The overhauled Boston Celtics roster is being primed to pick up the pace this season. Coach Brad Stevens has put an emphasis on playing fast in preparing his new-look and youthful C's squad for the upcoming NBA campaign.
“Brad wants to play a little bit faster this year,” Marcus Smart revealed following Saturday afternoon’s practice. “With the skill set we have on the court and then coming off the bench with certain guys, we definitely have the capability to do that.”
“Running,” Smart chirped with a smile. “Conditioning, and getting our conditioning up but still being able to think the game mentally.”
While the conditioning is obviously important if you want to outlast your opponent running up and down the floor it's also critical that the Celtics are taking care of the ball and making good decisions in doing so, something that Stevens has said is still work in process:
“We’re throwing the ball all over the gym some right now and making plays we’ll have to clean up,” Stevens said. “But as far as the intent of what we’re trying to do and the way guys are playing … it’s been good.”
“I want us to play faster if we can keep the ball within our team,” said Stevens, referring to the Celtics’ need to limit turnovers. “Faster can be a number of things. For us, pace is the word, right? Pace can be up the floor but it can also be once you get into your half court, being able to move and cut, play together.”
A big part of controlling the pace will include how well the Celtics can get stops on the defensive end. If they want to get off and running they're going to have to make plays on defense, and when they force missed shots they've got to secure the defensive glass. Smart talked about the defense being a big focus to getting the offense rolling:
“We want to get the ball out and when we get stops, we want to get the ball up the floor as quick as possible,” Smart said. “Quick buckets, and we want to be able to execute at a fast pace.”
The Celtics lost two of their best defenders from last year's team in Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley, but the additions of Gordon Hayward, Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes are sure to make a difference on the defensive end as well. Baynes will provide a presence inside the C's haven't had since Kendrick Perkins left town. It'll be interesting to see how the pace changes with the traditional big man on the floor, but given the emphasis Stevens has placed on speed expect to see a lot of small-ball lineups for the green this season.