With the NBA yet to release the official start date of the Celtics Eastern Conference semifinal matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks, it not only has C’s fans feeling antsy, but also head coach Brad Stevens.
Stevens went on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Zolak and Bertrand Wednesday and seemed irked about trying to prepare for a playoff series when he doesn’t know exactly when it will begin. Stevens also discussed his thoughts on Giannis Antetokounmpo and provided an update on Marcus Smart’s health.
“We are still awaiting final word and we’ve been awaiting final word for multiple days now, and so hopefully we get final word very, very soon,” said Stevens on if he knows when the Celtics-Bucks series will start. “They tell both teams as it’s going along what they’re thinking. This one’s been frustrating because we’ve been not playing games since Sunday night so to create a practice schedule where you can practice appropriately, prepare appropriately and rest appropriately obviously depends on when your next game is.”
But the long layoff has given Stevens plenty of time to devise a way to try to handle Antetokounmpo. Stevens raved about the Greek Freak’s abilities and knows after last season’s playoff series with the Bucks when Antetokounmpo put up 25.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game, just how disruptive he can be on the floor.
“Just for two years. I mean, that’s all,” said Stevens on Antetokounmpo keeping him up late. “He’s special. We played against them in the playoffs last year and he was special. He was an All-NBA player last year. He’s the probable MVP this year. What he does not only from the standpoint of scoring, handling, defending, rebounding – go on down the list – just his tenacity and the way he attacks the game is special and clearly is contagious.”
Stevens also weighed in once again on Smart’s progress as the guard recovers from a torn oblique that he suffered on April 7. Smart was seen jogging on a treadmill at Tuesday’s practice, and while that’s a good sign, Stevens believes it will be some time before he has Smart at his disposal.
“It seems like it’s trending well, but I don’t have any timeline,” Stevens said. “I think it was four to six weeks is what we were told initially and there is just so few examples of this in basketball. … He’s really progressed as well as could have been hoped is what I’ve been told, but they haven’t said that he’ll be ready any time soon.”