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Brad Stevens said he would be just a spectator for the Boston Celtics open practice Sunday night, but hopped into a game of knockout instead — and actually held his own against some of the team’s younger players.
After CSNNE color commentator Brian Scalabrine got knocked out on his first chance, Stevens snuck into the competition and actually advanced into the final three. Here’s video:
Stevens was ultimately bounced by Jabari Bird, a rookie on a two-way contract, who hasn’t learned yet that you should take it easy on the head coach.
Sunday’s open practice was our first glimpse at the new-look Celtics. It was exciting to witness the Celtics newcomers, particularly Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving, wearing Celtic green for the first time.
If you missed it, don’t feel too left out. This open practice was simply an introduction to the season. It included a knockout game, skills challenge, three-point shooting contest, along with a brief interview with some of the players. At best, guys were operating at 25% speed.
The most noteworthy moment came with Brad Stevens playing in the knockout game. His sweet stroke hasn’t left him in his 40’s, and he advanced to the final three before getting eliminated by Jabari Bird.
Next was the skills challenge, which rightfully featured Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, and Shane Larkin, but for whatever reason, big-man Daniel Theis got the invite. Nobody cared, and Marcus Smart eventually won the contest. Against Rozier, they nearly collided mid-air when trying to finish on the same basket. Thankfully, the practice ended without any injuries.
The three-point contest featured Tatum, Hayward, Yabusele, and Horford. Tatum was the winner, and Horford truly didn’t give a fuck – he took his time and barely got to the fourth rack before the clock expired.
Kyrie Irving didn’t participate. Despite the half-empty TD Garden, he felt the energy in the building. From The Herald’s Mark Murphy:
The Celtics have held this annual open practice in the Garden for season ticket-holders since the latter part of the Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett era, but the experience had a kind of newness for Kyrie Irving last night.
From the crowd, to the banners and the floor — even the nets as it turned out — had a special meaning for the Celtics guard.
“The energy. The energy, man,” said Irving, before going into intricate detail with a unique description of the Garden parquet.
“It has that vintage, intimate, kind of replicated vibe for what the Garden used to look like,” he said of the original Garden. “The misfit of the squares in where they’re placed on the floor. They’re going in opposite directions — the perpendicular one if you know what I’m saying. I just appreciate all that. And then the nets as well as the whole intimacy as well. I just like the whole aura of it.
“It’s nothing like it. It’s nothing like it,” he said. “Even the energy in here, I can feel it. All these fans about to pile in. It’s about to be a great day.”
In previous interviews, Kyrie has specifically mentioned the parquet floor and how he pays attention to the intricacies of the TD Garden court. The Celtics have a storied history, but because their glory predated the modern NBA, the Celtic lore doesn’t always intrigue younger generations of players.
Kyrie is a different kind of guy. He talks about having studied the history of the league and watching tape of the game’s greatest players. Clearly, he’s appreciative of the history of the Celtics, and he understands the importance of this team, and this city, within the growth of the NBA.
Kobe Bryant is one of Kyrie’s most important mentors. When Kobe visited Boston for his pre-draft workout in 1996, he impressed Red Auerbach with his knowledge of Celtics history. Both players, beyond their talent, are basketball junkies. It’s refreshing hearing these comments from Kyrie, reinforcing his excitement joining the Celtic tradition.
Page 2: Where Everyone Appreciates Al Horford
“To me, for all the guys to feel good and to feel acclimated, that’s important,” Horford said. “The quicker that we’re able to do that as a group, the better. I feel like we do have a lot of changes — not just players, but trainers, strength coach, everything. All the change, everything is new for all of us. I want to make it easier on everyone.”
Horford has always been a quiet leader, but he understands the importance of getting everyone on the same page at the start of this season. And while his teammates might tease him about his phone, they rush to answer when he calls.
“Al is one of those guys that does the right thing all the time. He’s very consistent in that,” Brown said. “Any time he says something to me, I’m all ears.”
Echoed head coach Brad Stevens: “I’ve always really respected Al for every which reason, but the No. 1 thing is, whenever he talks, it’s worth listening to. He really has a way about him that he picks his words carefully, he picks his times to speak carefully. I haven’t seen a change in personality — he hasn’t turned all of a sudden into this person who is talking 24 hours a day — but clearly, when he speaks, everybody listens.”
“I would say, on the court, people probably don’t realize what an unbelievable help defender [Horford] is,” Assistant Coach Jay Larranaga said. “You might see a blocked shot at the end of games, but it’s how he is in the right position, always. He’s covering for teammates constantly. I think people see how unselfish he is, offensively, but he is equally unselfish defensively, and has an equal impact on his teammates’ performance.
“Then, off the court, I think, like a lot of the great players and a lot of the players that have been able to sustain success over a long period of time, I think they don’t realize how much time and energy he puts into his craft. How much he prepares. His preparation starts every morning when he gets up with what he’s eating, he’s constantly learning and trying to get better. I think people have an idea and say, ‘Oh, Al’s very professional.’ Being professional is like a full-time job and his full-time job is not just during the season, it’s in the offseason. I think people have an idea but not to the extreme.”
Chris Forsberg’s feature on Al Horford has countless glowing quotes on the 31-year-old big man. Before last season, he brought his veteran savvy to a group of overachievers, hoping to guide them past the first round of the playoffs. This season, he’s leading an entirely new group that has aspirations to win the eastern conference.
As a floor-spacing, shot-blocking, high-post passing, ball-handling big, Horford fit seamlessly into Brad Stevens’ offense. It didn’t go without criticism. Some media types didn’t think a rebounding-challenged center who didn’t have 1-on-1 moves should command a $27 million salary.
He silenced the haters during the playoffs. Horford thrived during the Wizards series, averaging 16.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 5.1 assists, shooting an incredible 67 percent from the field and 61 percent from three. Accordingly, we haven’t seen any offseason headlines complaining about his contract.
As one of the four holdovers from last year’s roster, Horford has the added responsibility of getting the new guys acclimated into the new system. Last season, he had Crowder, Bradley, Johnson, and Isaiah to help him out. With only one year with the team, now he must help bring the new guys along.
He won two titles with Florida. He made the playoffs every year with Atlanta, and was arguably the best player on a 60-win team. He helped the Celtics get the first seed and reach the conference finals. No mater the situation, Horford has always won, and this season, he’s the leader of a new, talented roster with high expectations.
After a CRAZY offseason, we finally get to watch the Celtics play a basketball game! They face the Charlotte Hornets tonight at 7:30. Every significant player seems to be healthy, and tonight is the first look at the remade Celtics.
Lastly, Jaylen Brown dropped some major news yesterday. He plans on releasing an album under the name “Jaythoven.” He told Abby Chin that album artwork would be released on instagram soon. In past interviews, Jaylen has discussed how he likes to make music in his spare time, now he’s taking it to another level. The blessing from Lil’B must have been the final inspiration.
The Rest of the Links:
CelticsWire: Jaylen Brown Announces Hip Hop Album
SI.com: Atlantic Division Preview