numbers 34 and 5 wind up in the rafters? 

“That’s for future discussion,” Ainge said. “I won’t answer that yet because we haven’t really discussed it internally. That’s a decision that Wyc and Rich will ultimately make. You guys know the answers to those anyway. We’ll just let the other people make those decisions, make those calls.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

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.