A bit of breaking news for you guys, from us here at Celtics Hub: Brad Stevens is pretty good at coaching, and advance scouts are starting to take notice.
Ian Thomsen, on SI.com, has a great feature up on several topics around the NBA, including the Detroit Pistons’ big players, but on the second page of the article, an advance scout breaks down what teams see in Stevens early in the season.
Some outtakes from the scout (long block quotes alert):
They play hard and they play the way they have to with their people. There are no real post-up players on that team, and not looking to put it in the post and gives them more freedom. So it’s a lot of ball movement, attacking with the dribble, pick and roll and dribble-handoffs. […]
I haven’t seen him go off on the referees at all. There have been a couple of instances where he’s been pretty calm even though it was a bad call against him, and the referees I talk to respect him — they think he’s good for the league. […]
The sets they run are more read-and-react type things than the normal execution of go from point A to B and then go on with this. He’s got terminology of actions. But he’s not going to play the two-man game or three-man game to see what the defense is going to give him. Instead he’ll run an action and leave it to his players to read the defense.
There’s plenty more, including the scout’s questions on Rondo’s role when he returns, but let’s unpack those quotes a little bit.
First, the scout points out the motion Boston runs on every possession. The Celtics aren’t exclusively running basic NBA sets, but they are running variations — utilizing the PnR and dribble-handoffs to generate penetration while moving both with and off the ball. Not unlike Stevens’ teams at Butler, they have to compensate for a lack of talent, which they do by never standing still offensively and playing to their strengths. Sullinger can shoot with range? Let’s have him take 3-pointers. Crawford can make tough shots? Allow him to take them without penalty. There are athletic players on this squad? Let’s push the ball in transition.
It’s also interesting to note that Stevens runs action to figure out a defense instead of a two-man game. By not limiting the offense to Sullinger, Crawford and Bradley, Boston’s three best offensive weapons thus far, Stevens shows confidence in all of his players, which is probably part of why everyone has bought in so thoroughly.
Finally, Stevens is almost comically respectful with everyone, and the refs are no exception. I never believe people who think refs decide games, but it certainly can’t hurt that officials think he is good for the game.
The Celtics have an extended break due to a quirk in the scheduling, but they return on Saturday against the Cavaliers who have been .500 in their last 10 games. Cleveland’s improvement invites a depressing question: Will the Celtics win any of their next 10 games? Probably, given this team’s proclivity for winning when they shouldn’t, but 10 consecutive losses are not out of the question. Take a look at this bloodbath of an upcoming schedule:
Cleveland and Chicago are winnable games but not guarantees by any means, especially since the Cleveland game starts at 1 pm. Atlanta is notably inconsistent, but the Hawks A) are a better team and B) have been playing well lately. But the Western Conference opponents, assuming everyone shows up and takes the Celtics seriously, would not be a bad bet to run the table.
The Nets are still losing, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are still aging, and the news that Brook Lopez is going to be out hasn’t made for many happy fans or media types in Brooklyn.
Last night’s 103-86 smackdown at the hands of Indiana didn’t help matters. From Stefan Bondy at the New York Daily News:
“I think it’s getting really close to just accepting losing,” [Jason Kidd] said. “We kind of get comfortable with losing and we have to make a stand with that because when things get tough, do we give in? Most of the time right now we do.”
If things don’t turn around soon, Brooklyn is going to be out of the playoff race. That would be a disastrous result for a team skyrocketing over the luxury cap with just one pick between now and 2019.
That should roughly cover things. Happy holidays, and a merry Christmas Eve to everyone.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.