NEW ORLEANS -- Who would ever think that a young, innovative coach like Brad Stevens has lifted ideas from teams such as the Wizards, even under previous coach Randy Wittman, to build the Boston Celtics into the second-best team in the East?
According to Stevens, who'll coach the East All-Stars in Sunday's game, that's exactly the case. And it probably explains why the Celtics are so easily adaptable to any situation and can get high-percentage looks consistently from after-timeout plays.
The Celitcs are 37-20 at the All-Star break. The Wizards sit at 34-21 for third place under first-year coach Scott Brooks, and that includes a 2-1 sereies lead over their rival. He's had better success than coach Randy Wittman who went 0-4 as the Wizards' coach in a 41-41 season a year ago.
"Scott is a great coach. Does a lot of little tweaks and cool stuff. I felt that way about Randy, too," said Stevens. "I stole a lot from Randy when he was coaching. A lot. Credit to Scott and his staff and credit to those players. They're having a great run. They've handled us twice. We weren't competitive in two of the three games we played against them."
The reverence for Stevens in the Wizards' locker room is real because every time they thought they had the Celtics figured out, they did not. Stevens drew up a set that resulted in an uncontested layup for Jae Crowder with four seconds left in what would be a 119-117 win in Washington on Jan. 16, 2016. It was a play the Wizards, who were meticulous in their game-planning under Wittman, had never seen.
The ball was inbounded over the to of Kelly Oubre, where Stevens knew there wouldn't be weakside help or rotation. It was one of those soul-crushing, midseason defeats that could've been a turning point that became a stumbling block for the Wizards.
A year later, however, this is how the Wizards are catching opponents off-guard with John Wall and Bradley Beal leading the way. The guards have used their size to their advantage on inbounds and after-timeout plays, getting entry passes into the low or mid post for easy baskets.
Those aren't play calls. Those are just reads that allow the inbounder, usually Otto Porter or an adept passer such as Markieff Morris, to exploit mismatches where they present themselves.
"I think the biggest thing you can be as consistent in what you do every single night. I think that (other) stuff gets overrated," Stevens said. "They are on an incredible roll of consistent play."