Despite the seemingly constant drama surrounding the Celtics this offseason, head coach Brad Stevens has been surprisingly quiet. At the ABCD Hoops for Hope event at the TD Garden on Tuesday, Stevens opened up about a number of things that defined this offseason.
And though he’s been quiet, it hasn’t stopped him from planning constantly and paying mind to the outlook of the upcoming season.
“I think as a coach, you get away a little bit, but at some point you’re antsy to get back at it,” Stevens told reporters. “So maybe re-writing the third version of what you’re doing? I don’t know. You think about it all year. I’m just going to be ready for September 27th. Ever since the end of July I’ve had a pretty good idea of what we’re going to look like as a team and who’s going to help us in what way. It’s just a matter now of putting the pieces together and hopefully playing well”
The Celtics that fell in the first round of the 2016 postseason, though similar, will have some major changes. There was the addition of big man Al Horford, former Celtic Gerald Green, as well as No. 3 draft pick Jaylen Brown.
With such additions, there’s been incessant changes to the outlook of the roster and thus the approach the team will have to take.
“I think you’re always tweaking and changing and you’re always making adjustments,” he said, “But I think you have to put a lot of time and thought into what your new guys have done well, how that plays within what you’ve done or if you need to change some of what you’ve done to fit them better. You go through that, and you make sure you come up with a plan that fits everybody the best to bring out all of their best strengths.”
Defense was never an issue for the Celtics in 2015-16.
One of the top defensive teams in the league last season with the likes of Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley, the Celtics are poised to continue to be a defensive force.
“You know I think we have to become a lot more efficient offensively,” Stevens said. “But the problem with that is once you emphasize one thing you can’t slack in another area, so the game is always going to come down to not turning it over and get the best shot that you can and making sure that you’re a good, consistent [team] in the way that you play effort-wise and focus-wise in the defensive end of the floor, and that’s not going to change. The game is pretty simple when you break it down like that. There are little things that I think we need to do a lot better. We’re going to have to be better this season than we were to finish where we did. I think the east is better, so we’ll find out. Time will tell.”
The biggest splash the Celtics made this season was the addition of Horford. Coming off an All-Star season with the Hawks in which he put up 15.2 points per game with 7.3 boards and 1.5 blocks, the 30-year-old will address more needs than one for the C’s.
But what he’s proven over the course of his nine years of NBA service is his ability to lead, which was incredibly apparent to the Hawks during his time there, but especially noticeable to the Celtics during their dismantling at the hands of Atlanta during the postseason.
“The one thing about Al is, he’s very comfortable in who he is,” Stevens said. “And he knows that he’s going to impact the game defensively in a good way. He know’s he’s going to do it offensively in a good way. And all he’s ever really cared about is winning. I’ve said this about only a few guys before, but winning is enough for him. And he’s clearly proven that over the years, and that’s what makes him a really, really special addition for us is that he can do all those things at a very good level, scoring, defend, everything else, but he impacts others and empowers others. So we’ll see how long it takes to get him engrained in it, but he’s a good fit for how we play.”
Also flying under the radar were the signings of Green and the re-upping of center Tyler Zeller.
Since being drafted by the Celtics in 2005 and playing his first two seasons with the Celtics, Zeller has proven to be a reliable source of shooting during his nine NBA seasons that has featured him dressing for eight different teams.
With the Heat last season, Green averaged 8.9 points with a 39.2 field goal percentage.
“I’ve been a big Gerald Green fan because I’ve been scared of him, and I think that that’s a great way to figure out how good a player is when you go into the game,” Stevens said. “He’s on your scouting report maybe in a highlighted way because he can go off for a lot of points in a short amount of time. He can change the course of the game. Does he do it every night, historically? No. But he’s had moments and times where he has done that. So I think he brings a spurtability to us that we clearly needed from a scoring standpoint.”
Zeller has had fluctuations in minutes since being dealt to the Celtics entering the 2014 season. His first season with the C’s, he played in every game, starting 59, but started just three games last season in his 60 appearances.
Regardless of minutes, Zeller has often been a reliable source of rebounding and help in the low post.
“We’ve talked about Tyler’s consistency and approach regardless of minutes” Stevens said. “He’s been a great pro, and he’s had great moments here both as a player and as a teammate and we’re thrilled that he’s back.”
But a noticeable hole will be the departure of Evan Turner to the Trailblazers. Turner was sometimes a saving grace for the Celtics, but other times was a liability.
Regardless, he was a valuable six man that is leaving quite the gap as he heads west.
“Listen that’s going to be a tough role to fill. He was a heck of a player for us, he made huge plays at the end of games. He made big, big shots. His shooting percentages were not always great, but when the game was on the line and the clock was winding down, you felt like it had a good chance of going in. He made free throws late in games and he guarded two or three positions,” Stevens said. “Time will tell, we’ll find out, we’ve got a lot of guys that will get an opportunity to step up to fill his void, and it is a void. But that’s the beautiful part of our team is, we’ll find out what guys strengths are and try to piece them all together.”