With the Boston Celtics in London for the better part of this week, Brad Stevens and company have been a bit detached from the goings on back home in New England.
Before facing the Philadelphia 76ers at 3 p.m. EST Thursday, the head coach jumped on a conference call with reporters Wednesday morning. Stevens talked about managing this long trip in the middle of a season, and how the Celtics are coping with time off and travel after a blistering start that featured 40 games before Jan. 1.
“I don’t know what this does to you long-term. Obviously it’s a great opportunity to spend time and be with the team. We went out to dinner together, obviously traveling abroad and to be able to represent the NBA on a global stage tomorrow is a great opportunity,” said Stevens. “We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how we are going to manage it properly. From the standpoint of travel and practice and rest. Not only tomorrow, but through the next few weeks.”
Following the London game, Boston returns home for three straight. That begins Jan.16 with a visit from Rajon Rondo and the New Orleans Pelicans. After that, the Celtics immediately board a plane again for a four-game West Coast road swing to finish out January.
While the team is abroad, Stevens, like the rest of us caught wind of a social media post by his boss, Danny Ainge. Ainge caused a major spike in Celtics excitement by sharing a photo of what looked like a friendly swimming competition between some team staffers. However, what caught fans eyes most, was a bare-ankled Gordon Hayward standing at the pool’s edge.
In the picture’s caption, Ainge wrote that Hayward had no brace on what still looks like a healing lower left leg.
“I don’t know exactly the time of it, I think we’re approaching 12 weeks out and that was where he was anticipated to be if the treatment continued to go well,” said Stevens. “Moving out of the boot and then the brace and now being able to do without.”
Stevens did say that he hadn’t spoken with anyone back in the States since landing in London. He is unsure if Hayward was permanently without it, or it was just a momentary situation. As far as he knows, though, nothing has changed with Hayward’s timeline and the coach is preaching that there is nothing more to read into.
“No change in our expectations, or what we thought at the time of the surgery. This is the process,” said Stevens.
With just one game this week, the Celtics are getting a chance to hit the practice floor for what must seem like the first time since early October. The theme of those practices, according to the guy orchestrating them, is offense.
Despite their league-best 33 wins, (Golden State also has 33) the Celtics have been a simply average offensive squad. They rank 14th in the league in offensive rating (104.9 points per 100 possessions). That pales in comparison to their top-notch defense (No. 1 in the NBA in defensive rating).
“We’re not good enough to be where we want to be. Ultimately we’ve got to get better on both sides of the floor. Certainly we’ve got to become a more consistent offensive team,” said Stevens. “And then we’ve got to make sure that as we get chances to improve in those areas, we don’t lose our defensive mentality.”
A boost to that offense could come in the form of a fully healthy Marcus Morris. The trade acquisition brought in for Avery Bradley in the offseason has missed more than half of Boston’s games. He’s averaged just 23.3 minutes a night when he is active. The former Detroit Piston is a career 35.5 percent 3-point shooter.
The bum left knee that has limited him extremely since donning green is healing up and that minutes restriction placed on him is starting to be alleviated.
“It’ll depend game-to-game as far as how we’ll go about the starting or coming off the bench. I think that’s been productive for our team,” said Stevens. “I still think even though his minutes restriction has been upped a little, you’re still conscious of his minutes. He’s a big part of us playing our very best.”
Stevens touched on Kyrie Irving’s leadership thus far with the club. He also spoke about how impressed he’s been with Jayson Tatum earning his minutes.