Celtics

It's like Celtics 'are early in training camp again' says Stevens

It's like Celtics 'are early in training camp again' says Stevens

BOSTON – The NBA calendar says we are near the end of the first week of the regular season.
 
But for Brad Stevens and the Celtics, the past few days have had more of a training camp-like feel.

MORE: 

 
A season-ending injury to All-Star Gordon Hayward just five minutes into the season, along with an ankle sprain to Marcus Smart (the same left ankle that earlier kept him out for long stretches) has left Stevens no choice but to make significant, on-the-fly, in-season changes. 
 
“We’re changing a little bit of our emphases, specifically our emphases late game,” Stevens said.
 
Coming out of camp, the Celtics were planning to keep either Kyrie Irving or Hayward on the floor most if not all the time, and, down the stretch, the two would play together.
 
With no Hayward, the Celtics have to modify their late-game approach, which was evident by them losing two of their first three games having a lead in the fourth quarter of each game. 

Having had a day to practice this weekend and not a game to play right away was critical for the Celtics to begin working in earnest on the best way to navigate the rest of their season without Hayward, the team's prized offseason free-agent signing.
 
Getting Irving and Al Horford in better positions to be effective late in games, as well as more post opportunities for young wing players Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, are just some of the slight modifications Boston will be looking to implement more of going forward. 

“We’re kind of, we’re adding more of that stuff, subtracting a little bit of what we put in at the start of the year which now seems like a long time ago,” Stevens said.
 
He added, “I almost felt like in the last [few] days, it’s been like we’re early in training camp again in a lot of ways.”
 
In camp, there’s always a sense, even among those who aren’t expected to play much, that as long as you’re on the roster there’s a chance you’ll get an opportunity to play.
 
Well, that’s not just wishful thinking anymore.
 
That’s the reality of where the Celtics are because of injuries, a scenario in which anyone on the roster – even a guy signed to a two-way contract such as Jabari Bird – will get a chance to play meaningful minutes.
 
Bird did just that in the 102-92 win over the Sixers on Friday night.
 
A last-minute call-up due to Hayward’s injury, Bird had no idea he was going to get a chance to play against Philadelphia.
 
All he knew was that he would suit up, just as he did the previous game against the Milwaukee Bucks.
 
He didn’t make a single shot for the Celtics (he was 0-for-1 from the field, 3-for-5 from the line), but he made the most of his shot at playing and in doing so, scored major points in the eyes of the coaching staff and his teammates with his defense against Sixers sharpshooter J.J. Redick who finished with a team-high 19 points despite missing three of his four shot attempts in the fourth quarter.
 
Bird played seven minutes, 31 seconds of the fourth quarter with the only Celtics logging more time in the quarter being his former teammate at Cal, Jaylen Brown (10:48) and Al Horford (10:16).
 
Despite coming up big in the Sixers win, Bird said things were status quo for him at the Celtics’ practice on Saturday.

“I try to stay ready for any moment,” Bird said. “Practice was real light, just got up shots and went over plays. It’s nothing too different for me. It’s not like I went out [Friday] night and dropped 50. I just came into the game to provide a spark on defense., that’s all; nothing too crazy.”
 
But Bird making the most of his opportunity to play when there were very few signs if any that it would happen, speaks to how every player on this roster has to be thinking there’s a chance that they too might be called upon to step up and contribute with very little advance notice.
 
And for the Celtics, that’s a good thing.

“Every one of them should think there’s a good chance to impact the game on Tuesday night [against New York],” Stevens said. “There’s not a guy on this roster that shouldn’t think that right now. It may or not be there every night, but ultimately we’re in a situation where we need everybody; we need everybody to be at their best and prepare to be at their best. Whether you played no minutes like [Semi] Ojeleye [Friday] night, or you played a ton of minutes like others, we need you prepared like you are going to play a lot, every game. It’s going to be really important.”

Jaylen Brown scores 35 in Rising Stars game

boston-celtics-jaylen-brown-rising-stars-21618.jpg
USA TODAY Sports photo

Jaylen Brown scores 35 in Rising Stars game

LOS ANGELES – A year ago this time, Jaylen Brown couldn’t even get an invite to the rookie-sophomore game, the Rising Stars Challenge.

But this year, he was there and he played a prominent role for Team USA even though it wasn’t enough as the Team World squad easily won, 155-124.

MORE BROWN - Shut up and dribble? "That's ridiculous," says Brown 

It certainly wasn’t because of Brown who led all scorers with 35 points on 14-for-21 shooting along with 10 rebounds.

And it was vintage Brown, mixing in an array of jumpers, 3-pointers and of course a pair memorable between-the-leg dunks.

Brown put on a show, for sure which isn’t all that surprising when you consider how the perceived snub last year served as added motivation for him on Friday night.

“Definitely I feel like I've got a chip on my shoulder, so I come out with that tenacity that I want people to recognize,” Brown told reporters after the game. “I want people to see. I just come out and play with that fire and let everything else fall into place.”

In addition to leading all scorers on Friday night, Brown also set a Celtics record for most points scored in the rookie-sophomore game.

“Like I said before, it's just great being here,” Brown said. “It's a tremendous opportunity. I just thank the NBA for letting me be part of this weekend. I had a lot of fun, and I just came out and was playing some basketball. Simple.”

Brown's Celtics teammate, rookie Jayson Tatum, came off the Team USA bench and scored 15 points.

And while they didn’t play too many stints together on Friday, both being selected for the game is a reminder of just how their progression and growth within the Celtics organization is along the same lines for each of them.

BLAKELY - Smart's return would pay bigger dividends than Hayward's right now 

“This year we've grown tremendously together,” Brown said. “Just studying older guys – Kyrie [Irving], Marcus Morris, [Aron] Baynes, and learning the game together, Al Horford. So me and him have gotten better together. So anytime you can grow with somebody in this league and also be successful, it's always dope being a part of situations like this. Like the Rising Stars Challenge I think is pretty cool. I think in the future, if we continue to stay together and continue to grow, I think we could be special.”

The same could be said for Brown’s play on Friday night, the kind of performance that speaks to the improvement in his game this season.

“My growth from last year to this year was significant, and my growth from this year to next year is going to be even better,” Brown said. “So, that's all it's about at the end of the day. It's not about dominating, it's not about this. It's just about getting better each and every day, you know, and just trying to hang a banner in Boston.”

Here are some of Brown's best moves: 

And Tatum's:  

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Shut up and dribble? 'That's ridiculous' says Jaylen Brown

Shut up and dribble? 'That's ridiculous' says Jaylen Brown

BOSTON – LeBron James has not been the least bit coy about his thoughts on President Trump, which makes James not all that different than, you know, most citizens of this country.

There are those from all walks of life who think he’s done a lousy job while others like the job he’s done thus far.

Apparently, James’ thoughts on the president should not be expressed, at least that’s the sentiment of Fox commentator Laura Ingraham who believes James should “shut up and dribble” after James and Kevin Durant had some not-so-flattering comments about President Trump.

When made aware of Ingraham’s response to James’ comments, the Celtics' Jaylen Brown didn’t mince words in expressing how he felt on the matter.

“That’s ridiculous,” Brown said of Ingraham’s “shut up and dribble” comment. “That’s the kind of notion that’s been occurring over the last 10, 15 years and in this generation, we’re trying to change that. You got athletes who are politicians, venture capitalists, musicians, rappers, etc., so it’s becoming more of a popular thing to have other interests outside of basketball. I think that’s normal. Just like people, they have day jobs, but they have interests in sports; they’re into investments, they do all these other types of things.”

Indeed, James is just one of the growing number of professional athletes who are voicing their opinions on social concerns more often in what they perceive as the landscape of this country changing...and not for the better.

But in speaking out on what some athletes believe are problems in our nation that they believe are connected with the current president, there is the potential alienation of fans, which could potentially damage a player’s image in the eyes of some, as well as their brand.

Ex-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick protested what he believed was increasing social injustice and police brutality by taking a knee while the national anthem played.

Kaepernick’s action set into motion a movement that saw other NFL players take a similar stance.

Still, it has come at a cost for Kaepernick, who was not signed by any NFL team even after a number of teams had multiple injuries at quarterback, which has led to Kaepernick filing a lawsuit against the NFL for alleged collusion.

Seeing how quickly Kaepernick’s playing career stalled, players who voice their support for reform for various social issues run the risk of having a similar outcome to their respective careers.

Brown recalls various basketball camps, in addition to media training sessions, leading up to the 2016 NBA draft, where he was warned about the potential fallout if he took on certain political and social issues.

“They almost teach you to be...not say anything that will get you any backlash or not saying anything out of the norm,” Brown said. “What you’re saying could be true to yourself, but ‘don’t say anything about politics, don’t say anything that is on the line or anything that’s on the fence because you can get backlash for it.’”

Brown added, “As an athlete, if you’re educated on a topic and believe something, I feel like it should be okay to say it.”

There’s a certain responsibility that Brown, 21, believes comes with the platform that he and his fellow NBA players have at their disposal, a position he does not take lightly.

And in his time around other NBA players, he’s found that they too are more thoughtful about issues such as politics and social issues, than they are given credit for.

Part of that involves a long-standing narrative that NBA players and professional athletes in general, are more consumed by their respective sports than real-life issues and concerns that don’t involve sports.

That’s why when it comes to chiming in on social issues and topics of the day, Brown has a pretty simple rule on deciding which issues to speak about.  

“The ones you know about,” he said. “It’s as simple as that. If you’re informed on a situation or you feel you’re informed, and your perspective can be beneficiary, say what’s on your mind. I don’t believe in holding your tongue. Especially something that people can directly benefit from, especially young people watching, looking up to you. Who’s to say if you’re a basketball player, you can’t chime in on other subjects, other topics of the day? I will always disagree with that until the day I die.”

Brown came to Los Angeles for NBA All-Star Weekend eager to play basketball obviously, but he also arranged to have some players spend some time around venture capitalists – something he believes can be of benefit to NBA players later in life.

“It’s super-necessary to always have things to not only challenge not only your physical but also your mental as well,” Brown said. “As athletes, we work on our physical part each and every day, but developing the mental side is important as well. So, what I wanted to do for All-Star weekend, was something that was mentally engaging but also help players long term.”

Brown said the gathering this weekend is about “an education before investment,” adding that it’s about, “learning about this field before you go spending money and investing in things that you have no idea what’s going on. It’s better to learn early than late. So, I’m trying to get a lot of these young guys you see here today to come along with me, to put them in a room full of people who are very successful in that field and maybe bridge some of those gaps.”

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE