Brad Stevens: 'I just don't know that we're that good'

Brad Stevens: 'I just don't know that we're that good'

BOSTON — In a raw and riveting press conference following his team’s latest head-shaking loss, Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens offered a brutally honest assessment of his now-.500 team and admitted that Boston has shown few signs of being the title contender that they were so widely pegged to be.

Stevens opened his media session by offering high praise for a Knicks team that shot its way to as much as a 26-point lead before fending off a furious Celtics fourth-quarter charge in what was ultimately a wire-to-wire 117-109 triumph at TD Garden. But the conversation quickly steered to a Boston team that will wake up on Thanksgiving with a .500 record.

"I just don’t know that we’re that good. Maybe it’s not a wakeup call if you keep getting beat,” said Stevens. "We have to play better. It’s not because we’re not capable of being good. It’s not because we weren’t good at one time in our lives. It’s your good if you play good and the results are speaking for themselves.”

For seven-plus minutes, Stevens offered an unvarnished state of a union about a Celtics team that isn’t as good as the numbers suggest it is defensively and allowed Trey Burke to become the latest guard to scorch them with a loud individual performance. 

So what exactly is ailing these Celtics?

“It’s not one guy. It’s not two guys. It’s all of us,” said Stevens. "We’re not playing with the same personality we played with last year. That’s the easiest way to describe it. And then the 50,000 issues that are below that, we have to tackle one at a time.”

What has changed from the personality of last year’s team, a group that surged to the fringe of the NBA Finals despite playing without two All-Stars in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward?

"I think we all know it,” said Stevens. "I think we all know we hung our hat on things that led to winning and we’ve just got to get back to that.”

While Stevens has been critical of his team, he has drawn the ire of some Celtics fans for not being more exasperated with his team’s continued underperformance. While Stevens is not the type to stomp and scream about his team’s play, he’s realistic about their struggles. And during his postgame media session, he didn’t afford his team any excuses for their underwhelming play nearing the quarter pole of the 2018-19 season.

While painfully obvious, it was still jarring to hear Stevens acknowledge how deep Boston’s problems run. There is no simple solution to their woes and only a sustained multi-game effort is likely to get them on track. That’s no small request of a team that hasn’t even been able to play one complete 48-minute game.

Stevens was asked if there’s anything from earlier in his coaching career he can lean on for guidance this season. Stevens found a couple of examples. 

"I thought where we brought everybody back my third year as a head coach and I thought we started off just kind of like this — up and down, but our defense was the one that was really hurting us,” said Stevens. "And what turned that around was we just decided to be nasty tough. And we just went with it. And, then, all of a sudden everything fell into place and we just put everything else aside and grit our teeth and played. And then, a couple years ago here, when we had mostly everybody back and we added Al [Horford] and we started off 11-11 or 12-12 or something like that and ended up with 53 wins.”

Turning his attention to this year’s team, Stevens was adamant that nothing would come easy, even with all the talent the 2018-19 Celtics possess.

"It’s not guaranteed that you’re going to be able to turn it around. The reality is you have to grind it out, you have to work, and you have to be able to weather all this other stuff that’s going along with it,” said Stevens. "I heard [Sixers coach] Brett Brown say this earlier in the year, and this is where coaches are sick in a twisted way, because the losing eats you alive. 

"The storm is part of a job. And I’m looking forward to getting a chance to really dig in, and hopefully we can weather it.”

Then, when the final question of the session wondered if Stevens is better equipped to handle this sort of situation than earlier in his career, the coach turned introspective.

“[Thursday is] Thanksgiving, right? We all have a lot to be thankful for,” said Stevens. "We lost a basketball game. We got outplayed. We’ve lost a few in a row. It’s been a tough stretch. I think that we’ll work, and we’ll do our very best. And that’s always been good enough for me. 

"You’re not going to have great days every day in this, and part of this job description is, like I said earlier, is weathering the storms. And so, this is a job, and we’ll work to correct everything we can. But we’re all so very thankful for all that we have, even on nights like tonight.”

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Watch Celtics' Tacko Fall help young fan dunk at WNBA playoff game


Watch Celtics' Tacko Fall help young fan dunk at WNBA playoff game

A young fan was able to experience the excitement of dunking a basketball with a little assistance from Tacko Fall.

The Boston Celtics center, who stands at 7-foot-6, was in attendance for Tuesday night's WNBA game between the Connecticut Sun and Los Angeles Sparks. During a break in the action, he picked up a small child and helped it dunk on a regulation-sized hoop.

Check out the special moment in the video below:

Celtics rookie Tremont Waters and assistant coach Kara Lawson also joined Fall to watch the Sun.

Fall played four seasons at the University of Central Florida and went undrafted earlier this year. He signed with the Celtics to play on their Las Vegas NBA Summer League team and performed well enough to earn an invitation to training camp, where he'll compete for one of Boston's final roster spots.

Report: Celtics to sign former SEC Player of the Year>>>

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Enes Kanter on Gordon Hayward: 'Start eyeing the All-Star Game'

Enes Kanter on Gordon Hayward: 'Start eyeing the All-Star Game'

Celtics big man Enes Kanter spent Tuesday morning working out with old friend Gordon Hayward and offered his assessment of Hayward’s progress now nearly two years removed from the gruesome ankle injury in Cleveland.

“Gordon Hayward — I think he should definitely start eyeing the All-Star Game,” Kanter told NBC Sports Boston on the Celtics Talk Podcast. “He had a very bad injury [but] I see his work ethic, he’s been doing an amazing job.

"I just actually played against him [Tuesday morning] and he looked amazing. Very good shape, lot of confidence, and he is comfortable out here.”

Kanter is the latest member of the Celtics organization to hop on a Hayward hype train that rumbled throughout the summer. Kanter’s assessment carries a bit more heft if only because the two players were teammates together for three-plus seasons in Utah and Kanter had a front-row seat for Hayward’s ascent to becoming an NBA All-Star in 2016-17.

"I played with that dude three and a half years with Utah Jazz. I know the guy, I know how hard he works, how much he is willing to learn, and he makes his teammates better,” said Kanter. "I’m very excited about him. He should definitely be eyeing the All-Star Game.”  

Hayward showed flashes of his pre-injury form late in the 2018-19 season but never quite harnessed it consistently. He was fantastic for much of Boston’s first-round sweep of Indiana to open the playoffs then struggled against the Bucks as the Celtics were eliminated in five games in the East semifinals.

Hayward spent nearly all of his summer in Boston and worked out most mornings with the team’s coaching staff at the Auerbach Center. Coach Brad Stevens has lauded Hayward for setting a tone that left many Celtics players spending extended time at the practice facility this summer.

Kanter, even as he’s toured the country putting on 49 youth camps (his 50th and final occurs in Boston later this month), has checked in regularly and has seen Hayward’s progress.

"He’s been here all summer,” said Kanter. “[Hayward] puts the work in, [he] focused on what he needed to focus on. Like I said, again, obviously he’s a really really good basketball player but the confidence, with that injury -- I think last year was a little rough for him but I think this year, man, I see him, he looks strong, he looks in really good shape, and he’s enjoying his time here.”

The Celtics signed Kanter to a two-year, $10 million contract this summer as they look to help patch a frontcourt void left by the departures of Al Horford and Aron Baynes. Kanter, who averaged 11.4 points and 9.7 rebounds in the Portland Trail Blazers' postseason run to the Western Conference finals, projects as Boston’s starting 5 but the Celtics could lean heavily on a committee of big men including Robert Williams, Daniel Theis, Vincent Poirier, and Grant Williams.

Check out the latest episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast to hear the full interview with Kanter, who discusses that new-look frontcourt, why he devoted so much time and resources this summer to his youth camps, his early impressions of Brad Stevens, and why others are sleeping on Boston as the 2019-20 season approaches.

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