Sprung: What does Brad Stevens bring to rebuilding Celtics?

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200px-Brad_Stevens_on_Butler_sidelineBROOKLYN– Brad Stevens is new to the NBA, and the Boston Celtics have had to grow familiar with his brand of coaching over the course of training camp and the preseason.

With just about two weeks before the start of the season – and a new era for the franchise – the Celtics seem pleased with the progress the team is making under Stevens’ early stewardship.

If general manager Danny Ainge’s plan for the franchise is for the rookie coach to grow along with his young team, it seems to be working at this juncture despite Tuesday night’s 82-80 loss to the Brooklyn Nets.

It’s going to take a lot of patience this season with the Celtics, with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett now members of the Nets and Rajon Rondo (who was unavailable to the media Tuesday) still injured.

SH Blog: Carlesimo says Nets have unrealistic expectations, LeBron disagrees with MJ’s scouting report

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CarlesimoIt’s always interesting to hear candid thoughts from former players or coaches about the situations of the teams they used to play for or coached.

P.J. Carlesimo, the former interim head coach of the Brooklyn Nets, is now an ESPN analyst. Able to share all his thoughts in an objective matter, Carlesimo had plenty to say about what level of talent the Nets really have, why it’s bad for the league to be a players league, and what it really means when headlines say a coach has “lost the locker room”. Stefan Bondy of New York Daily News has all the details:

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SH Blog: PJ Carlesimo out as Nets coach; Celtics need to figure out what to do with Pierce

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And just like that, the second round is upon us. If that felt a little abrupt, don’t worry: it was. Somehow the first series to be set is the last to get underway, which I’m sure Gregg Popovich and the Spurs won’t mind. Mark Jackson and the Warriors probably won’t mind too much either, with Andrew Bogut and Steph Curry’s ankle troubles. For more on the Warriors and Spurs, check out Jan Hubbard’s latest column.

Derrick RoseThe other series that starts tomorrow will be the Bulls and the Heat, and while it won’t be Derrick Rose vs. LeBron James, there’s plenty of intrigue with the Bulls if you can get over their All-Star point guard’s absence. Just watching them dig down to their deepest reserves of grit against the Nets should have done that. In another new column on Sheridan Hoops, Jeremy Bauman looks at what the Bulls have accomplished without their franchise player.

Still, the rumors will continue to abound over Rose, and not without reason: he still hasn’t ruled out that he’ll return, and it’s not unreasonable to presume that the best chance the Bulls have of knocking off Miami is with him in the lineup. So let’s start off today’s roundup of the latest news from around the NBA with an item on Rose:

  • Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports says what everyone in the NBA is thinking: “For the good of his franchise and fans, for everyone’s focus to be where it should belong now – Bulls-Heat, Game 1 on Monday – Rose needs to drop the illusion that his return in these playoffs remains a consideration. “Who knows?” Rose told reporters hours on Saturday. “It’s still up in the air.” Who knows? Derrick Rose knows. His choice has been made to sit out the season and it includes no provisions for turning back, sources with direct knowledge told Yahoo! Sports. Inside and outside of the organization, that isn’t much of a revelation. After all, the surgery to repair the torn ACL in his left knee was May 12, 2012. Doctors cleared him to start scrimmaging with the team in mid-February. After all that, he isn’t walking out for the first time with LeBron James and the Miami Heat waiting to jump him. … Of course, Derrick Rose could make everything easier and simply say so publicly. He refuses. So, Rose will still needlessly linger over this Heat-Bulls series.”

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Bauman: Bulls pass resilience test; Now it’s Brooklyn’s turn

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Deron Williams struggled to get going last night

Deron Williams struggled to get going last night

BROOKLYN — The buzzer at the end of the third quarter sounded. Some fans at Barclays Center clapped, but mostly there was just silence.

Kind of like Deron Williams’ play.

The same Nets fans who couldn’t get enough of their team’s 106-89 blowout Game 1 victory  were silenced at the offensive end thanks to intensity and attention to detail by the Chicago Bulls.

In stealing homecourt advantage with a 90-82 victory, the Bulls cut off the head of the snake. A gutty performance by Kirk Hinrich helped force Williams – the key to Brooklyn’s Game 1 win – into one of the worst playoff performances of his career.

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Bauman: How Brook Lopez became an All-Star

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“If you don’t see Brook Lopez play a lot, this is why he made the All-Star team,” explained a hyped up Jim Spanarkel, the YES Network color commentator, after Lopez blocked Jodie Meeks’ shot attempt from the weak side. “It’s plays like that at the defensive end of the floor – it’s not that they were non-existent – but they weren’t Brook Lopez of a couple years ago.”

That play – and statement – so adequately sums up Brook Lopez’s season and career thus far.

Lopez’s numbers have always been pretty solid, but they most definitely don’t paint the picture of who he is as a player. Despite averaging 17.6 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks for his career, Lopez has never given off the vibe that he’s an enforcer in the paint.

This year, he has stepped up his defense, and that’s making a difference inside for Brooklyn.

Learning about how to move people and hold down the paint is somewhat of an acquired taste, so to speak, for some big men. This from Tim Bontemps of The Daily News:

Meanwhile, Deron Williams said Lopez has shed his reputation for being soft.

“He came with a new attitude this year and knew how much we needed him defensively, especially holding down the paint, blocking shots, altering shots,” Williams said. “For a big man getting bigger and stronger can always help a guy like Brook. He’s gotten stronger, been able to move guys around the paint better. It’s just more of an intimidating factor.”

Lopez has improved his effort and intensity in the middle, and it has paid dividends for these Nets. He has been by far the most consistent player on a team that pays i’s backcourt of Williams and Joe Johnson a combined $37 million.

“I knew he had a great touch down low but I didn’t know how effective he was,” explained Johnson, who is playing with Lopez for the first time this season. “I think this is one of the only years that he’s really been healthy and that I’ve gotten to see him close up and play in practice every day.

“He’s definitely a great talent.”

That last line is key, as Lopez’s talent (and numbers, compared to other Eastern Conference centers) were so undeniable that Commissioner David Stern had no choice but to put him in the 2013 All-Star Game after Rajon Rondo went down with an ACL injury.

That said, at just 24 years old, if Lopez continues to develop, he can become a much better player. He has so much to give in other areas that to the common fan, he can be frustrating to watch at times.

Turn the page to see some of the strengths and areas to improve regarding Lopez’s game just after the midpoint of his fifth NBA season.  

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