Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big story line. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
Said Morris, “That man Brad Stevens is a guru. He might have the best out-of-bounds plays I’ve ever seen. He called the switch (on Horford) and knew it was going to happen.”
What? Why? How? What does Brad Stevens have that so many others have lacked? It’s not one thing, of course. It’s a package. It starts with technical knowledge. He just plain knows the game, inside-out. Selling your product to the players is always the key, and Stevens can do that. He is flexible; witness the countless lineups and combinations we’ve seen. He teaches basketball, not the “Brad Stevens System,” because there is no “Brad Stevens System.” In this, he is reminiscent of Mike Krzyzewski. You know, of course, that Brad is clearly on track to someday being coach of Team USA, if that’s what he wants.
Oh, one more thing. He plays down his role. He makes it clear to the players that he’s The Boss but he doesn’t think it’s “The Brad Stevens Show.” That helps.
Here’s the thing about all this Brad Stevens hoopla… it’s too much, exactly right, and not enough, all at the same time.
It’s too much because players are the ones who loft perfectly placed passes into the right guy’s hands, or make steals off inbounds plays to crush an opponent’s spirit, or hit big shots to tie games on the opponent’s home court.
It’s important not to give too much to the coach because it inherently takes too much away from the players. Great players can make great coaches, and even the best coaches can’t get themselves out of jams if the players aren’t good enough to execute.
Sure, Brad drew up a great play at the end, but the picks needed to be right. The players needed to space properly. The pass needed to be in the right spot. Contrast that with the two costly Philadelphia turnovers and you can see the difference of having players do things right and players do things wrong. Today, Brad Stevens is the genius of geniuses and Stephen A. Smith is on TV accusing Brett Brown (who is also a very good coach) of losing three games in this series.
It’s exactly right because it’s Stevens who sees things from the sidelines that players, in the heat of battle, may not recognize. This is why the Celtics “team” isn’t just the guys on the floor, but also the guys on the sideline, in the video room, the front office, the training staff… it’s everyone.
Stevens’ ability to see trends in real-time is unique talent. He’s one of those rare people who just processes the information faster, so he’s much more able to find solutions through plays or substitutions. He can see what the game needs and put those players in spots where, if they do execute, they have a great chance to win.
It’s not enough because Stevens isn’t just coaching these guys up. He’s not just getting unexpected productive minutes out of Shane Larkin. He’s a rare commodity who has found a way to maximize his players’ abilities without getting in their way or making it about anyone besides the players themselves.
As Bob Ryan wrote, Brad doesn’t think it’s his show, even though he’s the one guy who could make it his show if he wanted to.
There is a tendency by people to dislike something when they see “too much” of it. There’s an “ok, I get it” factor in life and I’m sure it applies to the adulation and adoration of an NBA head coach.
It’s also natural to laud the one constant in a fluid situation. When one man stands in the middle of a hundred different photos, we ask who that man is. Why is he the guy who’s always there when the rest of the world around him is different?
He’s like one of those people who paints upside down. We don’t realize what he’s doing until it’s all over, and then we go back and say “oh, well that was cool.”
He’s not perfect. No one is. And “best” is subjective so there’s always going to be an argument about who ranks above whom, especially since so few people really get what goes into coaching an NBA team.
The thing about Stevens, though, is that he’s earned respect from every corner in the NBA. Players, coaches, fans, media… everyone respects the guy. Some may talk more glowingly about him than others, but the respect is there across the board.
Just like his players, there is still a lot for him to learn and accomplish in the league, but he’s also pretty great now. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect progression than this one.
Related links: ESPN Boston: Celtics laud ‘genius’ Stevens for late-game calls | BSJ: Video: Marcus Morris – ‘That man Brad Stevens is a guru’
Page 2: Everyone looks to Al Horford
“He’s a stabilizer for our group, no question about it,” Brad Stevens said. “When things get going poorly, everybody just kind of looks to Al. Including coaches, we all just kind of stare at Al and wait for him to say something. And then when he says something, we all feel better and take a deep breath and maybe we can go into overtime and win this thing. He’s unbelievable.”
[,,,] “My brother is a huge fan of Al,” Rozier said, smiling. “That’s all he talks about. He just makes everybody’s job so easy and I’m grateful to have him on our team. He’s our vet. What he says, goes, and he’s been around. He’s just great, a future Hall of Famer.”
Horford is the most indispensable player on this team. From how he handles himself to how he is with his teammates to how he plays… Even when they’re fully healthy Horford is the only guy on this team with a truly unique role.
Gordon Hayward went down and Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown helped fill the void.
Kyrie Irving went down and Terry Rozier has admirably filled his shoes.
Who can do what Al Horford does? Who can step in and make the defensive plays he’s making while also hitting clutch shots and setting up his teammates? Who on this team is talked about like Horford is talked about?
Rozier saying “he’s our vet” isn’t just some casual phraseology. Look at who Philly is turning to in the clutch… flawed young players with no playoff experience. Yes, they have JJ Redick but he’s not the impact player Horford is.
Al has been a monster this playoffs. He’s been pounding on people while taking a pounding himself. He’s defended Giannis Antetokounmpo and Ben Simmons and many players in between. He’s been a beast scoring and he’s freed up his teammates with picks and assists.
They don’t get to this point without Al Horford. I hope everyone realizes this now.
Related links: NBCS Boston: Horford steps up when it matters most in Game 3 | ProJo: Celtics Journal: Horford sets the tone at crunch time
This kid is the quiet, unassuming type in front of the cameras but he’s still fierce.
“No moment is too big,” Stevens said of Tatum. “He’s got guts. He’s a competitive guy. Sometimes I think we misconstrue some of these slight guys when they come out of college for not being tough but he’s tough and very competitive.”
Remember just a few months ago when we were begging… begging… Tatum to be more aggressive and shoot more?
Turns out it was always in there, and he really was just deferring to those other star players and taking whatever offense was left over. Things are obviously different now… and he’s thriving.
He’s now scored 20 points per game in five straight playoff games, a Celtics record. He broke Larry Bird’s mark of four straight.
The kid is feeling himself, but he carries himself quietly and confidently. There are also stupid plays like this:
The NBA had better fine Embiid for that. Brad Stevens was incensed and for good reason. Luckily the shot went in.
Meanwhile after the game Embiid dropped some other fine-able material.
This could be an expensive game for Embiid. A fine for interfering with gameplay while on the bench. A fine for criticizing the refs. Probably $25k lighter I’d say.
Meanwhile our rookie is keeping his trash talk subtle and vicious.
Related links: Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum nearly dunks on Joel Embiid, tells 76ers center ‘you got lucky’ | Joel Embiid on officiating in Boston Celtics win over Philadelphia 76ers: ‘A couple plays, it wasn’t fair’ | Globe: Embiid in foul mood over officiating
The rest of the links:
ESPN Boston: NBA’s best social media moments: Bad blood spills into second round | Philadelphia’s late-game meltdown costs it critical Game 3 | Embiid: ‘Dumb mistakes’ led to Game 3 loss | Confetti falls by mistake, then Celtics steal Game 3 in Philadelphia | Sources: Hornets zero in on Borrego, Larranaga
MassLive: Boston Celtics analysis: Jayson Tatum, Celtics beat Philadelphia 76ers after chaotic final minutes | Jayson Tatum has Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens’ trust: ‘Call the play and get out of his way’
Herald: Gallery: Game 3: Celtics 101, 76ers 98 | Celtics notebook: Jayson Tatum adds to impressive season with 24-point outing | Celtics win Game 3 stunner | Bulpett: Early confetti drop punctuates Celtics’ Game 3 win
The Athletic (subscription): Tatum steps into history book with big night