NBA Today: Stevens worthy of early 'A' as coach of C's
NOV 30, 2013 12:21a ET
But Celtics basketball man Danny Ainge didn't care about any of that when hiring Stevens to replace the beloved Doc Rivers (now with the Clippers). All Ainge knew was Stevens lifted little Butler to two NCAA championship games. Both were losses, but surviving March Madness takes guts and knowing how to get your guys to play their best when it means the most.
The Celtics basically emptied the roster this past summer. They traded mainstays Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn. They let Rivers walk to L.A. They're still waiting on Rajon Rondo to return from injury.
They are built for a trip to the NBA Draft lottery and a shot at college stars such as Kansas' Andrew Wiggins, Duke's Jabari Parker and Kentucky's Julius Randle.
But it's already pretty clear Stevens has a clue about how to direct an NBA team.
The Celtics' offense has real live motion, with guys moving and cutting and snapping their passes. They showed that and more in Friday's 103-86 hammer job of the Cavaliers. Players delivered the ball to teammates where they wanted it. People knew who was supposed to shoot. Even without a huge star or great depth, these things can carry you places.
Perhaps no greater example of Stevens' confidence and impact was his decision to allow Jordan Crawford to handle the ball. Crawford has spent the majority of his young career putting the GUN in shooting guard. But against the Cavs, he passed for 10 assists. He also scored 11 (mostly) disciplined points and collected 11 surprising rebounds.
"He had a triple-double? Crawford did? Holy smokes, I had no idea," Stevens told reporters in Boston. "He had 11 rebounds? Jordan Crawford had 11 rebounds? ... It's good that our guards rebound. Our guards need to rebound to win."
With real movement on offense, the Celtics (7-11) created opportunities not just for Crawford and Jeff Green (season-high 31 points), but for Avery Bradley, who scored 21 points on a sizzling 9-of-11 shooting.
The Celtics buried 50 percent of their shots for the game, including 48 percent on 3-pointers. Even Brandon Bass got in on it, hitting the first triple of his career (he was 0-of-16 lifetime entering the game).
Bass and Jared Sullinger each finished with 12 points.
On top of all that, the Celtics limited the Cavs to just 10 first-quarter points on 5-of-21 from the field.
"It was nice to put everything together," Green told reporters in Boston. “We had our ups-and-downs throughout the season. We have had quarters where we play well and quarters that we didn't but it was good to put an all-around good game together."
The more the Celtics can do that, the more we can believe, regardless of previous affiliation or current boyish looks, Stevens is the right man for this gang in green.
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