Most of my readers will not recognize the Celtics player in the above photo. His name is Chris Johnson, and he played in 40 games for Boston in the 2013-14 season. He didn't have a major impact with his limited minutes and production, but he left an impression with Coach Brad Stevens. Chris would sprint to spots on the floor as directed by the coaching staff and can fairly-open jumpers. That is what Brad wants from his current players. This is MassLive's Jay King on the subject:
But the dude (Chris Johnson) could run. And, more importantly, he wanted to run, possession after possession, to the exact spot on the floor where the coaching staff pointed him. As the Celtics have slumped to 18th in offensive efficiency this season, Stevens has noticed his players don't show enough urgency while sprinting to spots in transition.
"Probably the best I've ever coached is Chris Johnson a few years ago," (Brad) Stevens said. "The way that he flew to the corners was a skill."
Considering all their speed, athleticism and skill, they should be a team that gets up and down the court swiftly. Instead, they have repeatedly irritated the coaching staff by playing at a less-than-desired pace.
When asked what factors have limited the Celtics' transition numbers, Stevens cracked, "Running would be one."
Some examples of the Celtics team members not running to advantageous spots on the floor can be seen in the video below. At 2:20 Kyrie Irving can be seen coming down court looking for teammates running to the perimeter. Jaylen Brown gets there but isn't exactly sprinting.
At the 4:00 mark, Shane Larkin brings the ball up court, but no one is dashing to the corners. At 4:10 we see Marcus Morris bringing the ball up, and this time Shane Larkin and Abdel Nader are getting to their spots quickly. It pays off with a three-pointer from Nader.
The Boston Celtics currently are ranked 20th in pace according to the NBA statistics. Stevens obviously is looking for his team to move up in that ranking. Running, or preferably sprinting, to the right spots in transition is one way to improve the number of possessions/game. That isn't happening thus far.
The Los Angeles Lakers are ranked first in pace, and Boston recently lost to them during their West Coast trip. Tonight's game is against the second-ranked team, the Golden State Warriors. Keeping up with the Warriors fast pace will be tough for Boston, particularly without the services of Marcus Smart, out for two weeks with a lacerated hand. Trying to pick up their own pace on offense will make the task of winning the contest even more difficult. Outpacing the Warriors will be a tough one.