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As Brad Stevens enters his third season as head coach of the Boston Celtics, one thing that the NBA's youngest coach has learned, so far, is that the margin of wins/losses is very slim in the eastern conference.
At media day, coach Stevens reiterated a point that he made earlier in the week -- that the Celtics (40-42) were not only very close to not making the playoffs last season, but were also very close to entering the playoffs as a top five seed. Stevens also stated that there isn't a specific goal set for the 2015-16 Celtics, but rather an overall common one that is shared by all 30 teams in the NBA.
"I have one goal at this job and that's to win an NBA championship. How long will [it] take to get there -- That's the only thing I will put down as a goal," said Stevens. "I'm focused on the day-to-day and the small margin of being good and not being good. Hey, I said this the other day -- we were as close to 12th as we were to 4th last year. And we'll continue to talk about that because that margin is a small one."
While last season's small margin has Avery Bradley predicting a possible trip to the finals, coach Stevens is taking things one step at a time. On paper, the Celtics roster has certainly improved from last season but a handful of wins or a handful of losses in the regular season could be the difference between a first-round playoff knockout or a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Stevens and his coaching staff will also have a lot to talk about when they go over their roster's depth chart before the start of the regular season. The logjam in the frontcourt will have to be sorted out, and figuring out the Celtics' lineup configurations will be a whole other matter. But one thing that Stevens knows for sure is that he has a group of guys that are eager to play together.
"I feel good about where we are," said Stevens. "We have a good group of committed people, they like being in Boston and they're excited about playing with each other. I thought that showed itself towards the end of last year and the guys that we've added kind of add to that mentality."
Chemistry is something that teams often have to build throughout an entire season or two but fortunately for the Celtics; it looks like it's not going to take long. And a trip to Europe for a pair of preseason games will bring the group closer together (umbutu sequel?).
They've lost a few players from last season but aside from Brandon Bass, the core of their rotation is still intact. Plugging in newcomers David Lee and Amir Johnson into the frontcourt and a pair of rookies; Terry Rozier and RJ Hunter into the backcourt, and figuring out how to divide minutes are things Stevens will straighten out throughout the preseason.
However, Stevens reminded a room full of reporters at Friday's media day that this is a good problem to have, and good teams are suppose to have a deep roster. And there will be good players who will be left out of the rotation this season.
"Every good team that is challenging to be better is going to have depth," said Stevens. "We're going to have good players on our team that aren't going to play. That's the reality of it. That's the hard part of the job in some ways but you just try to be really frank about it. I'm not here to predetermine anything. That's why I think sometimes we should probably have media day two weeks in because I don't know yet. We'll find out."
The Celtics will head to Europe at the end of training camp this week, where they will play their first game of the preseason next Tuesday (October 6).
Here's a video of Brad Stevens' press conference at media day:
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