Celtics

Brad Stevens: 'We are in evaluation stage on who's reliable'

Brad Stevens: 'We are in evaluation stage on who's reliable'

There’s more on the line in these final days of the regular season for the Boston Celtics than simply winning games and going into the postseason with momentum. 

Celtics coach Brad Stevens had a straight-no-chaser conversation with his players earlier today with a very simple message. 

“We are in evaluation stage on who’s reliable,” Stevens told NBC Sports Boston’s Brian Scalabrine. “Like when we get to that moment when we have to know if everyone is going to be on one page doing the exact same thing, who is reliable? Ultimately that’s the end of the story."

Stevens added, “If you don’t have that reliability; If you don’t have that toughness. If you don’t have the ability to move on to what’s next you don’t last very long.”

MORE CELTICS

Having that quality has been a challenge for the Celtics all season, a big reason why Boston came into tonight’s game against Charlotte fifth in the Eastern Conference despite being seen by most as the team to beat in the East.

“We haven’t always shown that this year,” Stevens admitted.

Which is why this final stretch of games is so vital, not only to the team’s overall record but also to who Stevens will lean on when the postseason arrives in less than a month. 

“We need to win as many games as we can,” Stevens said. “And every night, whether somebody’s available or not, it’s an opportunity for someone else to step up.”

Tonight it’s rookie Robert Williams III who got his first NBA start tonight in place of Al Horford who was out to resting a sore knee.

Regardless of how tonight’s game plays out, Boston has to show the ability to accept the results and move on to the next game in a relatively seamless manner. 

Stevens knows this has been an issue with the Celtics all season. 

“So we need to prove it over the next 10 games so we know it going into the playoffs,” Stevens said. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

NBA Power Rankings: Trade winds are starting to pick up

NBA Power Rankings: Trade winds are starting to pick up

Though we often think about NBA trade rumors closer towards the February trade deadline, there a handful of teams that might be open to moving players they signed this past summer, moves that can be executed after December 15. 

Teams look to strike for a variety of reasons, whether it’s to add a talent that they think can take to another stratosphere in terms of their play, to clear salary cap space going forward, or to add what may be the missing piece for a run at the Larry O’Brien Trophy. 

Much of the talk surrounding the Boston Celtics and what they need to do to get better revolves around the center position. Multiple league sources have indicated the Celtics are open to the idea if a team wants to talk, but they are not aggressively looking to made a trade … yet. 

“You just never really know with Danny,” a league executive told NBC Sports Boston. “A ‘no’ on a deal today, could become a ‘hey, let’s do it’ tomorrow depending on if circumstances play out that make doing a deal a logical, sensible move to make."

And as deals get talked about and eventually completed, it also will impact where teams stack up in our weekly power rankings.

Click here for the gallery.>>>>>

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-76ers, which tips off Thursday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Tommy have the call at 8 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Marcus Smart out, Al Horford questionable for Celtics-76ers showdown

Marcus Smart out, Al Horford questionable for Celtics-76ers showdown

The Boston Celtics will be without one of their most important players Thursday night when they host the rival Philadelphia 76ers at TD Garden.

Smart, who's dealing with a left eye infection, was officially ruled out by the C's early Thursday afternoon. The veteran guard has missed the last two games, including Wednesday night's road loss to the Indiana Pacers.

The encouraging injury news for Boston is that Gordon Hayward is probable. He got whacked in the face during the fourth quarter of Wednesday's game and didn't return.

Second-year center Robert Williams' absence also will be felt. The 76ers have a big frontcourt with plenty of size and length, headlined by star center Joel Embiid and power forward Al Horford. The Celtics don't have a ton of depth at center, and with Williams out, expect Enes Kanter and Daniel Theis to play the majority of the minutes against Embiid.

Speaking of Horford, he's questionable to play in his first game back in Boston since he left the Celtics to sign with the 76ers in July as a free agent.

Thursday's game is the second meeting of the season between these rivals. The Sixers beat the Celtics in Philadelphia on opening night. Boston is 10-0 at home.

Jaylen Brown says Horford's return 'should be celebrated'>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.