As the season has progressed, the B, R, A, D, S, T, E, V and N keys on my laptop have been receiving extra abuse, and that’s not likely to change, especially on days where Celtics Hub editor emeritus Zach Lowe talks one-on-one with Boston’s new coach for Grantland. Stevens had a ton of interesting insights into the season so far, and Lowe asked all of the right questions, but here are a couple of particularly relevant excerpts from the piece, but go read the entire thing.
Lowe: Was there a “Come to Jesus” talk with Jordan Crawford? [...]
Stevens: I never had it.
Stevens: It was more about talking collectively about: “What do we all do well?” And then thinking about what our teammates on the floor do well, and how we all can make them better at what they do. There are very few guys in the NBA who don’t have things they don’t do well.Some of the better players don’t have very many, but everybody is here because they have a strength. So you just try to find your strengths and soar with them.
[Crawford] has done a good job of recognizing his strengths and recognizing his teammates’ strengths.
The best coaches, as we said Monday, help players maximize the talent they already have. The fact that Stevens recognizes that just about every NBA player has things he is good at is a big part of the reason why we are seeing much of the roster maximized. He has spent the time doing the requisite research and discovering what everyone is good at, and the results are showing, especially for players like Avery Bradley and Jordan Crawford. For Bradley, playing point guard was not a strength, but he can be very effective as the off-ball guard. Stevens realized this quickly, and as a result, we’ve seen a much more effective Bradley for the past few weeks.
More quotes from the piece (and my apologies for the massive block quotes):
Lowe: …You’re near the top of the league in total post-ups.
Stevens: And [Brandon] Bass is posting up three times as much as he has in the past. At the end of the day, we have to use all of our strengths.
Lowe: Analytics folks say the post-up, or at least a post-up shot, is a low-efficiency play. But there’s a way to reconcile that, right?
Stevens: There are two ways to get inside-out: driving or posting.
Lowe: In other words: The post-up is more a vehicle for passing and other shots, rather than necessarily for a post-up shot itself?
Stevens: It’s a vehicle for playing inside-out. That’s right.
The exchange above is why having analytics-minded writers interviewing NBA coaches can make for a fascinating exchange. Lowe, who watches more basketball than you or I can probably comprehend, understands that post-up shots are generally considered inefficient as well as the reasoning behind the reputation. Post-up shots are often inefficient, but playing inside-out often leads to better shots. It’s rare that simply slinging the ball around the perimeter leads to an open spot-up, and it’s considerably less rare for a post player to get doubled and kick the ball out to Jeff Green or Avery Bradley open in the corner. Spot-ups are much more efficient, and posting up can create them, even if post-up shots aren’t always the most effective.
There’s a lot more in that interview, including thoughts on Jeff Green’s passing and court vision and Tommy Heinsohn’s input on the team, so I highly recommend you go read the entire thing.
If your internet has been working at any point in the past 48 hours, you may have heard that Doc Rivers is coaching his first game against the Celtics since 2004 tonight, as Boston’s reunion week continues. He talked to the media after the Clippers’ morning shootaround this morning and had nothing but very intentionally positive things to say about Boston.
“I did wish it could’ve ended better, I guess. It wasn’t like Danny (Ainge) and I were arguing or anything. It was dragged out. I don’t know if there was any way you couldn’t drag it out.
Yeah, it’s going to be hard tonight. I already told my coaches that it’s just going to be hard. You don’t spend nine years in one place and win a title and have the emotions you have toward the city and the fans and be normal when the game starts. That’s just not going to happen, at least I don’t think so. I’ve already prepared my coaches to be good coaches tonight, because it’s just going to be too tough for me.
I’m sure there will be some [booing], because they were booing when I coached. So that won’t change.”
Doc is a very emotional guy. We learned that in every press conference between 2009 and 2013 after the Celtics were eliminated from the playoffs, most notably in 2012 when he and Rondo briefly shared the podium. Tonight will probably be harder on him than it will be on the fans — as beloved as Doc was when he was here and as controversial as his exit was, it’s much easier to tune out a coach on the sidelines than it is to tune out ex-players getting big minutes like KG and Pierce.
That being said, Doc’s reception tonight will be pretty interesting, and we all know why. The Celtics won their last championship behind his Ubuntu philosophy and may have been robbed of two more by injuries in 2009 and 2010. But Doc’s exit from Boston was messy, and it was aggravated by the apparent hearsay arguments that occurred afterward with Danny Ainge.
One way or another, the franchise is in a good place moving forward. Stevens was clearly the right hire for this team, Ainge is putting the franchise on the right track for rebuilding and Doc is coaching a quasi-contender in Los Angeles (it’s tough to take the Clips too seriously with OKC and San Antonio looming as potential playoff matchups). Everyone is happy. If I were at the Garden tonight, I’d cheer Doc, thank him for his time with the team and let it go. Some things just aren’t worth holding a grudge.
After the Celtics set fire to the New York Knicks on Sunday, Carmelo Anthony’s rumored recruitment of Rajon Rondo looked pretty ridiculous, and both players denied the allegations yesterday.
From the Boston Globe:
“C’mon man. In my book, that’s tampering,” Anthony told reporters when asked about it.
Rondo also dismissed Smith’s comments.
“People talk, media talk, people make up rumors, people run with them,” Rondo said after the Celtics’ shootaround Tuesday before they played the Brooklyn Nets.
“That’s about it. I haven’t spoken to him. He ain’t contacted me. It’s just rumors.”
When asked if Boston is home and he is a Celtic, Rondo said, “I’m a Celtic right now.”
This is pretty clearly a non-story, the kind of thing someone whips up when they are poking around on the NBA Trade Machine and start wondering which superstars might work well together, so we won’t spend too much time talking about it.
What we will briefly touch on is Rondo’s quote in the next paragraph. This is probably just Rondo being contractually correct in his answers, but “right now” is an ominous phrase. If Rondo is gone after his contract expires, we can likely blame Ainge for dangling him in various trade rumors over the past few years. As engaged as Rondo has been with the team while rehabbing, it’s tough to imagine that the constant swirling rumors haven’t gotten to him a bit, and it doesn’t seem likely that any assurances from Ainge would assuage his concern going into a potential new deal.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.