For those of you intentionally avoiding the crowds on Black Friday as well as those of you still digesting turkey, we have some thoughts on Brad Stevens’ offense and its connection to Butler as well as Courtney Lee’s injury and its effect on the rotation. We also talk about the complications in Ainge’s and Stevens’ relationship in a rebuilding year and cry alongside Jason Kidd over spilled soda.
Michael Lewis, an assistant coach at Butler, has been watching the Celtics extensively, according to a story by the Boston Globe’s Baxter Holmes. What he sees reminds him quite a bit of the offenses Stevens ran at Butler.
From the story:
According to Lewis, the Bulldogs ran a ball-screen motion offense with a ton of set plays under Stevens. On defense, he said, the idea was “21-D,” which meant they wanted to “guard you extremely hard from 21 feet and in.”
Lewis also said that most of what Butler ran under Stevens was based, at least in part, on what NBA teams were running.
“He picked up a lot of stuff from the NBA,” Lewis said. “When we were on the road playing on a Saturday, he was in a hotel room on a Friday night watching an NBA game. And he’d come to breakfast Saturday with a new play that he thought could work.
There’s a lot of interesting stuff in here which will merit a playbook post at some point, especially the idea of “21-D.” For one thing, it would be “23’9-in-some-places-and-22-in-other-places-D” in the NBA, since (as Chris Forsberg of ESPN Boston wrote here) the Celtics have the best 3-point defense in the league thus far. But Stevens seems to be pulling it off — Boston is working very hard on the defensive end.
Presumably, this would be similar to Doc Rivers’ defensive principles in that the emphasis would be getting back on defense, but it differs in that Stevens seems to be okay with players going for offensive rebounds (thus, essentially, sacrificing the possibility of a full-court press). That’s fairly normal for the NBA — occasionally an on-ball defender like Bradley will make life difficult for an opposing point guard, but NBA ball-handlers and athletes are usually too good and too composed for a full-court press to be effective.
We have also seen a variety of set plays this season, including ones which looked quite unique to Boston’s specific opponent — attacking the other team where they are most vulnerable. We’ll come back to that particular quote at some point this season, but for now, it’s certainly not a surprise that a highly intelligent, hard-working coach like Stevens is incorporating influences from wherever he can.
When the Brooklyn trade happened and Boston got all of the Nets’ flotsam and jetsam as well as every Brooklyn pick for the next decade, the only player I thought might have a chance of sticking with the Celtics was Marshon Brooks. Humphries was going to be too expensive, Bogans was too valuable as non-guaranteed contract, Wallace’s contract — at $10 million per year — is worth about $9 million per year more than his on-court value, but Brooks was young and moderately productive in two seasons with the Nets. That’s the type of player likely to be with the Celtics in two years, not currently productive players like Brandon Bass or Humphries.
However, with Courtney Lee’s re-emergence as a solid NBA role player, Brooks has found his playing time cut even further than it was in his last season with the Nets. But Lee is hurt, and Chris Forsberg is wondering if this is Brooks’ chance to distinguish himself.
We’ll get a better idea of Courtney Lee’s injury timetable in the coming days, but you can’t help but feel for the sixth-year guard. Lee was one of Boston’s most efficient scorers this season, averaging 7.6 points on 51 percent shooting over 16.9 minutes per game.
If he misses time, you have to wonder if it opens a door for MarShon Brooks to get some floor time.
Let’s be clear about something: Brooks hasn’t gotten minutes, but he hasn’t really earned them either. Brooks is shooting 23 percent and has a player efficiency rating of 1.4. But that 23 percent is in just 13 field goal attempts so far this season. What’s more, Brooks can do something no other player on the Celtics has shown the ability to do: Break down a defense off the dribble. Isolation plays will never be efficient, but they are necessary at times, as we see when a Celtic wing crashes into the defense and commits an offensive foul, or when Avery Bradley comes off yet another screen for yet another one-dribble pull-up. Brooks has a good handle, and that can lead to layups. If he can show flashes of efficiency (and especially if he can get himself to the free throw line, something he hasn’t done nearly enough so far in his career), he may earn some of Lee’s minutes.
For two competitive people trying to get a franchise back to championship contention as quickly as possible, this type of season can be straining. Fortunately, Ainge and Stevens seem to be handling things smoothly.
As such, Ainge is well aware he has saddled his new coach with a Rubik’s Cube of a lineup to twist and mold.
“It’s not a very balanced roster,” said Ainge, the president of basketball operations who, over the summer, took the blowtorch to a well-crafted rotation that had aged beyond realistic hope of contention. “I like the players on the roster, but it’s not very balanced.”
“I look at it day by day,’ Stevens said, “with the idea of a long-term, big-picture culture — you know, how we want to make sure we operate in practice, how we want to support each other. The team stuff is really important.
“(Culture) is a long-term thing as well as a short-term. You’re not going to get everything you want in the short term, but you’re not going to build anything worth a darn without it. Those things are important in both terms, but I’m looking more day to day than that.”
We’ve talked about this quite a bit already, but a big part of the value of this season is allowing Stevens to develop not only a good team culture, but the ability to win at the NBA level. It’s a challenge with the current roster, but a necessary one for a first-year coach. Losses are big for this squad in the pursuit of Wiggins/Parker/Randle/Gordon/Exum/you get the idea, but wins are an important part of the learning experience and culture building process for Stevens and players like Sullinger and Bradley who might be here for the long haul.
Also: “You’re not going to build anything worth a darn” is somehow the most Brad Stevens thing I’ve ever heard. Golly gee.
We’d run an update on the Nets here, but it’s too depressing. There’s very little chemistry on the court even with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, and even when Williams and Lopez return, this team looks completely out of sorts. One would like to assume they’ll turn it around and make a run, but we aren’t seeing signs of life as of yet.
Meanwhile, Jason Kidd just took a hit financially. The NBA fined him $50,000…for dropping his soda.
From USA Today Sports:
The league said the fine was “for intentionally spilling a drink on the floor to delay the game.”
With eight seconds remaining and the Nets with no timeouts left, Kidd subbed in Mirza Teletovic for Tyshawn Taylor. As Taylor headed to the bench, he bumped into Kidd, spilling Kidd’s soda on the court.
According to amateur lip-readers, Kidd said, “Hit me,” to Taylor. In a season of woe for Kidd, it may have been his best coaching move this season.
Unfortunately for Brooklyn, Kidd’s getting-a-timeout tactic was more effective than his getting-three-points tactic — Pierce missed a 3-pointer which would have tied the game, and the Nets fell to 4-11.
Kidd may not be long for a head coach’s role, but he should get at least a couple more games tacked on for the sheer entertainment value of that little stunt.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.