Celtics

Brad Stevens pens letter to Celtics players, expresses his support

Brad Stevens pens letter to Celtics players, expresses his support

Brad Stevens has never had a problem communicating effectively with his team. 

But these are different times we live in now. 

Following the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota last week, well aware of its impact on the African American community — which includes the overwhelming majority of his players — Stevens knew he had to do something, say something to them. 

But what? 

He said he penned a letter to his players over the weekend, but admits it wasn’t easy. 

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“It took me a while to put down exactly what I wanted to say,” Stevens said. 

That’s because that letter, this moment, what’s happening throughout the world right now, is bigger than anything these players and coaches have been a part of. 

There’s a level of pain and frustration felt by many, something that Stevens wanted to relay to his players but still be sensitive to the fact that his African-American players were dealing with a much deeper wound than most in light of recent events. 

"The pain has been there a long time," Stevens said. "The lack of progress is too jarring. We all need to do our part."

Stevens added, “The thing that I wanted them to know is that every decent person is hurting. Every decent person feels the pain of the African-American community. But I also don’t want to pretend that I know the exact distinct pain. So, what I wanted them to know is I’m with them. I thought that was really important.”

And it is that kind of support that has stood out on a number of levels when it comes to the protests nationally that are designed to raise awareness to the need for systemic change following Floyd’s death while in custody of now ex-police officer Derek Chauvin. 

Jaylen Brown drove 15 hours from Boston to help lead a peaceful protest in his home state of Georgia. Marcus Smart, Vincent Poirier and Enes Kanter all participated in the protest march in Boston on Sunday. 

“It’s so great to see so many guys active,” Stevens said. “The leadership that they have shown is terrific.”

And the support of the Celtics organization for its players has not gone unnoticed by the players, either. 

I had a chance to walk with Marcus Smart, who was among the Celtics participating in protests over the weekend.

One of the things Smart was most proud of was how his efforts to raise awareness to some of the societal issues of the moment as well as the efforts of his teammates had the backing of the organization.

“For the Celtics to take a stand and support what we do, it shows how much this organization cares about its players and cares about the right thing to do,” Smart told NBC Sports Boston. 

Celtics at Home: Which superhero is Marcus Smart most like?

Celtics at Home: Which superhero is Marcus Smart most like?

Boston Celtics star Marcus Smart often plays like a superhero on the basketball court.

The versatile guard plays multiple positions on offense and guards all five positions on defense. He'll hit 3-pointers, set up the offense, dive on the floor for loose balls, guard the opposing teams' best player, etc. There aren't many things Smart can't provide the Celtics. This all-around skill set is quite valuable to the C's, especially on defense. Smart was named to the league's All-Defensive first team last season, and he deserves a spot in that group again in 2019-20. 

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In the latest episode of Celtics at Home, one of the topics in the Celtics Census segment was, "which superhero is Marcus Smart most like?"

We asked 300 Celtics fans for the top six answers, and several of them are superheroes you would definitely associate with a player who excels on the defensive end of the court.

NBC Sports Boston's Abby Chin and former Celtics center Kendrick Perkins teamed up against C's head coach Brad Stevens and Smart to see who could come up with the right answers. 

Watch the video below to find out which team won. Be sure to check out the NBC Sports Boston YouTube page for more Celtics at Home videos and other content.

Celtics Talk Podcast: Can Celtics, Raptors burst Bucks' title hopes in NBA bubble?

Celtics Talk Podcast: Can Celtics, Raptors burst Bucks' title hopes in NBA bubble?

The Milwaukee Bucks will resume play with a league-best record of 53-12.

But just as we saw the Bucks burst onto the scene as one of the league’s better teams, how will they be impacted by the time off as the league’s restart begins this month?

Will their title hopes burst inside the bubble? One longtime NBA scribe certainly thinks so.

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“I think the two best teams in the East are Boston and Toronto,” veteran Toronto Raptors beat writer Doug Smith of the Toronto Star, said on the Celtics Talk Podcast on Thursday. “I like Milwaukee a lot, but they’ve never been there. And I think that’s a big, big concern. The Raptors' experience and their adaptability in games … I don’t think it gives them an edge, but it’s a big plus for them.”

The Celtics have been talked about often as one of the teams that can potentially upend the Bucks and get out of the East. 

To a lesser extent, the same can be said for the defending NBA champion Raptors, who have been able to successfully navigate through a season filled with injuries to key players to enter the bubble in Orlando with the NBA’s third-best record. 

But you wouldn’t know they were that good by the minimal talk surrounding them as potential repeat champions — which was fueled by the departure of last year's NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who now plays for the Los Angeles Clippers, and 3-and-D ace Danny Green, who now plays for the Los Angeles Lakers. 

Celtics Talk Podcast: Can C's or Raptors burst Bucks' bubble in East? | Listen & subscribe | Watch on YouTube

Even with Leonard and Green moving on, Toronto has been a ruggedly tough team in the East. 

Pascal Siakam has emerged as an All-Star this season. Outside of maybe Boston’s Kemba Walker, there’s not a more underrated point guard in the NBA than Kyle Lowry. Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol give Toronto the kind of veteran presence in the frontcourt that all title-contenders long to have on their roster. 

And let’s not forget about head coach Nick Nurse, who will surely get some serious love when the season is over when it comes to Coach of the Year voting. 

While a lot of attention has been paid to how impressive the Raptors have been for years at home, this season they posted an identical 23-9 record on the road as well as on their own home floor. 

Smith said home-court advantage would likely determine the winner of a Boston-Toronto playoff series. But with that being off the table now that all games will be played at a neutral site, Smith still envisions what would potentially be a hard-fought, down-to-the-wire series. 

“I think it’s a seven-game series if they played it in Boston, Toronto, Orlando or on Mars,” Smith said. “These teams are very evenly matched. They’re both very good. They can beat you in a lot of ways. That’s a big thing in the postseason.”

So what would decide the series?

“It comes down to the wings. The wings determine the series,” Smith said. “Can OG Anunoby contribute? Can Norm Powell contribute? How do Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum handle that kind of thing? I think that’s where the series is won or lost.”