Boston (AFP) Brad Stevens knows the Celtics need to make changes this season if they hope to stay in a mix that is expected to be a group of retooled teams vying for the top of the Eastern Conference next season.
Just don’t expect the Boston chief of basketball operations to blow up a roster he thinks is about to finish the job after winning two NBA titles.
“I think teams are fragile. I think the way teams work together and work together,” Stevens said on Tuesday. “And I think your identity as a team, when you find one that works — which we did this year at the end of Defensive ground and when we were at our best attacking the ball – these things are fragile.
“So just adding (players) doesn’t mean you don’t take something away from the group.”
While Stevens was pleased with how the Celtics recovered from their 18-21 start to grab the second seed in the East and the conference title, he believes their slow start has direct links to how the Golden State Warriors were able to overtake them in the Finals.
“When you start at 18-21, you have to fight, scratch and claws to get into the playoffs, go into the seed, and get back in your court,” Stevens said. “You have to do all those things and there’s no margin for error.”
It meant less rest all season, and as minutes piled up, he believes that affected the team and especially star Jason Tatum, who was unable to produce the same numbers he produced in the finals as he did early in the post-season. .
However, Stevens will be looking to add another playmaker around the core group of Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart, while looking to continue developing the bench with players currently on the roster.
If Boston wants to add to any outside pieces, Stevens said the front office has been given approval to spend whatever is necessary. But the permission does not mean that he plans to exhaust what he called their “limited resources”.
The Celtics got below the luxury tax threshold ahead of last season’s trade deadline and don’t want to cross it unless justified.
They only have a certain second round (#53 in total) heading into Thursday night’s draft. But they also have three commercial exceptions totaling just under $30 million to play with, including about $17 million remaining from the exception created from the signing and trading of Evan Fournier last August.
“The big expiring in July, and we have a couple more expiring later, and they are all reasonable sums that we can bring in good players,” Stevens said. “It’s still a matter of being careful and thinking about what the deal is.”
This will be done in coordination with entry coach Ime Udoka, who Stevens believes has found rhythm in his first year on the sidelines after a slow start.
“In the first 40 games or so, he went through almost everything you could possibly go through as a coach in Boston,” Stephens said. “I think this is a testament to the way he has stayed straight. … I have told people that I am close all the time, I think his ability to recover after hard losses in qualifying was really special.”
As for Stevens’ own evaluation of his first year in his new job, he said he continues to learn every day.
“I still feel like I still have a long way to go in this role,” he said. “I have amazing people that I rely on every day around me, and I’m grateful for that. Our front office is doing a great job. And you know, without all their help it would be much more difficult, that’s for sure.”