BOSTON (CBS) – By the time the book is closed on the Boston Celtics’ 2013-14 season Brad Stevens will have lost more games in his first year in the NBA than in his previous six seasons as head coach of the Butler University Bulldogs.

At 23-46, including 0-15 against the Western Conference on the road, the lottery bound Celtics are in phase one of what should be a lengthy rebuild.

The postseason is nowhere in sight for this team, which you’d think would be enough reason to do the proverbial “mail it in.”

But it’s not — or at least it hasn’t been.

The C’s have displayed optimum effort on a night in, night out basis all season long, and the coach just hopes everyone is taking notice.

“For us to continue to be the best that we can be every single night I think that’s really important, and it’s really important to these guys and their growth and development. I think that’s one of the things you’re seeing, and I hope everybody’s seeing, that they’re playing exceptionally hard.

“We didn’t win at New Orleans but we had a chance to win. We didn’t win at Dallas but had a great chance to win. We came back off of that trip of three games in four nights and beat a really good Miami team.”

Stevens added, “I’ve always taken pride of my teams playing their best basketball at the end of the season.”

Now while some are putting an asterisk next to the Miami game because LeBron James didn’t play, Stevens didn’t mind his absence in the least.

“The machismo in me says ‘Yeah, I wish he was playing’, but the realist in my brain says ‘No, we’ll take our chances without him.'”

Stevens compared wanting to face LeBron James to a baseball player wanting to face a pitcher that throws 110mph — an adequate analogy for the four-time MVP.

The coach then touched on the improved play over the course of Kelly Olynyk’s rookie year and what that might be attributed to.

Stevens believes being invited to the NBA’s Rising Stars Challenge over All Star Weekend might have given him a needed confident boost, as well as finally getting healthy after sustaining early season injuries.

“[Olynyk] is getting a better feel, getting into a great rhythm and the game is slowing down for him in a lot of ways — especially on the defensive end. He’s reading situations better. He’s in the right position a lot of the time. I thought he did a great job against Dirk Nowitzki the other night.”

Listen below for the full discussion, including the backcourt tandem of Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley and how good they can be together in the future:


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