After hitting the game-winning 3 that would give Team White a 30-29 win over the second unit, Kyrie Irving called Brad Stevens a “basketball genius.” Per Irving, the Celtics head coach had put in a “sh*t ton” of new stuff in their first official day of training camp. Stevens, ever the humble servant to growth mindset and taking it one day at a time, said, “we’re not going to add a whole lot after today, for the next few days, because we want to, ya know, the whole-part-whole thing. We’re going to throw it all at them and then we’ll break it down and try and get as good as we can with that and move forward after that. Guys picked it up really quickly.”
Admittedly, Irving’s shot over the outstretched Aron Baynes off a pick from Al Horford was a simple set. Fellow (presumed) starters Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown, and Jayson Tatum spaced the floor beyond the three-point line and were ready to catch-and-shoot from a Kyrie kick out. It may not be the most elegant piece of X’s and O’s, but sometimes, the shortest path between A and a practice-ending jumper is getting it to your best offensive player in space. That, in a nutshell, is one of the key components of the versatility of this team: the Celtics will be able to take advantage of mismatches all over the floor because each player has the ability to be a playmaker on any given play.
But this is where Stevens’ “whole-part-whole” methodology comes into play. These two plays became Twitter highlights as Celtics fans waited with bated breath for their first glimpses of this team in action:
YABU IS DUNKING AND THE CELTICS ARE BACK pic.twitter.com/D6WCd7YGOc— Jay King (@ByJayKing) September 25, 2018
Marcus Smart at the point and threading a bounce pass to the rolling Guerschon Yabusele.
Jaylen just got a bucket on Smart. pic.twitter.com/7hr5HuIm2x— Tom Westerholm (@Tom_NBA) September 25, 2018
Brown hitting this turnaround over Smart just outside of the restricted area.
They seem like simple plays born out of getting players in their areas of strength on the floor and letting them work. However, a wider perspective shows what “sh*t ton” of stuff Stevens might have added to jump start the Celtics’ middling offense from last season:
First glimpse for media and Yabu is dunking. pic.twitter.com/gSYbc9cZlH— Chris Forsberg (@ChrisForsberg_) September 25, 2018
Note how Brown gets deep paint position on Smart. We’ve seen that action a thousand times since Stevens been in Boston with a wing player coming off a down screen. Sometimes, he’ll receive the ball on a dribble hand off from Horford as the second screener, but here, it’s Kyrie delivering the pass from the weak side. Here’s where Stevens’ read-and-react system and the players’ off season workouts mesh.
It’s an easy read for Brown. He sees that Smart and Semi Ojeleye are going to switch on the first pick from Tatum (who comes off a pick from Horford to receive the ball at the top of the key). The taller Brown gets Smart on his back and calmly hits the fade away in the key, a shot he worked on with Tracy McGrady this summer. And for what it’s worth, the Green Team runs a similar action down the floor on its next possession.
This is the “genius” of Brad Stevens at work and at play with the most versatile roster he’s ever had. This is the blood, sweat, and tears of summer workouts belied by Instagram and YouTube videos that can’t completely represent just how much these players put into their craft. This is the culmination of Danny Ainge’s plan to rebuild the Celtics with even more assets down the road.
Oh, yeah. And Gordon Hayward is dunking again.