Blakely: Celtics embracing position-less basketball


Blakely: Celtics embracing position-less basketball

NEWPORT, R.I. – Celtics coach Brad Stevens was recently asked about rookie Jayson Tatum and how he was adjusting to playing in the frontcourt.

“I didn’t even know he was playing in the frontcourt,” Stevens said. “If we have to put a number on it, he’ll play anywhere from two (shooting guard) to four (power forward).”

Stevens’ response to the question says a lot about how he views his roster which consists of players whose height ranges from 5-foot-11 (Shane Larkin) to 6-10 (Al Horford and Aron Baynes).

But in looking at those three players who are at the opposite ends of the size spectrum, each of them has the ability to play multiple positions as well. 


And if there’s one takeaway from what this Boston Celtics team is steadily morphing into before our eyes, it’s that they want to put players on the floor who can not only impact the game in a multitude of ways but also have the flexibility to play different positions. 

Figuring out the best combinations to play that brand of basketball is near the top of the to-do list for the Celtics during training camp which has been held thus far at Salve Regina University. 

Playing position-less basketball is not only popular among teams these days, but also plays off the strengths of this Celtics roster which has a few more multi-positional players than we saw last season when they finished with the best record in the East (53-29) and advanced to the Eastern Conference finals before losing in five games to Cleveland. 

“If you look at our group now,” Stevens said, “obviously we got a little bit taller when you look at (Gordon) Hayward and (Jayson) Tatum, added to that group that are versatile, kind of swings that can play a bunch of different positions and obviously Marcus Morris when he gets here.”

Even though the talent might be different, the approach to playing the game remains the same for Boston. 

“It doesn’t change how we play,” Stevens said. “We play pretty similar, regardless.”

But with a team that’s long on youth and versatility, playing more position-free basketball plays more to the strengths of this roster. 

“It fits me perfectly,” said Celtics wing Jaylen Brown. 

At 6-7, Brown has played primarily small forward but has shown the ability to defend shooting guards at times, as well as some power forwards. 

“Growing up, I never considered myself to have a position; I’m a basketball player,” Brown said. “Like my trainer always said, ‘I train basketball players, not positions.’ That’s exactly what Brad is getting at, to play multiple positions, to guard multiple positions, fly around … that’s what makes us a better team.”


Does Kyrie-LeBron feud have it roots in a high-five left hanging?


Does Kyrie-LeBron feud have it roots in a high-five left hanging?

Kyrie Irving said earlier this week before his return to Cleveland that he wasn’t about to detail the reasons behind his request for a trade that sent him to the Celtics. 

A story from Cavaliers beat writer Jason Lloyd on TheAthletic.com suggests that the roots of the feud may stem from an incident between Irving’s father, Drederick, and one of LeBron James’ lifelong friends, who works for the Cavs. 


Drederick Irving played basketball at Boston University, was at one time the school’s all-time leading scorer and is in BU’s athletic hall of fame. Irving cited his father’s influence at his introductory Celtics press conference and now wears the same No. 11 his father did with the Terriers.


From Lloyd’s story: 

One day during the three years LeBron James and Kyrie Irving spent as teammates, Drederick Irving was exiting the Cavs’ locker room when Randy Mims was entering. Mims, one of James’ lifelong friends and an official Cavs employee, reached out his hand to slap Drederick five. But Dred, Irving’s father, pulled his own arm back and refused the gesture.

When James later asked Irving about the incident and if there was something wrong, Irving said his father believed they shouldn’t be “fraternizing with the enemy.” Three sources with knowledge of the exchange independently confirmed it to The Athletic, revealing just a glimmer of light into a fractured relationship that both men hid well in their time together.

An ESPN.com story after the trade chronicled some of the same friction, noting it was one of several factors leading to Irving's split from the Cavs: 

But there were ancillary issues that bothered Irving, too, such as how James’ good friend Randy Mims had a position on the Cavs’ staff and traveled on the team plane while none of Irving’s close friends were afforded the same opportunity.

Irving didn’t deny Lloyd’s account, telling the Athletic:  “I could care less. You can write it. It’s on you, kid. It’s your validity, baby. It’s just my dad. It’s not me.”


Stevens says Hayward’s ‘spirits were pretty positive’ after surgery

Stevens says Hayward’s ‘spirits were pretty positive’ after surgery

PHILADELPHIA – Thursday was a travel day for the Celtics, but part of the day for Brad Stevens was spent visiting with Gordon Hayward, who underwent successful left ankle surgery that’s expected to keep him out for the rest of the season.
“He’s obviously post-surgery, having some of the post-surgery challenges of pain and everything else,” Stevens said. “The surgery went great. His spirits were pretty positive.”


He is, all things considered, in a very good place.
Stevens and the Celtics plan to do all they can to keep Hayward there as he now finds himself in the early stages of rehabilitation.
“We talked a little about how to approach the next five months, with maintaining that positivity in different ways to stay engaged, different ways to approach this, to attack this. He was ready to get started with his rehab the minute he got out of surgery.”
Eager to help, Stevens reached out to good friend Frank Vogel.
Vogel, who now coaches the Orlando Magic, was the coach of the Indiana Pacers when Paul George went down with a season-ending knee injury while playing for Team USA in 2014.

“It’s really important to just be active, to be as active as you can,” Stevens said. “I called Frank Vogel, the day we drove to the gym to play Milwaukee, just asked him what are some of the things Paul did in his year off that you would encourage? What are some of the things that we should look at?”
Among the tips he received was to work with Hayward on form shooting while sitting in a chair.
“Hey, he’s gonna be the best guy shooting out of a chair with his left hand, right hand, perfect his form,” Stevens said of Hayward. “Let’s have fun, let’s come up with creative ways to attack this.”