Celtics basketball has been synonymous with Doc Rivers (and Tom Thibodeau) basketball for the last several years. That's all done now and there's a new sheriff in town with his own style and his own gameplan. Of course, even Doc wasn't the Doc we've come to know before he had Kevin Garnett. You tailor your system around the players that you have. So we only know about Stevens from his college system and we could only guess what he would emphasize with his new NBA roster.
At least until now. Stevens peeled back the curtain a bit to let us know what to expect from his system this year. Defense and running. Oh, and floor spacing as well.
"The best team-builder you can have is not an exercise that you do at night, together, at a putt-putt course or whatever the case may be. It’s getting really good defensively. It’s doing a really hard thing together, it’s building that bond that way. So that’s going to be a big, important part. "And then I think we have to space the floor and play with space. So whether that means we’re getting it up the floor – obviously we want to play in transition. But when we’re in the half-court, I think the ball has to move. I think we have to play with pace. I don’t know that we’ll be at our very, very best if we’re isolated early in the shot clock."
During Monday’s media day, he revealed that he wants to be a defensive-first team that pushes the ball up-tempo off the turnover or rebound. He said he wants ball movement, floor spacing, and doesn’t think this team can be successful pounding down the shot clock in isolation even when All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo returns from his torn anterior cruciate ligament surgery sometime early in the season.
So remember when Rondo went down and the team went on a mini-winning streak that had talking heads (and blogs) wondering aloud if the team was "better off" without Rondo because the ball movement was so pure? Yeah, more of that, only hopefully with Rondo on the floor too (at least at some point).
Avery Bradley also compared Stevens new style as less "rigid" than Doc's system and more "open." The Celtics of the last few years have been lauded as being great at "execution" but when the system broke down it looked suck in the mud and broken. We might see a looser style of offense that could produce more sloppy mistakes (depending on the personnel) but perhaps it will be more adaptable to changing defensive schemes as well. We'll just have to see.
The disclaimer at the end of all of this is that all coaches preach defense and running in training camp. Actually following through on it will be key. I do think we have the young legs to get up and down the court. I think the book is still out on how well we'll do defensively. Still, I like the emphasis.