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/

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

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. 

Oct 16, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Boston Celtics center Kelly Olynyk (41) goes up for a shot and is fouled by Philadelphia 76ers forward Drew Gordon (30) during the second half at Wells Fargo Center. The Celtics defeated the Sixers 111 to 91. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Kelly Olynyk (41) played through shoulder issues in the final two months of the season. (Bill Streicher-USA Today Sports)

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. 

“Yeah, I never really got back,” said Olynyk, who was Boston’s best 3-point threat at 41 percent before the injury. “There was always pain and restrictions. I really couldn’t do anything. My shoulder was not functionable and it’s too bad. I wanted to be out there so bad to help the team and help us win but it just wasn’t in the cards.

“It was 5-6 months after the surgery. It’s been four-and-a-half right now so hopefully in the next three or four weeks, we can get out there and make something happen. We’ve just got to make sure it’s strong enough to take a hit. It’s day-to-day, week-to-week, see you how you feel, testing the strength, testing the limits and go from there.”

The additions of Al Horford, Gerald Green and draft pick Jaylen Brown has just heightened Olynyk’s anticipation for the season. That is, of course, if he doesn’t get traded before the season, a rumor that continues to circulate under the surface. 

“Yeah, you want to be out there and helping this team,” Olynyk said. “We have a great group of guys together, a great coaching staff. We have a great locker room so everybody’s coming here to do the same thing. I think we have a real shot of being great this year. I want to be back and helping as soon as I can.

“I felt like I was playing really good basketball and I felt like we were, as a team, playing really good basketball at that time, heading into the All-Star break. It was really unfortunate to go down at that time. Stuff happens, everything happens for a reason. I’m feeling stronger than ever right now so I can wait until this thing gets started.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

With Celtics training camp set to begin on Sept. 26, presents a player-by-player breakdown of the roster. The Celtics have 20 players under contract but will have to cut the roster to 15 by the start of the season.

2015-16 season 

33 games with Texas A&M: 27.3 minutes, 15.3 points, 42.5% FG, 7.2 rebounds, 0.7 steals

Jones was one of the Aggies’ go-to scorers his senior year. His long frame helped him score baskets at an efficient rate. Jones began his college career at SMU but sat out of the 2013-14 season after transferring to Texas A&M. He became a starter almost immediately after the start of his junior year and put together his best season last year. 

Projected role in 2016-17

Jones will be one of four players without guaranteed contracts at training camp and was the last man added to the 20-man roster. He most likely will spend his season in the D-League.

Biggest strength


Jones likes to score in the paint and get through the lane and finish at the rim. At 6-foot-7, he has good size as a wing forward. He likes to look for his own shot and will look to develop his outside touch. Jones shot 32.4 percent from deep his senior year, and he doubled his 3-point attempts from the year before from 2.8 to 6.8 attempts. 

Biggest weakness 


Jones is going to have to develop his speed on both ends of the floor. At the collegiate level he was able to blow past his defenders, but if he’s wants to carve out a role in the NBA he’s going to have improve his footwork. He struggled in keeping up on defense, so this definitely isn’t something Jones doesn’t already know. 

Likelihood of making final 15

Very unlikely

Jones will use the opportunity with the Celtics to showcase his talents as best he can before he heads to the D-League. 

Blog Author: 
Josue Pavon

Paul Pierce kept it short, sweet and direct. He’s retiring after this season.