Brad Stevens On 2021 Celtics’ Progress: ‘We’re Not Even Close’

Getty Images Jayson Tatum looks on during the preseason game against the Brooklyn Nets

The 2021 Boston Celtics are days away from the start of the regular season, yet, still in the beginning stages of revamping its newfound identity all while trying to stay afloat in an improved uber-competitive Eastern Conference.

If that harsh realization wasn’t realized prior to Friday night’s 113-89 preseason-finale blowout loss by the hands of the Brooklyn Nets, well, Kyrie Irving and his superstar teammate Kevin Durant’s blunt reality-check sent a crystal-clear message:

The Nets are real.

Durant and Irving combined for 42 points on 16-of-31 attempts from the floor in less than 30 minutes – which reassured the tandem’s health is no longer a concern, whatsoever. As for the Celtics, their offensive production outside of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown was scarce, to say the least.

For the Nets, guys like Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (18 points), Joe Harris (14 points), and Jarrett Allen (9 points, 11 rebounds) supported the duo of Irving and Durant with solid production while Celtics head coach Brad Stevens watched starters Marcus Smart (3-of-11) and Daniel Theis (2-of-6) struggle.

Brad Stevens On The Boston Celtics: ‘We’re Not Even Close To That Group That Was In The Bubble’

Brooklyn is an early favorite to win the East and what’s most concerning for the Celtics is just how far ahead the Nets have progressed in contrast to where Boston was just last season.

“We’re not even close to that group that was in the bubble,” Stevens said following Friday’s loss to the Nets. “We’ve got a lot of work to do to get to that point, we have to play a lot better than we have. Ultimately, we have to make sure we’re building the right habits.”

Boston concludes its preseason schedule 0-2. It’s been a difficult transition for Stevens and the Celtics.

Unlike other upper-echelon teams in the East such as the Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, and Philadelphia 76ers, the Celtics’ core is in dire need of replacing the offensive production loss from two key members from last season – Kemba Walker, Gordon Hayward. The Nets will bear fruit in within having Durant back as will the Sixers in Ben Simmons’ return along with a new head coach in Doc Rivers. 

Brad Stevens On His Starting Unit: ‘Our First Group Has Not Played Well’

As for the Celtics, making role-defining moves will sort their way out but honing in on the starting unit and learning what went awry following a shorthanded two-game sample-sized exhibition season, is a good place to start.

“We haven’t played well in the majority of these two games,” Stevens said Friday. “And certainly our first group has not played well, or just generally the guys that are going to play the share of the minutes, so we’re going to have to make sure we get a lot better and get ready for Wednesday. We’ve got a really good team, Milwaukee, coming in.

“At the same time, these games are exhibition games for a reason; so we’ll learn from them and move on.”

The Celtics will tip-off its 2020-21 regular season on December 23 in Boston at TD Garden.

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