BOSTON (CBS) — The Celtics head into the 2018-19 season in an extremely enviable position. But it will also bring some tough decisions for their head coach.
Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward are both expected to return at full strength, joining forces with a promising young core of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. To top it all off, the team is anchored by veteran Al Horford, a do-it-all big man that makes everything flow on both ends of the floor. Add in bench contributors like Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier and Aron Baynes, and simply put, the Celtics are stacked.
That loaded roster will also lead to a dilemma for head coach Brad Stevens, but it’s one most of his head coaching brethren would trade for in a heartbeat. Stevens will be tasked with making sure everyone is happy with their role, and for some, that role may be a little bit less than what they enjoyed during Boston’s injury-plagued run to the Eastern Conference finals last season. Stevens knows that at some point, he’s going to have to have a difficult conversation with someone on the roster.
“No question,” Stevens said while appearing on the podcast of Yahoo Sports’ Chris Mannix. “But one of the things I think all our guys realize is that we have a good thing going. Nothing is guaranteed; we still have to come, put in the right amount of work, focus on the detail and skip no steps in getting better. But at the same time, if we do that we have a team that should be a tough out on any given night. I think part of being on a team, there is nothing like experiencing winning together. I think that’s one of the things we’ll shoot for here. For me, we have a unique thing. I think we all have to recognize that.”
Stevens’ likeliest of starting fives will be the one that played just five minutes together last season, with Irving, Brown, Hayward, Tatum and Horford out there for the opening jump. But there will be times when Baynes gets into the starting five, which will likely mean Brown comes off the bench. After he took gigantic steps in his second NBA season last year, that may be a difficult pill to swallow for the 21-year-old.
But all Stevens really cares about is his Celtics being the best they can be each and every night, and he’s confident that all of his players will follow suit. They shouldn’t be scared off by the lofty expectations that they’ll enter the season with, and instead embrace them as a challenge.
“The beautiful part of keeping a day-to-day mindset of trying to improve every day is that no matter what your expectations are — whether you are at the beginning or the building stage or you have a team like we do, that’s bringing a lot of guys back, that is trying to reach a next step, or you’re Golden State and you have won three of the last four championships — if you’re focused on the day and getting better that day, everything takes care of itself,” said Stevens. “Our challenge is to be the best version of ourselves.”
Vegas has already set Boston’s win total at 57.5, second only to the two-time defending champion Warriors and their 62.5 projected win total. The overachieving Celtics came just one win away from a showdown with the Warriors last season despite missing Irving and Hayward in the playoffs, an incredible run no doubt, but a disappointing end nonetheless.
“We were all disappointed with how it ended,”said Stevens, adding that none of the players bought into the lowered expectations when the playoffs began. “We’ll all improve from the experience, but there’s no question, we’re itching to get started.”
Stevens shed light on a number of different topics during his 30+ minutes with Mannix, touching on LeBron James’ departure for the Western Conference while staying away from Irving’s impending free agency next summer (he said that is one subject he won’t be chatting with his All-Star guard about during the upcoming season). And if you needed a little reminder of just how big of a hoop head the C’s head coach really is, he made his first trip to the movies in over a decade this summer, joining the Summer League Celtics for a private screening of Irving’s Uncle Drew.
“I thought it was really good. I thought Kyrie did a great job. My kids love it. It’s fun to be that close to an actor,” he said.
“I haven’t been to a movie in so long that I didn’t realize they had the comfortable seats, where you could, like, put your feet up and order food,” Stevens continued. “So the whole movie experience has changed since I last went to a movie, which is an indictment on me for not going to movies.”
So just how long has it been since Stevens took a break from the X’s and O’s and hit up his local cinema? Mannix revealed on Twitter that the last movie the C’s head coach saw in the theater before Uncle Drew was Wedding Crashers, which graced the big screen back in 2005.
That’s a man who really loves basketball.