BOSTON (CBS) – The Boston Celtics have lost six straight and nine of their last ten, but head coach Brad Stevens is encouraged by his team’s recent effort.
After getting blown out by the Denver Nuggets by 31 points on Tuesday, the Celtics showed much more fight the very next night in a 111-105 loss to the Clippers.
The current West Coast swing is certainly a trying trip for the Celtics, and Stevens knows they likely won’t be hanging a banner at the end of the season. But if they show the effort they did on Wednesday night each time they take the floor, the first-year head coach will be a happy man.
“The best indicator is we really competed with a great deal of pride the other night. Hopefully that is an exhibit of how this group will respond when things get tough,” Stevens told 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Gresh & Zolak on Friday. “We’re in the middle of a tough stretch regardless – it’s a tough stretch for any team going on all these West Coast games and who we’re playing night-in and night-out.”
“It’s going to be big challenge after big challenge. We have a lot that we can fix, but hopefully we continue to do so,” he said. “The attitudes in the locker room and the response, especially since the Denver game, have been good.”
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Stevens says there are three points that he judges his team on — win or lose.
“To me it’s about, first and foremost, having enthusiastic energy about approaching the game and being a good teammate. Then it goes to defensively playing as hard, smart and tough as we can, and offensively, sharing the basketball,” he said. “Those are the three cornerstones of what I wrote down on the board with a few bullet points under each prior to our game against the Clippers. In some ways when we got our half-court defense set we guarded extremely well and had some good stretches. Offensively I thought we had more ball movement than we have in a while, and we were all engaged and on-board for winning that game.”
“That was good, but as you guys know losing leaves a sour taste in your mouth,” he said. “No matter how little or how often you do it, it’s no fun to go through.”
Stevens also said the on-court stare down between Jeff Green and Brandon Bass on New Year’s Eve was over-exaggerated, and he’s been very pleased with his team’s composure through the recent slump.
“Anytime you go through a tough time and you’re in a competitive, emotional environment, you’re going to go through things,” said Stevens. “I think that’s going to be, usually, probably, over-exaggerated from the outside looking in. But I haven’t seen any of it when it’s just the guys or in practice or a walkthrough. The focus and togetherness is pretty good. I’m pleasantly encouraged by that, because I don’t see any fraying.”
“I haven’t been through it a ton, but I’ve been through it before so I know what losing can do. If you let it fray you you’re losing two battles; you’re losing the game and youre losing to human nature too,” he said. “You just need to stay the course and be the best as you can be. That’s important for our players as individuals and our team as a whole.”
Switching sports, Gresh & Zo asked Stevens, an Indianapolis native, how he felt about the Colts this weekend against the Patriots. During his time at Butler, Stevens got to know Colts owner Bill Polian, who attended numerous Butler games, and Peyton Manning, who worked out at Butler.
And as it turns out, Stevens has a pretty interesting connection with the Colts.
“I lived there for 33 years so I was there when the Colts moved to town overnight in 1983. My mom worked, as a high school student, in Canton at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and we were on our way that day. I picked up a Colts shirt, so I have a picture in the paper as the first person to wear an Indianapolis Colts shirt to the Hall of Fame,” he said.
“I’m really happy for the players and that city, but I know they have a tough one on Saturday,” he said. “That’s always been the case when they go to Foxboro.”