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On the NBA Beat Ep. 12a: John Karalis: Regarding Preparation, Coach “(Brad) Stevens Is at Another Level” for Celtics

Danny Ainge and the youthful Boston Celtics are a fascinating study in team-building. On this week’s exhilarating interview episode, Loren is solo with Red’s Army’s John Karalis for a discussion of the Leprechauns’ current and future. Are they contenders or pretenders in the East? Among a number of topics, John explores in great detail the emergence of Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas’ adjustment to his starting role, team synergy and Brad Stevens’ superb coaching. Delectable sound bites can be found below:

3:38-4:13: I still worry about them in the playoffs. I don’t think they have the type of makeup that will be a very successful playoff team, because rotations shrink, the game slows…it just becomes about talent overcoming other talent. So they’ve got enough to win a first-round series. I wonder how they’ll do in the later rounds, because they don’t have that one takeover guy.

4:17-4:54:  When Isaiah Thomas gets into hero mode, then the Celtics tend to have a little bit of a problem. It’s his greatest strength but his greatest weakness, because it’s that chip on his shoulder that makes him play so well at his size with his flaws, but when the game gets down to the last couple of minutes and the Celtics are down two or three, sometimes I think he plays a little outside of himself…and eliminates the ball movement that makes the Celtics so good. 

5:10-5:33: I like where the Celtics are. I think they’re very well positioned for the future. I think they’re gonna continue to have a pretty good regular season. I’m afraid that the comparisons to Atlanta will hold a little too true when you play that starless basketball, and they’ll get into a playoff situation where they’re maybe a little bit more disappointing than their regular season would let on.

6:08-7:11: It’s not really one person that’s destroying the point of attack. It’s more of a group effort. They’re playing the pick ‘n roll differently than they have in the past. They’re doing a lot of “icing” and keeping guys out of the middle. And they are just really working together to force players into position where they can anticipate where the passes are going…They communicate well, they get their hands in the passing lanes and then on top of it, when Marcus Smart is healthy, they have three really elite NBA-level defenders in Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder.  

9:25-10:31: Defensively, he (Crowder) has such versatility, because he’s got the size to defend at least three positions on a regular basis…When you want to, in a last-possession situation, switch on everything, and he switches onto even Steph Curry or Chris Paul, it’s not a decimation. It’s a guy who can in the moment at least provide defensive resistance and make him work…He can guard LeBron – he’s strong enough. He was guarding Carmelo Anthony the other night and Carmelo was trying to back him down and could not.

12:42-14:01: I think it’s a bit of a shame that (Tyler) Zeller has fallen so far out of the rotation. He was the projected starter at center coming into the season. He started the opener with David Lee, and Jahlil Okafor ate him up and that was it…Really one of the big problems for the Celtics as far as the big-man rotation goes is David Lee…I don’t think he fits at all on this team, and I would love to see any sort of trade that gets him out of town as fast as possible. He doesn’t spread the floor. He’s not finding guys. When he’s on the floor, it’s a net-negative for the Celtics.

16:10-18:23: He’s doing a lot more to get other guys involved, which in turn is helping him offensively. He’s having a tremendous year. I think he is an All-Star…He’s always wanted to start…As far as him leading the team moving forward, he needs somebody else to kind of take the scoring burden off him. He’s said as much…He’s probably not THE guy, the No. 1 guy, but he’s a No. 2 guy. And those No. 2 guys can take over games. So the Celtics definitely need a primary weapon, that superstar type of player. They need the guy that they can rely on like the Paul Pierce that they used to have to say, ‘Everything’s not working. You take the ball and kind of carry this offense, carry the team until we can figure it all out.’   

22:52-24:04: The coaching staff has bought in, and they work incredibly hard on making sure that the guys are where they’re supposed to be and doing what they’re supposed to do…He’s one of the best out-of-timeout coaches in the league, so he’s got a very good mind for the matchups, and he will trust his guys…It’s a very Gregg Popovich type of approach that he takes sometimes. Fans like to criticize some of the things that he does late in games when they don’t take a timeout…When the Celtics get the ball late in the game, and they have an opportunity to get out and run, he doesn’t want to disrupt that flow. He trusts the players to execute a plan that they’ve worked on in practice…He just kind of lets it happen, and ultimately that’s gonna end up being successful, I think, because those guys don’t always have to turn and look at your coach.

27:56-28:49: The worst-case scenario is that (R.J.) Hunter, I think, still develops into a solid NBA player, (Terry) Rozier never quite figures it out and (Jordan) Mickey becomes, you know, OK, but a bench player. But the best-case scenario is that Hunter develops into a big-time wing scorer, Mickey develops into a really good stretch big and Rozier can be a super-fast, defensive point guard that can score, so the potential exists. This is green-goggled, I admit that…The potential exists for the stories to be written in three years that the draft that Danny Ainge desperately tried to trade out of could be his best draft ever.   

31:44-32:15: You’re basically looking at the Boston Brooklyn Celtics when it comes to development and the future, because they have the players and the young guys, but they have Brooklyn’s draft picks to look forward to for the next three years. It’s not just this year’s pick. They can switch next year and then they have an unprotected one the year after, plus they have potentially Dallas’ pick and I think it’s the Phoenix pick through Minnesota. So they have a lot of options.  

Music: “Who Likes to Party?” by Kevin MacLeod

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