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Brad Stevens sifts through state of Celtics, potential trade deadline moves: ‘We want to win’



Even though he’s not roaming the sidelines anymore, Brad Stevens can’t help but view the Celtics’ season to date through the lens of a coach.

So, as the Celtics torched the NBA through the first quarter of the season with an unstoppable offense, the former coach and now president of basketball operations didn’t want to get ahead of himself – naturally.

“Whenever you have a hot start, you’re like, ‘Ugh, God,’” Stevens said. “This is just like being up 20 in the first quarter, right? It’s just part of it.”

The Celtics, after that hot start, have finally gone through the latter. They entered Friday’s game against the Timberwolves having lost five of their previous six games after losing five times in their first 26 games. Their offense has taken a step back from a historic pace. They’ve looked anything but flawless.

Stevens isn’t concerned, just like he wasn’t getting carried away with the start. He described this two-week stretch as a “little bit of a rut.” It’s nothing he hasn’t seen before, even teams like the Celtics with championship aspirations, and he said the key is how they respond to this test of adversity.

“When you have a three-game blip like we have right now where we haven’t played very well or a two-week deal where we haven’t played very well, I’ve seen a lot of good to great teams do that,” Stevens said Friday morning at Celtics shootaround before their game against the Timberwolves.

“There are ups and downs throughout the year,” he later said. “We’ve shown ourselves to be a capable team. I think we’re at our very best when the ball is flying around, which is not a surprise, and when we’re really locked in and active into the ball on defense. … I think that ultimately, we can look and we can be really good and the key is as you go through the down times, not to get down on yourself, not to lose confidence, and just recenter that this is how we’re good, this is what makes us good, and go from there. If we can’t do that, then maybe look for tweaks that hopefully give our roster a better chance to maximize itself.”

From a macro level, that’s also Stevens’ job now as he balances what he’s seen approaching the midway point of the season and applies that to ways he can bolster the Celtics in their championship pursuit. While the trade deadline is more than six weeks away, and the C’s – who are still title favorites – aren’t likely to need major changes, Stevens is more than willing to add to this roster if he needs to.

“When I was coaching I always told the guys, ‘Let the game tell you what to do,’” Stevens said “Well, let the game tell us what to do over the next couple of months. Like any other thing, I’ve gotta be able to take a step back, I’ve gotta be able to sift through what’s a blip and what’s real. But listen, we want to win. There’s no question about it. We have a really good team and hopefully we are playing great over the next couple of months but we’ll evaluate that and we’ll make the decisions that right or wrong we think may give us the best chance of winning.”

No change yet in Mazzulla’s status

Stevens said the Celtics have not had recent conversations about Joe Mazzulla’s title. Mazzulla remains the Celtics’ interim head coach, and that status is likely to stay at least for the foreseeable future.

“We haven’t really even like talked about it recently,” Stevens said. “Our focus has been on how to make this team and staff and give everything we need to make sure we’re as good as we can be. He’s running the show. The title is the title and we’ll have updates at a later date on all that other stuff. But he’s doing a good job and he’s running it like the head coach runs it.”

Stevens expressed great confidence when he named Mazzulla the interim head coach on the eve of training camp after the Celtics issued a season-long suspension to Ime Udoka. Mazzulla has delivered on Stevens’ faith so far, especially in the face of unique and unprecedented circumstances after being thrust into the job – his first time as an NBA head coach – to lead a team with championship aspirations that was suddenly dealing with crisis.

“It’s been really good. It’s been really good,” Stevens said. “Every 20 games that you coach in the NBA, you’re just getting better and better and better. Just even like looking at where we started from the start of training camp, the leadership, the organization, the way that everybody embraced him, he embraced everyone else. He’s very open to people. To the different ideas that they have. Maybe too open, right, at times? Cause there’s a million of them coming at him at once.

“But he’s been great and his staff’s been great. That’s something that probably doesn’t get talked about enough. I think that was a unique thing for everybody and the staff just came in and did their job to adding to winning. That’s what we have to do. Everybody in this building has a role, we all have to play it as well as we can to give ourselves a chance to win.”



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