Every morning, we compile the links of the day and dump them here… highlighting the big storyline. Because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a good morning dump.
Yet, when the Celtics decided to play defense in the fourth quarter Wednesday, Stevens was spotted kneeling near halfcourt, clapping his hands, encouraging his team to press. While the Celtics coach of the previous nine years looked on 25 feet away, attempting to allow his superior team to play through its mistakes and hang on, Stevens appeared officially to assume the mantle of head of the Celtics.
The story line of Doc Rivers facing his former team was hardly of interest Wednesday. His association with the franchise is a cherished memory, but those ties are fading. Stevens brought his underdog team into Staples Center and the Celtics appeared to regain a semblance of confidence after a miserable outing in Denver the night before.
Boston has dropped 9 of 10 heading into Friday’s game against the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena. It’s likely they won’t win either of the final two games of this West Coast swing, which ends Saturday night in Portland.
But in a fashion representative of the unassuming Stevens, the Celtics officially became his team Wednesday. They played with the same enthusiasm he displayed in the fourth quarter. With the Celtics trailing, 109-105, with 16.4 seconds left, newest Celtic Jerryd Bayless made a stab at Jared Dudley, punching the ball out. Unfortunately, official Courtney Kirkland called a foul on Bayless.
Stevens, standing at midcourt, turned around and pounded the scorer’s table in disgust. That was as animated as Stevens had been as Celtics coach, and that was not lost on him.
Boston Globe - Despite loss, Brad Stevens shows he’s now leader of Celtics
As the season has gone on and the losses have piled up, we’ve seen just how Coach Stevens has reacted and responded. Early on it was relatively easy since the Celtics were surprising the league by playing hard for a solid 48 minutes and even stealing some wins like at Miami. The praise was showered from all over the league and rightfully so. Now that they have endured some bad losses and haven’t even bothered showing up in some games, things can become sour. But Stevens has remained relatively even-keeled despite showing some frustration and emotion. This is a good, no this is a great thing. The Celtics signed him to a six year deal so it’s a huge, glaring neon sign in an otherwise dark season that tells everyone that “THIS IS OUR LEADER, LIKE IT OR NOT!!!”
On the floor, their leader has yet to play, so it will be a huge reason to watch this team for the rest of the year to see how well Rajon Rondo and Stevens work together. The younger guys that may or may not be core players (Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger, etc.) simply aren’t ready to assume that role. The veterans like Gerald Wallace who, despite popping off every now and again, can’t be counted on as long term leaders because who knows if they’ll even be here next year or the remainder of this year? For now, the leadership has to be looked upon from Stevens, and during the Clippers loss, he was animated as Gary Washburn points out. More and more he’s been doing this though, and I’m still wondering when he’ll get rung up for his first technical. If he wants to carry on the Doc/Celtics tradition, then my guess is it will be Bill Kennedy who rings him up. Washburn also made another good point at the end of his piece:
So the mantle officially has been passed from Rivers to Stevens. The Celtics are carrying the personality of their head coach, and that was no more evident than Wednesday when their enthusiasm and passion almost stole an improbable victory.
The Celtics, who recalled MarShon Brooks from the Maine Red Claws Thursday, are trying to gain an identity but with so many changes it is a difficult endeavor. Yet, the organization will be in good health if the team continues to feed off the personality and demeanor of its coach. Wednesday was fun for Stevens and that was a welcome shift from the past few weeks.
This will be key for the remainder of this season not only for the team but for Stevens as well. He’s here for the long term and if you ask me there is no better time to take your lumps and losing streaks early in the process. Everyone should be much better for it.
The rest of the links:
ESPN Boston - Boston Celtics mailbag – What will Danny Ainge do next?