BOSTON (CBS) — Brad Stevens has made the most of his second season as head coach of the Boston Celtics, which has involved getting to know a lot of new players.
Celtics president Danny Ainge has been busy throughout the season, pulling off a dozen trades since October, meaning Stevens has had to learn a bunch of new names and skill sets throughout the campaign. Because of that, he’s had to get creative with his lineup each and every night.READ MORE: Head Of The Charles Regatta Returns Friday For First Time In Two Years
In Wednesday’s win over the New York Knicks, Stevens employed a small lineup that paid off big on the floor. With the trade deadline in the past, things should be a little easier for the head coach the rest of the way as far as setting rotations.
“Well, knowing everybody’s first and last name is helpful,” Stevens joked on Friday’s call into 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Zolak and Bertrand. “We haven’t had the same team long enough to really know what to expect, other than at the start of the season. The biggest thing is, when I draw up a play on the board I use initials. I was pretty close to screwing up multiple times. I’m thinking, ‘I just met you 24 hours ago — I know your first name, I know your last name, but I’m trying to put all five guys initials on there in a hurry.’ That was enough of a struggle.”
He joked that he was “throwing darts” Wednesday night, but said because of injuries, he was forced to go with that smaller, offensive lineup.
“I’m probably being a little bit facetious when I said throwing darts. The biggest thing is we had to play unique because we don’t have a traditional lineup, from a size standpoint, right now with Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger out. What gives you a chance when you’re unique is to be able to take advantage on the offensive end, and that’s what happened the other night. We had five skilled guys who could all shoot in the game,” he said. “Sometimes it works in your favor and sometimes it does not. You really have to fly by the seat of your pants to make a decision whether you stick with it or not.”READ MORE: Fourth Stimulus Check: Will You See Another Relief Payment?
One of the newest additions to the team is guard Isaiah Thomas, who was acquired from Phoenix at the trade deadline. Thomas has brought instant offense to the team, fitting right in with Boston’s small lineup, and is surprisingly gifted at getting to the basket and free throw line.
“He gives us a chance to get inside the paint without much action, and comfortably,” Stevens said of Thomas. “You’re always going to have to run action, but you can simplify things with him because he just needs a little sliver of space to get there. He doesn’t have blinding end-to-end speed, but he has great shiftiness and he can really change direction on a dime, and bounce up on a dime.”
Ainge made some interesting comments about Sullinger on Thursday, basically calling him out for his lack of conditioning. Sullinger has vowed to make that a focus while he rehabs from a foot injury the rest of the season and over the summer, and Stevens is hopeful that Sullinger will return better than every.
“Obviously Jared and Danny have talked about [his conditioning], and he works hard without strength coaches and training staff. I spend all my time on basketball production and how guys can become the best they can be. Like any other young payer, there is room for him to grow and become better,” he said. “I’ve read and heard what Danny said, but read and heard what Jared said. The biggest thing is he knows where his focus is going to be and he’s working hard at it.”MORE NEWS: National Weather Service Forecasts Milder Than Average Winter For New England