Jared Dudley says he's 'only heard good things' about Celtics coach Brad Stevens

Jared Dudley says he's 'only heard good things' about Celtics coach Brad Stevens

Like many members of the Celtics organization last season, Brad Stevens had a tough time living up to lofty expectations.

After leading the Celtics to the brink of the NBA Finals without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, Stevens was lauded as one of the best coaches in the league. Some even debated how many NBA stars they'd start a franchise with over Stevens, and the list was surprisingly short. As great as Stevens is at building a healthy locker room culture and maximizing players' strengths, the Celtics were plagued by chemistry issues both on and off the court. 

Kyrie Irving may have had a lot to do with the off-court issues, while Gordon Hayward's slower-than-expected recovery from his ankle injury caused many on-court inconsistencies. But usually, when teams don't play up to their potential, the blame falls squarely on the coach. 

While Stevens put the blame on himself after the season ended, Danny Ainge said his head coach was, "the least to blame by far" for the Celtics' shortcomings in 2018-19. What about the players? Has Stevens' reputation taken a hit after seemingly failing to integrate the personalities of a loaded roster?

Jared Dudley, a 12-year NBA veteran said he's, "heard nothing but good things" about Stevens in response to a question on Twitter. 

The full story of what happened to the Celtics last season has not been told yet, but it doesn't seem like Stevens was Boston's main concern. 

Dudley has expressed interest in joining the Celtics once free agency begins on June 30 and now that Aron Baynes has been traded and Kyrie Irving and Al Horford are likely gone, Boston could use Dudley's veteran presence to help mentor the young stars tasked with leading the team now. And don't forget, Dudley has a well-known feud with Philadelphia's Ben Simmons

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Kemba Walker injury: Danny Ainge gives update on Celtics star's knee

Kemba Walker injury: Danny Ainge gives update on Celtics star's knee

Boston Celtics point guard Kemba Walker has missed four consecutive games with a left knee injury, including Wednesday night's 114-103 win over the Utaz Jazz on the road.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge gave an update on Walker's knee during his weekly Thursday morning appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub's "Toucher & Rich" show, and he doesn't seem too worried about the situation.

“We’re just taking it day by day, and we’re being very cautious with Kemba,” Ainge said. “We feel like we need Kemba to be his best self, and right now, we don’t think that he can sustain what he wants to do. But we are confident that his knee is going to be fine and that he’ll be ready to go at some point in the near future.”

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A lot has been made of Walker playing in the 2020 NBA All-Star Game on Feb. 16. Walker was among the game's starters for Team Giannis, and he played nearly the entire fourth quarter as the matchup became ultra competitive. Ainge downplayed the impact playing in Chicago has had on Walker's absence.

“I think the All-Star Game is a little bit of an overblown situation,” Ainge said. “I mean, if he plays 20 minutes or he plays 29, I’m not sure it really makes that much of a difference, especially since it’s one game over a six or seven-day period. So, I don’t really have any regrets about that. I think that this has been an issue that has been lingering a little bit from before the All-Star Game and I think that nobody really knew to what extent, and we’re just being really cautious with him right now.”

The Celtics are fortunate to be in a situation where they don't need Walker to rush back. The C's are building a comfortable distance between themselves and the No. 4 seed, so it's looking increasingly likely Boston will earn at least the No. 3 seed. Given the Toronto Raptors' difficult schedule to finish the regular season, getting the No. 2 seed also is a pretty realistic goal for the Celtics. 

It's not crazy to be a little concerned about Walker. He is one of the team's most important players, and the Celtics no doubt are at their best when he's in the lineup. The Celtics taking a cautious approach is absolutely the right decision. It's much better for Walker to miss games in February than be sidelined in April and May when the playoffs are in full swing.

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Kendrick Perkins gives Celtics guard Marcus Smart the ultimate compliment

Kendrick Perkins gives Celtics guard Marcus Smart the ultimate compliment

There's little doubt Marcus Smart is the heart and soul of the Boston Celtics.

Whether it's great leadership, All-NBA caliber defense, 100 percent effort and hustle on almost every play, or carrying the load offensively when needed, Smart gives the Celtics a boost in so many areas. 

Smart's presence was felt at both ends of the floor in Boston's 114-103 win over the Utaz Jazz on the road Wednesday night.

His defense was fantastic. Jazz players shot 4-for-12 from the field, including a lackluster 1-for-8 mark from 3-point range versus Smart. He also made an impact offensively with 17 points, including a couple clutch baskets in the fourth quarter. He had nine assists, too.

Smart's all-around play received a special shotout on Twitter from former Celtics center Kendrick Perkins, who paid the C's guard the ultimate compliment.

Well said, Perk.

Smart embodies all of the qualities that have made the Celtics the premier NBA franchise for more than 50 years. His performance at both ends of the court, as well as his leadership, are so valuable to this Celtics team. If the C's make a deep run in the 2020 NBA playoffs, you can bet Smart will be a driving force behind that success.

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