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As the Celtics settle down for a well-deserved break over Christmas, now is a perfect time to reflect back on the first third of the 2013-14 NBA season. Through the first 29 games the Celtics have experienced the full range of results found in a rebuilding/rebooting/re-establishing year.

In the first third of the season, the Celtics have defeated the Miami Heat at the buzzer, demolished the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden, and been demolished themselves by the Indiana Pacers. There are 26 other stories that go along with these three examples. Through the first third of the season there has been one constant- the effort on the floor.

The Boston Celtics have been playing HARD every night, and that is not something that has gone unnoticed by the Celtics opponents.

“This team plays as hard as any team in the NBA,” Indiana coach Frank Vogel said Sunday.

Said Minnesota coach Rick Adelman: “They play really hard. They come at you. They’re never out of a game. They just keep competing.”

Said [Doc]Rivers, now the coach of the Los Angeles Clippers: “There may be rebuilding going on, but [Celtics coach Brad Stevens] has his team competing every night. I think they’re one of the teams that, they compete every night and they can beat everybody.”

Former NBA coach Hubie Brown, now an NBA analyst for ESPN, agreed with all of the above. “[Stevens] and his staff have a team right now that is not tremendously talented, but they play hard every night,” Brown said.

“They play to their potential on most nights. They are doing an excellent job.”

Even former Celtics forward Paul Pierce, now playing in Brooklyn, couldn’t help but comment on the subject after a recent matchup against his former team.

“They always play hard, showing that Celtic pride,” he said.

Many analysts, coaches, players, reporters, and bloggers attribute the Celtic’s toughness to the coaching style of Brad Stevens. The man himself sees it completely differently.

“I think the whole coach thing is overrated,” Stevens said. “Guys are either going to play hard or they’re not. It’s in their DNA. And that’s been what’s kept us alive and given us a chance in certain games.”

We don’t know Stevens that well as a coach yet, but this seems like such a Brad Stevens thing to say. Winning or losing or snatching a victory from the jaws of defeat, Brad Stevens demeanor on the floor never changes. Ever steady and always analyzing, Stevens is captaining the hardest working team in the NBA, something that even in a rebuilding year should be worn like a badge of honor.

“We don’t have the dominant players that can take over the game,” said veteran swingman Gerald Wallace, whose identity throughout the NBA is tied to his almost unparalleled effort on a nightly basis. “We have to come out and compete every night, five guys playing together.”

Guard Avery Bradley, who plays as hard if not harder than any Celtic, agreed with Wallace that this team has to play hard on defense because its offense just isn’t overpowering.

“We’re a young team and when things don’t go right some young teams they don’t want to continue to give that effort the entire game,” Bradley said. “Sometimes we battle with that. That’s what kind of team we have to be, no matter how the game is going for us.

The Celtics will most likely not be hanging the 18th banner in the rafters this season, but it won’t be for lack of effort. This team is playing at a championship level every single night, and that’s not something every NBA city can say of its team.

With 29 games down, 53 games to go, and lots of changes, surprises, and speculation yet to come, you can bet on one thing remaining the same- the Celtics are going to work for every win they get, and force their opponents to work even harder for theirs.

Follow Padraic O'Connor on Twitter @padraic_oconnor

Source:Baxter Holmes; Boston Globe

Padraic O'Connor 12/24/2013 06:59:00 PM Edit
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