In a media availability session on Tuesday morning, Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens answered questions on a variety of subjects. Questions ranged from his feelings on current events in the United States following the murder of George Floyd to his thoughts on Celtics players being a part of protests. Stevens also answered questions about the Celtics practice facility opening this week and the team resuming play at a single-site.
The availability opened with Stevens being asked for his thoughts of Celtics players being involved in protests around the United States. He responded with “It’s been great. Having individual conversations with everyone on our team, it’s been great. The NBA is amazing in the way they care and take action. We’re lucky to have so many great people representing us with the Celtics.”
When asked about his own feelings on the state of things in the country, Stevens was clear that he finds what has happened, and continues to happen, to black people appalling. Stevens said he feels “Extreme sadness. A lot of people feel the pain and it transfers to anger. I wrote a letter to our guys this weekend. What I wanted them to know is that every decent person is hurting, but I don’t want to pretend I know their exact, distinct pain. I wanted them to know I’m with them. The leadership our guys have shown is terrific. Hopefully we can have near-term healing and long-term gains that create sustainable action that creates change.”
Stevens went on to say that he hopes Celtics players understand that he may not know what they are experiencing, but that he’s there for them: “It’s understanding I may not be the guy they turn to. But it’s about making sure they know I’m here if they need me. I may not know the depth of that, but I’m here for you. That’s how we approach it. They are really hard, but right conversations to have. The pain everyone feels has been there for a long, long time, and the lack of progress is jarring. Part of my job is listening and learning.”
When asked about conversations he’s having with his own family, Stevens said “Our kids have only grown up around basketball teams their whole lives. They’ve been around a diverse set of people and friends forever. One of the things we are talking to them about is that not everyone grew up that way and sees the world that way. It’s been uplifting to listen to my kids the past few days.”
One thing that was clear is the admiration and pride Stevens has for Jaylen Brown in particular. He was asked about Brown’s advocacy and participation in a protest in his home city of Atlanta, and Stevens replied: “Jaylen’s greatest impact, as good as he is in basketball, won’t be in basketball. He’s a special guy. He’s smart and he’s got courage. I think we recognized that when we drafted him, but he’s been incredible every day and every year. I’ve always loved listening to him and talking to him about things outside of basketball. I’m not surprised by him taking a leadership role.”
When the conversation turned to basketball the looming return of the NBA season, Stevens feels that there are still many unknowns about gathering at a single-site: “Feels like there is probably a lot of stuff to cover from a bases standpoint. It makes sense the idea of isolating everyone, and ultimately making it an environment of as less infection as possible. Feels like there are a lot of Ts to cross, but that the powers that be are working on that.”
When asked about spending up to two months at a single-site to finish the season, Stevens spoke about the impact on families: “I know they are discussing what that will look like. From a personal standpoint, I look at it from the point of view of family. I love being around my wife and kids every day. That’s my concern. The length of time is certainly a factor.”
As the Celtics facility opened on Monday, Stevens said that a number of players are in Boston and have come in for voluntary workouts. He said those workouts are limited in their impact, due to the guidelines around space and what players are allowed to do. He said the greatest impact is having access to the strength and conditioning equipment they may not have had at home. Stevens was also clear to give kudos to the practice facility staff for making it the safest possible place to work out.
As far as the conditioning of Celtics players and getting them basketball ready as the season looks to be ramping back up, Stevens made it clear that basketball hasn’t been a priority this week. He also said it’s only been a somewhat of a discussion point since the season has been on pause: “During the pandemic, we tried to focus on the mental well-being of everyone in the organization. That’s been intensified this week. When we have focused on basketball, we’ve focused on staying a week away from being in your best shape. We’re all on-call.”
As far as what games could look like, Stevens seems excited to get back to playing basketball again. He expects games to be just as competitive even without fans in attendance: “I’ve given a lot of thought to all of this. There will be some interesting parts if we resume without fans. The competitiveness will be the same in my opinion. If you see the guys go against each other in practices, the competitiveness will be tremendous.”
Stevens also touched on the unique opportunity the NBA has to broadcast games without fans and crowd noise: “I think the sounds will be great for TV. People will love to hear more of the coaches, players, referees, the dialogue of everyone involved. I’m interested to see what the league will decide on pumping in noise or not. I think the sounds of the game would be great for people to see what the players go through possession by possession.”
It’s clear that preparing for the resumption of the Celtics season is underway, and that Brad Stevens will do his best to have the team ready when the season resumes. It was also clear that he understands that’s not a priority for many at this moment and that his role is to support his team by being a listener and helping in way he can.