Celtics

Stevens shoots down Indiana speculation: 'I’m going to be here'

Stevens shoots down Indiana speculation: 'I’m going to be here'

Death, Taxes and Brad Stevens’ rumored return to Indiana.

It’s hard to live in this world and not have all the above to contend with at some point every year.

For the umpteenth time, Stevens reiterated that he has no intensions of returning to the college game.

“I don’t speak to the rumor mill or anything else,” Stevens, an Indiana native who led Butler University to a pair of national title runner-up finishes, told reporters prior to tonight’s game at Brooklyn. “I’m made pretty clear I’m going to be here. I’ve been asked about that quite a bit. And I’ll keep saying the same thing. I’m going to be here until the Celtics decide they want to move in another direction.”

Stevens’ name has been rumored about after Indiana University fired Tom Crean earlier this week.

Even if Stevens were interested, it would be next to impossible for him to leave Boston for another college coaching job.

The Celtics signed Stevens to a six-year, $22 million contract when they hired him in 2013, and gave Stevens a three-year extension in 2016.

The Celtics have no incentive to release him from his current contract to take a college job.

Unlike when ex-coach Doc Rivers was interested in leaving the Celtics for another NBA job, colleges can’t strike a deal with the Celtics in order for them to make Stevens available.

In 2013, Boston let Rivers out of his contract to become head coach and president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Clippers. In exchange for that, the Celtics received a first-round pick that was used to select R.J. Hunter.

At the time of Stevens’ extension in June of last year, the Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge – he also received an extension at that time – thought Stevens’ new deal would end all rumors regarding Stevens’ availability to return to the college game.

“We don't have to answer any more questions about Indiana or Butler, or Duke, or North Carolina," Ainge said in June when the Celtics announced both of their contract extensions.

6 ways Celtics benefit from Marcus Smart's potential return for Game 6

6 ways Celtics benefit from Marcus Smart's potential return for Game 6

MILWAUKEE – With a possible Game 6 return for Marcus Smart, there’s no question that would be a good thing for the Boston Celtics. 

Well, here are six ways having Smart back in the lineup can help aid Boston which is currently tied at two games apiece with the Bucks. 

Defensive versatility: At 6-foot-4 with a strong build, Marcus Smart gives Boston another body to throw at Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, the two players who have given the Celtics the biggest problems thus far in this series.

Additional ball-handler: The Milwaukee Bucks have tried to mix up their pressure defensively with an occasional full-court press of the Celtics. Smart is a combo guard who has shown tremendous growth this season as a floor leader with the ability to impact the game both as a scorer and facilitator.

Leadership: As the most tenured member of the roster, Marcus Smart has a high love of respect from his teammates. Not only because of his seniority with the franchise, but also because of the way he plays the game and his teammate’s understanding of how much he means to Boston when it comes to winning.

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Increased roster depth: Injuries devastated the Celtics’ roster heading into the playoffs. So a return of Smart would give Boston 12 healthy bodies. It may not seem like that big a deal. But as we’ve seen with this series, every available body matters when it comes to finding a pathway toward the second round of the playoffs for these teams.

Less pressure on Rozier: The first two games of this series really put a positive spotlight on Terry Rozier. The last two games, both losses for Boston, have featured Rozier struggling at both ends of the floor. Having Smart back would lighten Rozier’s plate some and in doing so, could better position him to be closer to the game-changing, difference-maker we saw in Games 1 and 2.

Playbook expansion: Having Marcus Smart back in the lineup gives head coach Brad Stevens a lot more options at both ends of the floor, which could be just what the Celtics need to limit Milwaukee’s 1-2 punch of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, as well as the Bucks bench which has been the better unit of two, in Games 3 and 4.

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Marcus Smart says he's 'strong enough to get back out there'

Marcus Smart says he's 'strong enough to get back out there'

MILWAUKEE – With Boston’s 104-102 Game 3 loss to Milwaukee, the Celtics are guaranteed a return trip to Milwaukee for Game 6 later this week.

At that point in the series, both team’s depth will be an issue.

Boston’s depth hasn’t been great, but it potentially could be better if Marcus Smart is cleared to play following a right thumb injury suffered last month.

The 6-foot-4 guard will have a check-up on Tuesday and if he’s cleared to resume practicing with the team, that would pave the way for him to be available to play in Game 6 on Thursday.

“That’s the plan. We’re still on the same track,” Smart said.

Smart has been working diligently with the training staff since he had his right thumb surgically repaired last month.

“I feel ready, I feel strong enough to get back out there,” Smart said. “I’m just waiting for the OK.”

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In the meantime, Smart has been walking around with one type of splint to help insure that he doesn’t accidentally bump his thumb and potentially do damage to it. That splint is different than the one he will play with upon getting cleared to return to action. While the idea of playing with a splint may not seem ideal, Smart said he’s comfortable shooting with it.

Before playoff games 2, 3 and 4 of this series with Boston, Smart has been on the floor prior to the game working on his perimeter shooting, dribble-drive, pull-ups, free throws and pretty much anything he does shooting-wise during a game. Smart has also worked on his conditioning, lateral quickness drills and other work to help strengthen his core, all done with him returning sooner rather than later. 

But ultimately, it is Smart's comfort level with his right hand and the splint that he'll play with, that will determine what kind of impact one can expect once he returns to action. 

“It feels like it’s nothing there,” Smart said of playing with the splint. “To have that comfortability in my dominant hand, my shooting hand, that’s a good feeling to have.”

Smart, who has distinguished himself as Boston’s top perimeter defender, has appeared in 54 games for the Celtics this season. The fourth-year guard averaged 10.2 points, 4.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds this season while playing 29.9 minutes per game.

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