Greg Monroe, the newest member of the Celtics: 'I know I belong in this league'

Greg Monroe, the newest member of the Celtics: 'I know I belong in this league'

BOSTON -- One of the first faces Brad Stevens saw when he arrived at the TD Garden for tonight’s game against San Antonio Spurs, was Greg Monroe. 

The veteran center has signed a 10-day contract with Boston, and will be available to play tonight. 

“He wasn’t here that long but it was a fun run while he was here,” said Stevens, referring to the 26 games Monroe appeared in for Boston last season.

But the feel-good vibes that come with any kind of reunion, are put to the side when you look at the main reason he’s here - injuries to Boston’s frontcourt. 

Al Horford is out for tonight’s game with a left knee soreness. 

And while Aron Baynes (foot) will be available to play tonight, he has had a series of injuries all season that will result in him playing the least amount of games since his rookie season. 

Also, rookie Robert Williams III has also had a injury-riddled season with the latest setback coming on Saturday night when he suffered a low back injury during his first NBA start.

“With our injuries we need bodies, and we need bodies at that position,” Stevens said. “So, the timing is good.”

Monroe, who was traded from Toronto to Brooklyn and then waived by the Nets, said talks with the Celtics and his camp began shortly after the trade deadline. 

“But things didn’t get serious until like last week,” Monroe said. “It happened really fast; really quickly.”


And by signing a 10-day contract, Monroe understands that he’ll be counted on to contribute quickly whenever he gets a chance to play which Stevens said before the game, could come as early as tonight - just hours after signing his 10-day contract. 

And while Monroe learned a new playbook in Toronto, his familiarity with the Celtics and their system from having played here last season should help him re-acclimate himself to what Stevens and the Celtics will need from him whenever he gets an opportunity to play. 

“It came back quickly,” said Monroe who added, “I definitely feel comfortable with the stuff they try to put in quickly for me. I remember, and still understand the plays and things like that.”

After being waived by the Nets, Monroe said he went home and stayed in the gym, confident an opportunity to play again would come at some point.

“That’s all you can do,” he said before adding, “Things always turn around quickly in this league. All it takes is one play and you’re back in it; you never know what can happen.”

During his time in Boston, Monroe averaged 10.2 points and 6.3 rebounds along with 2.3 assists while shooting 53 percent from the field.

With the Raptors this season, he averaged 4.8 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. 

And while the numbers are modest, Monroe’s production is a reminder of just how effective and efficient he can be in a limited capacity. 

Monroe hopes those skills translate to a productive second tour of duty with Boston after a period of time in which he did not have a team to play for. 

“It’s really tough,” Monroe said. “It’s the first time that (I) hadn’t been on a basketball team since I was like 5 years old. It’s definitely tough. But it’s part of the game. I’m not the first guy it has happened to. You have to be mentally tough and stay focused. I know I belong in this league. I feel that way and I’ll always feel that way and I will continue to believe in my work.” 

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Celtics injuries: Kemba Walker (knee) out Sunday vs. Lakers

Celtics injuries: Kemba Walker (knee) out Sunday vs. Lakers

The Boston Celtics will have to take on the Los Angeles Lakers without Kemba Walker on Sunday afternoon.

The C's guard will miss his second straight game due to a sore left knee, the team announced Saturday. Head coach Brad Stevens revealed earlier this week Walker's knee swelled up and had to be drained. Walker also had his knee injected with Synvisc, a pain relief treatment used for knee soreness.

Robert Williams remains ruled out with a left hip bone edema, though there is hope the big man will return to the court after the Celtics wrap up their road trip.

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Celtics-Lakers tips off Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET. When these two teams last faced off on January 20, the C's cruised to a 139-107 victory.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Lakers, which begins Sunday at 2:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 3:30 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.

Celtics' Brad Stevens the rare college-to-the-pros coaching success story

Celtics' Brad Stevens the rare college-to-the-pros coaching success story

LOS ANGELES — No matter what Brad Stevens does from here on out, he'll be remembered as one of the winningest coaches in Boston Celtics history. 

At 309 victories (and counting) after Friday’s 127-117 win over Minnesota, only three men — Red Auerbach (795), Tommy Heinsohn (427) and Doc Rivers (416) — have won more games pacing the Celtics sideline than Stevens. 

Making the milestone even more impressive is that Stevens came directly from the college ranks, where success has been a rarity. 

The most recent college-to-the-pros coach to struggle with the adjustment is Cleveland’s John Beilein. The former Michigan coach stepped down as the Cavs' head coach to assume a yet-to-be-determined job within the franchise. 

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Figuring out the secret sauce to Stevens’ success isn't easy.

He’ll be the first to tell you that a number of factors have come into play that allowed him to find success where so many of his college-to-the-pros brethren struggled. 

One of the reasons college coaches get opportunities to lead NBA teams is because of the track record of success they build up at the college level. Stevens led the Butler Bulldogs to a national runner-up finish in back-to-back seasons (2010 and 2011), a remarkable accomplishment for a mid-major program. 

For Stevens, preparing for the worst when it comes to wins and losses, was challenging at first. The lack of success Cleveland (15-40) has experienced this season was a major factor in Beilein’s decision to no longer coach the Cavs. 

“I find losing very challenging and this year has taken a much bigger toll on me than I expected,” Beilein said in a statement. “I grew concerned for the consequences this toll could potentially take on my own health and my family's well-being down the road. I was not certain I could be at my best for the remainder of the season and in the future. That would not be fair to the players, coaches and support staff."

Indeed, Stevens recalls how difficult dealing with all the losing in that first year was for him. 

As a rookie head coach with the Celtics, Stevens’ squad finished 25-57. To put that in perspective, Stevens won more games at Butler in five of his six seasons than he did in Boston as a rookie, and did so in less than half of an 82-game NBA season. 

“That first year was hard,” Stevens told NBC Sports Boston. “I remember being miserable because I never lost like that. But that’s part of it. You learn a lot about yourself, so when you get to that second year you feel a lot different.”

Those early struggles did not catch Stevens off-guard.

“Our first year was expected to be really hard,” Stevens said. “It was expected to be hard for a couple years.”

But a series of trades during the 2014-2015 season gave Boston just the jolt of confidence and talent needed to make a late-season charge. That ended with them getting the eighth and final playoff seed, where they swept in the first round by the top-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers. 

Sure, getting swept was disappointing. But that balanced out with the fact that Boston had found a brand of basketball that would serve as the foundation for the team’s future success. 

“We found a team that competed well together,” Stevens said. “We were able in year two to find our way, at least establishing a little bit with that group, how we wanted to play.”

Stevens is quick to credit the Celtics’ front office, ownership and his assistant coaches for providing the kind of support on and off the court, that a college coach making a jump of this magnitude, absolutely has to have. But maybe more than anything, a college coach making the jump to the NBA has to trust that the process of establishing a comfort level and a culture takes more than just one season. 

For Stevens, that’s the great disappointment in how things have played out with Beilein. While there’s a certain element of uncertainty that comes with making the jump to the pros, Beilein did his research in advance. Stevens was among the coaches he spoke with prior to taking the Cavs job. 

Beilein also spoke with Oklahoma City’s Billy Donovan, who also made the jump from a successful career in college to the NBA. 

"I talked to Billy the year before at length," Beilein told reporters earlier this season. "For like an hour on the phone. He encouraged me that he really liked (the NBA). He liked the pace of it. He really liked the coaching. He also said, ‘It’s a long season. You gotta be able to stay in there and hang through the tough times and just keep coaching.’ He encouraged me to do it." 

So did Stevens, who felt Beilein’s strength in working with young players, coupled with his innovative style of play, would make him an ideal head coach for a young Cavaliers squad. 

There’s a fairly high amount of trial and error that first year as well. 

“When I first got the job, I’m watching film of the Celtics from the year before and nobody is going to be back. This doesn’t make sense,,”Stevens recalled. 

Shortly before Stevens accepted the job, the Celtics traded away cornerstone players Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, leaving Rajon Rondo as the only starter with the team at that time, from the 2008 NBA title squad. 

But with each passing season, Stevens became more comfortable with the NBA. 

“You are in front of the media, in front of the cameras and you have to answer and do that every single day while preparing your team to play their best,” Stevens said. “It’s just a really challenging gig.”

And now in his seventh season, there’s little doubt that Stevens is comfortable with the league, its players and his role in moving Boston closer towards Banner 18.

I asked Stevens if there were one or two tips he had for a college coach who was contemplating a move to the NBA as a head coach. 

“What I always tell the college guys that are interested is, the summers are great,” Stevens said. “The middle of the season is going to throw a bunch of storms at you. That’s part of it. But that’s ... it’s a lot of fun if you keep the right perspective.”

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Lakers, which begins Sunday at 2:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 3:30 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App