BOSTON – Brad Stevens admits he’s often in thought about the game of basketball, even when he’s trying to unwind with his family.
“I try my best to be present with my kids and my wife,” Stevens said. “But I’m not perfect at that. I often have basketball thoughts bouncing around.”
And those basketball thoughts are more frequent these days as Stevens tries to navigate the Celtics (1-2) to winning games as injuries have thrown the path they had planned to take this season, a bit off course.
The Celtics anticipate Gordon Hayward being out for the rest of the season following “successful bone and ligamentous stabilization surgery” for a fracture dislocation of his left ankle performed on Oct. 18.
Marcus Smart, who was thrown into the starting lineup to replace Hayward, suffered a left ankle sprain against Milwaukee that kept him sidelined for Friday’s win over Philadelphia. Smart is improving and is considered questionable for tonight’s game against the New York Knicks, although Smart said following the win over the Sixers, that he expected he would be good to go for tonight’s game.
“I spent a lot of time on (the) day after the Bucks game, all the way until Friday night thinking about how we need to play especially in the interim while we’re without both Marcuses,” said Stevens, referring to Smart and Marcus Morris (knee soreness). “That’s just one of those things you gotta do piece by piece.”
Despite having a depleted roster, don’t look for Stevens to try and reinvent the wheel . . . or his playbook.
“I don’t think putting in 50 new things is good for anybody,” Stevens said. “I think we got a good foundation that we can build off of. That’s what we’re trying to do. And defensively, we have to be really good, play to our strengths and we need a lot of contributions from a lot of people.”
The New York Knicks (0-2) come in with a similar mantra after having lost their first two games, one of which was a 111-107 home loss to Detroit on Saturday night after having led the Pistons by as many as 21 points.
Despite the slow start to the season by New York, Stevens knows the Knicks are not to be taken lightly.
“A bunch of really talented, especially scoring players,” Stevens said when asked about the Knicks. “You look at (Tim) Hardaway (Jr.), he’s a guy that has always had good games against us. (Former Celtic) Courtney Lee has had good moments against us. (Kristaps) Porzingis is off to a start that’s ridiculous. And (Enes) Kanter has killed us in the past. That’s without getting into their bench.”
While the Celtics have to acknowledge who the Knicks are as part of their preparation, the team’s focus for this game and those going forward, will be on themselves.
And part of that focus will center around some of their younger players stepping up to play more prominent roles.
Jaylen Brown, whose 17.3 points per game ranks second on the team, will be among the players looked upon to carry a heavier load with Hayward out.
“It’s going to be a collective group effort to make up for the lack of Gordon on the floor,” Brown said. “I don’t think it’s on one guy’s shoulders. It just means our responsibilities are a little bigger.”
Said Jayson Tatum: “Now guys have to play more minutes and take more shots and fill that void Gordon left.”
Which means more basketball for Stevens to think about as he continues to tinker with the best combinations to play going forward.
“I thought that was something that we were going to answer all year,” Stevens said. “There’s a lot of guys that are unproven. Every day is the opportunity to prove themselves. We’ll not only constantly looking for that to be solidified, but guys are going to get opportunities to solidify that. This is great for the Shane Larkins of the world, for Jabari Bird, for (Abdel) Nader, for those guys, Daniel Theis, Guerschon (Yabusele) . . . it’s a great opportunity.”