C’s take fresh ap­proach

Stevens plots key rest stops along way

Boston Herald - - NHL SCOREBOARD - By STEVE BULPETT Twit­ter: @SteveBHoop

Brad Stevens will be serv­ing two cal­en­dars as he leads the Celtics this sea­son — the one that in­di­cates there is a game on that given night, and the larger one that notes the length of the NBA sea­son.

And how long the Celts want it to be for them.

There­fore, look for the coach to keep an eye on min­utes within a par­tic­u­lar game, and even give play­ers nights off here and there when it best suits the over­all plan to be play­ing — and play­ing well — deep into the post­sea­son.

Stevens re­ally didn’t have to worry so much about that in the re­cent past. “It’s hap­pened or­gan­i­cally,” he said, re­fer­ring to in­juries that side­lined some reg­u­lars.

But he will be look­ing to keep peo­ple fresh.

“We’ve done that with Al (Hor­ford) on a num­ber of oc­ca­sions the last cou­ple of years — Kyrie (Irv­ing), on a cou­ple of oc­ca­sions,” Stevens said. “We did it late in the year. The most im­por­tant thing is if there is some­thing where a per­son needs that day off from a health stand­point early on, then they get it. That’s a med­i­cal de­ci­sion and that’s some­thing that prob­a­bly is de­cided well in ad­vance.

“But if we’re all healthy and we’re all given the green light, we’ll play and then see how we’re do­ing as the sea­son goes along and see how that all adds up. But if there’s an in­tense stretch of games — eight games in 12 days, 13 days — and we deem later in the month that Al should sit a game, we will. Or Kyrie, or Gor­don (Hay­ward).”

The coach has al­ready pe­rused the sched­ule and has picked out some rest stops, and more will be dic­tated by cir­cum­stances. There will be an early crunch of games, with Tues­day’s opener fol­lowed by a back-to-back in Toronto and New York Fri­day and Satur­day. That set leads into a run of three games in four nights, with Or­lando com­ing to the Gar­den a week from Mon­day.

For now, Irv­ing and Hay­ward, both com­ing off in­juries, are ready for what­ever the sched­ule says.

“The plan is for them to play in back-to-backs,” said Stevens. “Gor­don will prob­a­bly be a lit­tle lim­ited early from a min­utes stand­point — not in any big way, but we’ll prob­a­bly have to man­age that just be­cause he’s been out for so long, when you talk about the 13 months.” Hay­ward is OK with that. “We have dis­cussed it, and I think we’re go­ing to talk fur­ther about it,” he said. “But it’s some­thing we’ve got to look into.”

Hay­ward then touched on the op­er­a­tive con­cept, say­ing, “We’re try­ing to play un­til June, not just the be­gin­ning of the sea­son. So it’s some­thing we have to talk about.”

And some­thing Hay­ward has to ac­cept as part of his re­al­ity, fol­low­ing his lower leg frac­ture in the 2017-18 sea­son opener.

“That’s part of the pa­tience and part of the things that can get frus­trat­ing when you go through an in­jury like that,” he said. “There’s still more that you have to go through. It’s not just like last year is over. It’s a process. And I want to be play­ing my best bas­ket­ball at the end of the year. We’re go­ing to dis­cuss that and man­age that.”

Over­all, he said, “Yeah, I’m do­ing well. I think with each day of prac­tice I’m get­ting more com­fort­able out there on the court. My body feels bet­ter. I think the first week was rough on me be­cause it was so much, so fast. But I think I’ve had some time now and my body feels a lot bet­ter.”

Hay­ward has been deal­ing with some back pain and re­ceived a cor­ti­sone shot ear­lier in the week. But he still hopes to play through that first stretch of games.

“That’s the plan,” he said. “I think we have a staff that’s go­ing to help me man­age it and de­ter­mine how much I’m go­ing to do. I trust them, and as a com­peti­tor I want to be able to do ev­ery­thing, so we’ll see. Some­times, as I’ve al­ready found out, some­times that’s not the case and you’ve got to dial it back a lit­tle bit. But that’s why we have the staff that we have.”

The Celtics are well equipped to get through rest nights, given that it will be dif­fi­cult for Stevens to squeeze all the play­ers he might like to use into the ro­ta­tion.

But, he added, “I think you al­ways want more depth. The re­al­ity is when we were play­ing in the play­offs last year, we prob­a­bly didn’t have as many curve­balls that we could throw be­cause we had a num­ber of guys (out). Not only did we have a num­ber of guys out, we didn’t have enough to de­cide if any­body was in­ac­tive or not by the end of it.

“I think any time you have more depth, you have more op­tions. But the other side of that is when you don’t have as much, ev­ery­body knows what they are go­ing to get to do ev­ery night. That’s the chal­leng­ing part. We’re all em­pa­thetic to that, but at the same time, the main thing is the main thing, and that’s to win the next game.”

Speak­ing of win­ning, Hay­ward had a thing or two to say about his ping-pong prow­ess in the Celts’ new fa­cil­ity: “To set the record straight, I’m at the top of the lad­der. I have not been beat by any­body here in a se­ries. I’ve been beaten a game, but I’ve not been beaten a se­ries. That’s the real truth, if any­one tries to tell you dif­fer­ent.”

He also de­fended hav­ing his own pad­dle by say­ing, “You have your own golf clubs, you have your own ten­nis racket. Like, it’s the same thing.”

STAFF FILE PHOTO BY CHRISTO­PHER EVANS

TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE: Celtics coach Brad Stevens is go­ing to keep an eye on player min­utes through­out the sea­son, to make sure his team is as fresh as can be come play­off time next spring.

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