Praise for Stevens . . . and how Celtics benefit
BOSTON -- The scrappy brand of basketball played by the Boston Celtics has won over many who thought they would simply show up and get swept away by the Cavs.
But of all the praise doled out on the Celtics, it seems no one is getting more than coach Brad Stevens.
He has been seen as one of the bright young minds of the NBA coaching family for the past couple of years. But it seems the adulation has gone to another level, to the point where you have players who are doing what you and I are doing -- watching the games -- chime in via social media, like Jamal Crawford did recently.
Outside of Danny Ainge and the current Celtics players, one of Stevens’ biggest fans has been LeBron James, who has consistently praised Stevens particularly for his ATOs (after time-out plays).
“I said that before the series even started about Brad Stevens' ATOs,” James said. “If you go back and look at my transcript, I said he's very good out of ATOs. He has so many different wrinkles, misdirection, thinking the ball is going this way, he has a misdirection going the other way. You've got to kind of keep your head on a swivel. He has a lot of packages. So you can plan for a few, but then he might run something you've never seen before.”
While all the praise sounds good, what does this do for Stevens and the Celtics?
Here’s a look at four benefits that come with the seemingly never-ending parade of positive words thrown Stevens' way not just in this series but in his time as the Celtics’ head coach.
Validates Boston’s outside-the-box hire
Needless to say, there were some league executives scratching their heads when, four years ago, the Celtics turned over the keys to the kingdom to Stevens, a college coach who had never coached or played in the NBA. Stevens' teams have increased their win total from the previous season in each of the last three years, and have made the playoffs three straight times. There’s no mistaking he has made a significant impact on the franchise, both in terms of its success on the floor and the culture being built to enhance the chances of being among the better teams in the league for many years to come. It was indeed an unusual hire but, clearly, one that has worked out well for all involved.
Gives hope that with more talent, more success will come
Brad Stevens’ first team won 25 games and frankly, that was a success of sorts considering the talent Stevens had to work with. Even during that losing season, the foundation for being a scrappy, fight-to-the-end kind of team was being set. And with better players, those gritty moments started to result in some great wins. So with that kind of toughness being a backdrop of sorts for this franchise, it stands to reason that as the talent pool improves so will the win totals . . . and with that, the potential for deeper playoff runs.
Strengthens the franchise’s stability at the top
There are few coaches in the NBA who have the kind of job stability that Brad Stevens has in Boston. But to hear other players speak about him in such glowing terms often, makes it difficult to envision the two parting ways anytime soon. And that is a good thing for Boston, because as you look at the coaching landscape out there now, there’s a lot of good ones but few who have shown the potential to be great. Stevens is on that short list, without question. Which is why Danny Ainge has already given him an extension and will likely do it again in the next couple of years just to remind Stevens and Celtics Nation that Stevens is their guy for the long haul.
Helps with free agency
While the Celtics continue to stockpile talent through the draft, one of the keys for them moving forward is free agency. We saw first-hand how Stevens’ presence and acumen as a coach played a role in convincing Al Horford to leave Atlanta after nine seasons to come north and play for the Celtics. Of course, the $113 million contract Boston offered was enticing, but he would have gotten that same money from another team so his decision was not a money-grab kind of thing. He came because he felt Boston gave him the best chance at competing at the highest of levels, and that Stevens would play a major role in making that happen.