“Brad Being Brad”: Stevens and the Celtics Down the Heat

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Seven games into his NBA career, Brad Stevens is proving he belongs. Sure, it is an extremely small sample size, but the Celtics have been competitive in every single game this season.

Franchise cornerstones, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, were shipped to Brooklyn over the off-season. Rajon Rondo, easily the Celtics best player, is still unavailable–recovering from an ACL tear he suffered in January of last season. Last night’s starting lineup? Avery Bradley, Jordan Crawford, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, and rookie center, Kelly Olynyk. Sure, they are all NBA players, but they are not All-Stars by any means.

This should be a big problem for first-time NBA coach, Brad Stevens, right?

Wrong, and here’s why.

Coach Stevens never had the most talented group at Butler, with the exception of Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack, and Matt Howard. Yet, he was able to guide a team, who many picked to lose in the first round, to back-to-back NCAA championship games in 2010 and 2011.

Why? Team basketball centered on defensefundamentals, and taking good shots. This is exactly what his Celtics are doing right now. The season started off slow for Stevens–losing his first four games as an NBA head coach–a losing streak he never experienced while coaching at Butler. The 0-4 start led to various writers and fans discussing the Celtics “tanking”–in hopes of getting the first overall pick in the draft and taking current Kansas Jayhawk, Andrew Wiggins.

However, Stevens was not listening, and he has led the Celtics to three wins in a row–including a jaw-dropping, buzzer-beating win last night over the defending champs, Miami Heat. At 3-4, the Celtics are seventh in the Eastern Conference. Yeah, I understand there are 75 games left in the regular season, but as long as they can hang around until Rondo comes back, they have a good shot at making the playoffs–what would be a huge success for Stevens given the expectations around Boston coming into the season.

The Celtics are 26th in the league in points scored per game with 92.7. This is to be expected given their lack of scoring fire power on the roster. However, they are 7th best in the NBA in points allowed with teams scoring just 95.1 points per game against them. As the season goes along, his players will keep buying to buy into his system, and both the offense and the defense will get better.

Revisiting Last Night’s Win Against the Heat:

After Dwyane Wade’s boneheaded miscue at the free throw line, Boston had 0.6 seconds left–down 110 to 108. After the timeout, the ball was moved up past half-court for the in-bounds play–putting the Celtics in perfect position to get a chance to tie or even win the game.

Courtesy of the Boston Globe, here is a quote from Stevens regarding the last-second play, “I had that play written down, but I have never run it before. I have run some variations of it but by then, you are free-styling it a little bit because you don’t know who will be in the game.”

As we all can remember from Butler, Stevens was an in-bounds play genius, and this play was no different. Set up the game-winning shot to go to the player being guarded by the best defender in the league, LeBron James? No problem. A perfectly placed, off-ball back screen freed Jeff Green up just enough to get up his shot before the buzzer. A beautiful play, a beautiful pass, a beautiful shot, and a beautiful result.

Celtics 111Heat 110

Stevens’ response to buzzer-beater?

image (4)

A typical “Brad Being Brad” expression. It resembled his reaction after Roosevelt Jones’ buzzer-beater against #8 Gonzaga in Hinkle Fieldhouse last season.

Regarding the win against the Heat (also courtesy of the Boston Globe), “It’s one win. I hate to say it like that, but it’s one win.”

You’re right, Coach Stevens. It is just “one win”, but it is a signature win, and it even has Boston’s biggest fan/critic on board:

Until next time…

Joe

For more updates, follow me on Twitter: @stlCupofJoe

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Boston Celtics Hire Brad Stevens, Ronald Nored; Hope to Sign Gordon Hayward?

Photo Credit: Associated Press/Mark J.

Photo Credit: Associated Press/Mark J.

Boston Celtics Rebuilding Process

By NBA standards, the Celtics were old last season. When star point guard, Rajon Rondo, went down with a torn ACL, most fans in Boston realized that it was time. It was time to move forward and start the rebuilding process of one of the most storied NBA franchises ever.

Long-time Celtics, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, were either going to retire or needed to be traded in hopes of bringing in a haul of draft picks to help with the rebuilding process. That is exactly what the Celtics did, but let’s break it down, step-by-step, to see exactly what happened in Boston this summer.

Rebuilding Step #1:

After Doc Rivers was sent to Los Angeles to coach the Clippers in exchange for a first-round draft pick, the Boston Celtics officially started “rebuild mode.” Well, on July 3rd, Danny Ainge implemented step one of the rebuilding process by hiring one of the most successful college coaches, Brad Stevens out of Butler University. Stevens, a fresh face in the NBA, hopes to bring his strong basketball IQ to Boston and have a much more successful NBA career than his predecessors, Rick Pitino and John Calipari.

11-time NBA champion head coach, Phil Jackson, took to Twitter to speak his mind on the signing by Ainge, and here is what he had to say:

philjackson

Thus, the Celtics got their man as head coach, but that was just step one of many moves that needed to be made this off-season.

Rebuilding Step #2:

On June 18th, Drew Cannon, while watching the NBA playoffs, posted the following tweet:

cannon

Little did he know that less than a month later, he would be employed by Boston Celtics.

On July 9th, it was announced that Cannon was following Coach Stevens and joining the Celtics staff. This past season, Cannon, just 23 years old, sat on the bench for the Butler Bulldogs. Before the game, during the game, and after the game, Cannon used mathematical equations and analyzed numbers to help break down what was happening on the court for the Bulldogs.

According to Stevens, Cannon was an “invaluable resource” for Butler–using in-depth research to help with starting lineups and player substitutions throughout the game. This season, Cannon will be doing much of the same, but it will be on a much bigger stage.

Rebuilding Step #3:

On July 12th, the Celtics officially completed the blockbuster trade that sent Garnett, Pierce, Jason Terry, and DJ White to the Brooklyn Nets. In exchange, the Celtics received five players, three first-round draft picks (2014, 2016, 2018), the right to swap first-round picks in 2017, and a trade exception worth nearly $10 million.

Thus, the roster underwent a drastic overhaul with MarShon Brooks being the most important player coming to the Celtics. The reason for the trade was to get younger, clear salary, and get draft picks for the team to utilize in the future.

Rebuilding Step #4:

A little over two weeks after the trade, it was made official that Coach Stevens was adding another Butler person to his Celtics staff. This person was one of his prized recruits in 2008. This person was the team’s point guard and best defender while at Butler, and he played an integral role in helping the Bulldogs reach back-to-back National title games.

This person, by now you already know, is Ronald Nored. Stevens will use Nored in the player development role for the Celtics. One of his main responsibilities will be developing players on the Celtics NBA Development League team, the Maine Red Claws.

Thus, if you include the hiring of Micah Shrewsberry, Coach Stevens has now surrounded himself with three Butler assistants. Four Butler guys in Boston is nice and all, but why not add one more to the mix next summer as well? The Celtics just may have that opportunity next July when a budding NBA star officially becomes a free agent.

Thus…

Rebuilding Step #5?

In 2010, the Utah Jazz drafted Gordon Hayward with the ninth overall pick in the NBA Draft. At the time, he was primarily known for this last second shot against the Duke Blue Devils in the 2010 NCAA Tournament title game.

What most NBA fans did not know was that he was actually a highly skilled small forward with the capability of scoring from all areas on the court. Also, given his 6’8″ athletic frame, he is fully capable of guarding just about anybody–from shooting guards all the way up to power forwards.

Used primarily as the team’s sixth man in his rookie season, Hayward averaged just 5.4 points and 1.9 rebounds per game. However, he has played a more integral role over the past two seasons–averaging around 30 minutes per game. Last year was Hayward’s best year yet–averaging 14.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 3.0 assists per game.

If you still are not convinced by Hayward’s ability at the NBA level, you may find it helpful to watch these highlights of his 22-point game against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers from a couple seasons ago.

Well, Hayward is in the final year of his rookie contract with the Utah Jazz. Thus, his future with the team is unclear. Based on what the front office has said about him, it is obvious that they want to bring him back to Utah via a long-term contract. However, based on the moves being made in Boston this summer, this may be just a little bit more difficult than they originally would have thought.

Coach Stevens is considered one of the most influential figures in Hayward’s basketball career, and Nored was in his same recruiting class in 2008. Thus, will these two hires by the Celtics be enough to convince Hayward to leave Utah for Boston? This is still to be determined, but the Celtics are definitely making all the right moves at this point.

Concluding Thoughts:

Even if Hayward chooses to stay in Utah or signs with a team not named the Celtics, it is still nice to see that Stevens is surrounding himself with Butler people. Nored and Cannon will not only help Stevens be successful as the Boston head coach, but they will also help expand the Butler University brand as well.

In an 82-game season plus pre-season and possibly playoffs, I bet that announcers and analysts will bring up Butler, their NCAA Tournament runs, and the proverbial “Butler Way” thousands of times, if not more.

Thus, as I wrote in my previous Butler article, Coach Stevens gave so much to the University from 2000 through June 2013. Based on the man that he is, it is only fitting for him to continue helping Butler, even when he is exactly 950 miles away.

Stevens was able to get two banners raised in his time as head coach at Butler (shown below). Let’s hope he can go one step further and get one of the champions variety–the 18th NBA Championship for the Boston Celtics.

Photo Credit: Paul Swaney

Photo Credit: Paul Swaney

Go Dawgs!

Until next time…

Joe

Follow me on Twitter: @stlCupOfJoe