WALTHAM, Mass. – When he wasn’t hanging out with the Boston Red Sox during spring training, Brad Stevens was marinating over tweaks that the Boston Celtics need to make in the final 23 games of the regular season.
This reassessment is vital to the team’s success going forward, which makes a lot of sense considering how Boston limped into the all-star break losing three straight and four of five.
“I told the guys any time they come up short you have to evaluate, you have to learn …”
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And the lesson Stevens learned going into the break?
“Our defense, it was just, it wasn’t good the last five games obviously,” he said. “Whether it’s a small sample size, whatever the case may be it just wasn’t good and I thought against the Clippers especially, it was as bad as I’ve seen. So that was a red flag.”
The return of Marcus Smart will certainly help, but Stevens knows having Smart back won’t be the one-stop elixir to all that ails his team currently.
“We just need everybody to play to their best ability,” Stevens said. “I mean, we had good games without him defensively but there’s no doubt he’s one of our best defenders.”
Smart has been one of the top on-the-ball defenders this season and has done so even while playing major minutes.
He has a defensive rating of 98.9 which is tops among all NBA players who average at least 30 minutes played per game.
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And while it remains to be seen how Boston will incorporate Smart back into the regular rotation, he’s coming back with the kind of focus and motivation that should bode well for Boston’s chances of getting back on a winning track.
“I’m a competitor and I think everybody in this league, any athlete will tell you when you gotta sit on the bench, it’s one thing to sit on the bench because for something that happened you can’t control,” Smart said. “But it’s another for something you can control. I feel like I let my team down.”
Smart suffered a right hand laceration injury on Jan. 24 when he punched a picture that caused a series of cuts that required 20 stitches to close.
When speaking to the media on Wednesday night, Smart said a piece of glass came close to a pair of tendons that had the glass in his hand been an inch or so in either direction, it could have cause significant damage and likely season-ending surgery.
Having Smart back after an 11-game absence will certainly result in Stevens changing his player combinations up.
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But there’s likely to be more changes than just the re-insertion of Smart into the mix.
“We’ll definitely rotate a little bit differently,” Stevens said. “I don’t know if that means changes in the starting lineup but we definitely will have some changes; certainly it will be night-to-night but tweaks from when guys enter the game.”