Inside-outside game one of Stevens' focuses

Inside-outside game one of Stevens' focuses
October 11, 2013, 2:45 pm
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NEWARK, Del. — By the end of this weekend the Boston Celtics will be halfway through their preseason slate which should give Brad Stevens a pretty good feel for what this group needs to improve upon.

Of course there's the coach-speak, blanket response to that which is "everything needs to be improved upon."

While that may be true, Celtics rookie head coach Brad Stevens has identified a few points of emphasis that will be stressed.

"We've got to continue to play together, we have to play inside-out better, and we have to help each other defensively better," he said at the University of Delaware's Bob Carpenter Arena. "We still have a long way to go ... hopefully we can show strides in that regard."

Boston will get that opportunity tonight against Philadelphia, a team that in many ways are also trying to establish an identity.

Stevens' initial point about playing together becomes tougher to execute during the trying times that a losing streak would bring about.

But because this is the preseason, players aren't overly concerned with the mounting losses.

"Our main thing is that we could lose every game during the preseason because we just want to get better as a team and get ready for the regular season," said Gerald Wallace.

Quantifying a team playing together isn't easy, but team assists per game does at the very least glean some light on a team's ability to work with one another effectively.

It's even more telling when you consider the Celtics are without the services of their top assist man Rajon Rondo who is still on the mend from a torn right ACL injury suffered in January.

Boston has had 25 and 28 assists, respectively, in their first two games. A similar clip during the regular season would easily rank the Celtics among the league leaders in that category.

Having a high assist average per game was a hallmark of the Celtics under former head coach Doc Rivers who has since left to become the head coach and Vice President of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Clippers.

In his nine seasons in Boston, Rivers only had one year (the dreaded 2006-2007 campaign/death march of a season) in which the Celtics did not rank among the NBA's top-10 in assists per game.

Stevens also discussed the team's inside-outside game needing work.  

Boston only has one true center on the roster, Vitor Faverani. And like many of today's NBA big men, Faverani is a player that can stretch the floor with his perimeter-shooting skills and, like so many bigs in the NBA now, he relies on this aspect of his game probably more than he should.

The Celtics can also look to run some offense through power forward Jared Sullinger in the post, but being as undersized as he is adds another challenge to getting effective play around the rim.

And Stevens' third point about helping one another defensively, more than anything else, has been an issue in both games which saw their opponent shoot at least 52 percent from the field.

Stevens knows all too well that if they continue to allow opponents to shoot that well from the field and struggle to rebound the ball, losses are going to pile up in droves.

But that's the beauty of the preseason, a time to figure out what works, what doesn't and hopefully implement enough changes in time to figure out how to be competitive and win a few games.