NEXT MAN UP MENTALITY

Next man up. It’s a phrase we hear all the time in sports. For Coach Stevens and the Celtics, it’s becoming a part of the nightly game plan. First, it was Gordon Hayward going down for the season. Before that, Marcus Morris wasn’t ready at the start of the season, and is still battling some knee soreness. After scrambling to install some new things in the offensive and defensive schemes for the new rotation, plentiful in first year players, the team got off to a scalding hot, completely unforeseen, 9-2 start.

Nov 3, 2017; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; The Boston Celtics celebrate after defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

“I don’t think anyone expected anything like this,” Al Horford said of the surprising start of the new-look Celtics.

Just when things started to settle down, and the Celtics could just play, Horford himself started showing signs of a concussion, from a blow he took in a previous game vs. the Hawks. He would have to sit out against the Lakers, putting the 9-game win streak in jeopardy. Making matters worse, Jayson Tatum left the game in the first half, with ankle soreness, and didn’t return. Did it matter? Nope, the C’s won comfortably anyway.

“Until we only have four left, I guess we’re just gonna keep playing,” Stevens said after the game.

IS THIS THE MAINE RED CLAWS?

The next game, against the Hornets, provided a bigger test. The Hornets should be a playoff team this year, and Al Horford was still out. Kyrie Irving suffered a blow to the head in the opening minutes of the game, and did not return. Now officially operating without a single member of the big 3 assembled in the offseason, Brad Stevens and the C’s now had a real situation on their hands.

What did they do? Exactly what Stevens said after the previous game against the Lakers– they kept playing.

Down 18 at one point, Stevens told his players at the beginning of the 4th quarter in the Hornets game, according to Terry Rozier, “We are going to win this game, and this place is going to go nuts.” 

The coach proceeded to roll out a lineup littered with players that have legitimately received more playing time in the G-league, and overseas, in their careers than in the NBA.

And they won the game.

CALM AS EVER

Afterwards, the coach could be found sitting at the podium, waiting on the media.

Seemingly always two steps ahead of the competition, the people who spend their lives hustling, to get things out for the public as quickly as possible, can’t even keep up with him. Despite the brilliant comeback, with the ragtag bunch put together, the opening questions remained the same as they have been most of the season.

“Brad, can you tell us what you know about  _______’s injury?”

Injuries have been one of the biggest storylines of the season for the Celtics thus far. Perhaps only second to the fact that this team has now won 12 straight games, the last two without Irving. It’s something I have had to double check every time I hear it. It’s simply surreal that this team, fighting through adversity from every possible angle, seems incapable of losing. What is happening? How are they doing this?

BRAD STEVENS, THE MAGICIAN

Maybe Rachel isn’t that far off. After all, the coach has proven his wizardry, time and time again, in pressure situations. When there is supposedly no way out of a bind, Brad Stevens doesn’t panic. He doesn’t back down. The coach looks further on down the bench, calm as ever, and he finds something that will work. He believes in his guys, all the way down to the last man. The coach fights for his players, and always puts the blame on himself. When asked about a mistake rookie Geurschon Yabusele made, intentionally fouling Dwight Howard under 2 minutes, the coach went to bat for his player.

“He’s new to the NBA…What that really boils down to is horrible coaching. Because he should know what he’s supposed to do when he goes in and he should know when he can’t do it. So that’s not his fault, it’s ours.”

TRUST GOES A LONG WAY

Stevens took the rookie out after the play, and was obviously frustrated with him. Yabusele has come along slowly, not getting much PT yet in his young career. He really shouldn’t be seeing the floor, but Brad Stevens went back to him in the 2nd half, and he played a role in the comeback. Brad’s players know he trusts them, and he is not going to let them fail alone. He is going to have their backs, even when he shouldn’t. Stevens is never going to publicly scold someone. He does it behind the scenes, and in a teaching manner, not a belittling way.

In almost every game, Stevens’ deep trust in his players is put on display in a unique way. In the same game vs. the Hornets, Marcus Morris made a critical mistake, shooting the ball up three, with 30 seconds left in the game. He was wide open, but the C’s had a full shot clock, and needed to hold the ball. Stevens kept Morris in, and he hit a huge shot the next possession to make it a 5 point lead, and all but seal it.

DOMINANCE ON THE HORIZON?

Brad Stevens is a master of X’s and O’s, but more importantly, he is a master of people. He knows exactly what buttons to push, to get the proper reaction he wants out of his players. This goes far beyond basketball, and his players are able to respect him as a man first. They see how he approaches life and basketball, and they admire it. He never gets too high or too low. He just stays the course, and keeps working, no matter how chaotic things get around him.

“The Celtics are going to be like the Patriots and dominate a conference for a decade,” Colin Cowherd said on his talk show recently.

It is becoming apparent, with each passing year, that Brad Stevens is going to be the coach of the Boston Celtics until he gets tired of it. All the way up to that day, they are going to keep playing, until they get down to 4 players. And unless that tragic scenario actually plays out, they are going to keep winning basketball games. It’s time to give this man his due credit, as the best coach in this league.


View the original article on Celtics Extra: Brad Stevens Might Finally Win Coach of the Year