BOSTON (CBS) — Dealing with injuries is nothing new for the 2017-18 Boston Celtics.
They lost their prized free agent signing just five minutes into the season when Gordon Hayward’s ankle did an about-face, and have played the last nine games without All Star point guard Kyrie Irving. Throughout it all though, they’ve persevered and have had an even better season than last year when the team won 53 games and went to the Eastern Conference Finals.
With Irving and Marcus Smart both out for at least the rest of the regular season, the last thing the Celtics need with just six games remaining until the playoffs is another injury in their back court. But they’re now dealing with two more, as Terry Rozier is nursing a bad ankle (he said confidently that he’ll play Tuesday night in Milwaukee) and Shane Larkin will skip Boston’s two-game trip as he deals with the flu.
Still, Boston players are confident they can deal with these latest health issues thanks to the man in charge. Chatting with reporters on Monday, Celtics guard Jaylen Brown said it’s pretty clear that Brad Stevens deserves to be named the NBA’s Coach of the Year come June.
“Brad, I think he’s the Coach of the Year. He’ll figure out a scheme to make everything flow the way it normally flows,” said Brown. “In Brad we trust; I know he’ll figure it out.”
Asked to expand on his reasoning, Brown said it’s fairly simple.
“You have four returning guys from an Eastern Conference Finals team last year, 11 new teammates and our record could be even better. I don’t think that’s ever been done. That’s really difficult to do, to take a brand new team, especially with the injuries we’ve had this year, and have a better record than we had last year,” he said.
“I give tremendous credit to the team we have and Danny Ainge for putting it together, but Brad also for leading us out with the scheme and plan that we want to execute each and every day. The combination of those two has led to this season,” he added.
Brown is obviously a tad bit biased in this case, but it’s hard to argue against Stevens as the front-runner. The Celtics have already matched last year’s win total with six games remaining in the regular season, and they sit just two games back from the Toronto Raptors for the No. 1 seed in the East. Stevens’ main competition for the award (one the boy wonder has yet to receive during his five-year stint as an NBA coach) remains Dwane Casey of the Raptors and Mike D’Antoni of the Rockets, but he further cemented his case with Boston’s convincing win over Toronto on Saturday.
Mix in all the injuries Stevens and the Celtics have dealt with this year, and all signs point to Stevens bringing home some nice hardware after the regular season.