When Brad Stevens moved into his new role as the Boston Celtics President of Basketball Operations, a learning curve was to be expected.
Danny Ainge had held the role for the previous 18 years, bringing a championship to the city in 2008. However, shortly after Stevens began his new role on the team, he started reshaping the roster in his image, moving on from players he deemed to be surplus to requirements.
As a coach, Stevens was known for his team’s defensive identity, so it makes sense that almost every incoming player was a viable option on that side of the floor. Now, under new head coach Ime Udoka, the Celtics are the best defensive team in the NBA and have just swept the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the playoffs, leading to a tidal wave of praise from every angle, including opposing teams players.
“Two of the most questionable moves he could make at the start of his tenure. One was everyone thought Marcus Smart shouldn’t be receiving a contract extension, that you probably need to trade him, this hasn’t worked. Brad Stevens believed in Marcus Smart, gave him the max contract extension, and cleared the way for him to be the point guard for the team.
He also brought back Al Horford, who had been trending down being in OKC and not playing on a contender. So, he brought back Al Horford in a very guard-dominant NBA, he brought back another big and everybody is looking like ‘why is he doing that?’ And those two moves have proved to be so genius for the Boston Celtics,” Green said.
Tatum Continues to Improve
After a slow start to the regular season following his Olympic success with Team USA, Jayson Tatum has found top gear at the perfect time and is coming off the back of a playoff series where he out-dueled Kevin Durant for four straight games.
There’s no doubt that Tatum is on his way to becoming a bonafide superstar in the NBA, and he has clearly cemented himself atop the Celtics’ hierarchy of talent. Sure, we all know that Tatum can score from pretty much anywhere on the floor, but his growth as a playmaker – he averaged 7.3 assists per game against the Brooklyn Nets – and his developments as an on-ball defender have seen his game rocket into a new stratosphere.
“Jayson Tatum, the way he’s stepped up and become that guy – when you’re watching him play you know he’s the guy. And from the outside looking in, it looks like Jaylen Brown supports that, it looks like Marcus Smart supports that, it looks like all those guys are pushing him to be that.
He’s becoming more and more comfortable in being that, obviously, he’s getting older, he’s getting more mature, more experienced. He’s becoming more comfortable within himself, he’s learning who Jayson Tatum is, and I think it’s such a beautiful thing,” Green said as he praised Tatum’s growth throughout the season.
Celtics Likely to Face the Milwaukee Bucks
With the Celtics through to the second round of the playoffs, all eyes are now on the Milwaukee Bucks and Chicago Bulls, as the two teams do battle for the chance to face Boston in the next round.
Currently, the Bucks hold a three-one lead over Chicago, but with Khris Middleton out for the next couple of weeks with an injury, anything can happen. Still, the reigning champions are the most likely candidate to face off against the Celtics once the second round gets underway, which will provide Tatum with another opportunity to prove his superstar status – this time against Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Should the Celtics come through their next series, the Miami Heat are the team who will likely be waiting for them in the conference finals – meaning there is no easy route to a championship for Ime Udoka’s men, however, the team has recently spoken about their willingness to make history the hard way.
“I’m assuming a road to the championship is never easy. We took on that challenge, and we knew it was going to be tough. And I think that was good for us,” Tatum told the media after helping the Celtics dispatch the Nets.
The Celtics could find out who their second-round opponent is as soon as Wednesday, April 27, as the Bucks and Bulls face off for the fifth time, with a Milwaukee win cementing their progress.