Posted December 10, 2013

The Fundamentals: Brad Stevens’ tenure with Celtics off to scrappy, stifling start

Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Rob Mahoney, The Fundamentals


After two seasons of respectable shooting, Kyrie Irving's shooting percentages have plummeted. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

After two seasons of respectable shooting, Kyrie Irving’s percentages have plummeted. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

• Much has been made — in these parts, among others — of Rudy Gay’s miserable combination of high-volume shooting and horrid inefficiency, crystallized in his statistical line as 38.8 percent shooting on 18.6 field-goal attempts per game. That terrible combination served as a legitimate drain on the Raptors’ offense despite his scoring total.

Meanwhile, the Cavaliers have been even more disappointing this season, with Kyrie Irving providing nearly as much offensive dead weight. At numbers just a bit shy of Gay’s shooting percentage (39.4 percent) and volume (18.6), doesn’t Irving’s crummy start at least warrant mention in the same breath, no matter his shinier reputation?

• A round of applause is in order for Orlando’s Victor Oladipo, who finally slid out of first place in turnovers per game by averaging only three over his last four. There is no purer form of trial and error than an athletic rookie guard given freedom to work.

On the same beat, James Harden (4.0), Russell Westbrook (3.9), Stephen Curry (3.8) and LeBron James (3.8) are your new established leaders, though Kobe Bryant (with eight turnovers in his season debut) announced his entry with authority.

• Kings center DeMarcus Cousins has the distinct honor of leading the league in fouls per game while sharing the lead for technical fouls. With a few flagrants, he could really make a run at the triple crown.


It's been a tough start to the season for Vince Carter, who hasn't yet adapted to his modified role with the Mavs. (Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)

It’s been a tough start to the season for Vince Carter, who hasn’t yet adapted to his modified role with the Mavs. (Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)

1. A valuable contributor fades in Dallas

Even without suffering another injury, the Mavs have taken a hit to their depth chart with Vince Carter’s struggles. Last season, Carter was an invaluable resource in Dirk Nowitzki’s absence and a successful complement upon his return. He was an effective (if trigger-happy) ball handler for a team that desperately needed one. He was the Mavs’ most prolific three-point threat, converting a team-high 4.9 attempts at a 40 percent clip. He picked up challenging defensive assignments to save Shawn Marion’s legs, ran pick-and-rolls to save O.J. Mayo the trouble and averaged nearly twice as many assists as he did turnovers.

JOHNSON: Michael Beasley finding niche in Miami

He was pretty close to a form-fitting, gap-filling role player as you’re likely to find at his price point ($3.2 million this season), and was expected to provide more of the same for a far better equipped Dallas team this season. Unfortunately, Carter’s play has dipped virtually across the board, including 37.3 percent shooting from the field. That Carter is no stranger to forcing up difficult shots make his shooting woes even tougher to stomach, particularly when the arrival of Monta Ellis and Jose Calderon should be making his work on offense come easier.

Get right, Vince — the Mavs are more fun with you in finer form.

2. The next step for Jeremy Lamb

It’s good to see the second-year guard making good on a bigger role with the Thunder, and he’s already emerged as a reliable spot-up option from three-point range. Where he struggles a bit, though, is in translating that shooting touch when forced to take a step in. Take a look at Lamb’s shot chart for the season, courtesy of

jeremy lamb chart

Notice that swath of red just inside the three-point line? That’s prime territory for a step-in jumper, which can be a problematic shot for standstill shooters. Lamb does well to convert his catch-and-shoot opportunities when stationary, but he tends to lose his shooting consistency when taking that one-dribble pull-up. It’s a valuable skill for a shooter as quick on his feet as Lamb, and the kind of minor development that could make him a more potent kick-out option.

3. Marcin Gortat is a different kind of stretch big

The Wizards’ Gortat has succeeded in the pick-and-roll at each of his three NBA stops. Playing with point guard John Wall this season, the 6-11 Gortat has converted an outstanding 65.5 percent of his pick-and-roll finishes. Gortat is very mobile for his size, which allows him to navigate the lane easily; his balance on the pick-and-roll is terrific, allowing him to change directions or stop on a dime if need be; and he has a soft touch with both hands, allowing him to work in either direction.

Yet beyond all that, Gortat seems particularly enabled by his ability to extend horizontally in the pick-and-roll. Rarely do you see a pick-and-roll finisher stretch for finishes around the basket from such distances, in part because few have the one-handed ball security and ability to convert layups that Gortat does. Those monster mitts allow Gortat to maneuver his release point through a crowd, even when his path to the rim would seem closed. It’s a hell of a thing, setting Gortat apart from even other finesse finishers.

4. Dance of the Hours by Boris Diaw

I don’t know what it says about me that when I see this, I think of this.

5. Reconsidering McBob as a Bobcat

At the time, Charlotte’s two-year, $5.5 million signing of Josh McRoberts seemed one of the blander contracts of the summer — a fair deal for a fair player. But through 20 games, McRoberts has proved to be a very necessary piece for the Bobcats and a deserving starter ahead of Cody Zeller.

CODY ZELLER: Life as an NBA rookie

At times, McRoberts’ presence has served as the difference between Charlotte’s offense being merely and downright terrible. The primary reason? McRoberts’ dynamism compared to that of Charlotte’s more limited big men, whether through his bits of shooting, his work off the ball or his committed passing on a team with few quality playmakers. For all his limitations, McRoberts ranks second on the team in three-point makes and first in assists per minute. Those rankings may indicate that something is very wrong with the Bobcats’ construction, but they also highlight McRoberts’ usefulness to this particular team.

Statistical support for this post provided by

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He has been outstanding. He has used guys to their best advantage (sullinger for example., who does have in, he cant get off the ground)....but Jeff Green is playing outstanding D, best of his career. Bradley too, so imagine when Rondo returns. I never bought the celtic tanking theory. The organization is too smart. The only other new coaches to compare are Hornacek and Budenholzer. Compare to the train wreck in Brooklyn. 


Good job by Stevens so far.  Would like to see him break the trend of great-in-college-but...


Uhhhh... what is their record again? 

Yeah - genius for sure.

cord u
cord u

Good for Stevens. Great coach hire by Ainge. Like to see the no-names who aren't media darlings go out and kick butt. 


Both NY teams are an absolute disgrace. I'm barely even sure Boston is TRYING to win this season and they still beat the Knicks by 41MSG over the weekend. Embarrassing. 

Hope Spike was there to watch.


What a crazee time in the NBA......prior to the start of the season I would have penciled tonite's game against the Nets as a blowout.....LOSS for the Green.  Now....we almost EXPECT the Celts to win big....and on the road.  It'll be interesting to see how the team responds when Rondo returns.......what lottery pick?  Guess we'll need to wait till next year (

when Brooklyn tanks) to get into the lottery.  In the meantime, it's been a helluva lot more enjoyable watching this edition of the Celtics than anticipated.....


@JamesJoyce It's all relative though.  It's true that the Celtics are 10-12, but do you not realize that they've probably been at a talent deficit in just about every single one of the games they'e played, possibly save for 2 games Orlando and 3 against Milwaukee


@cord u I feel the same way about it being a great hire, other than the idea that Brad Stevens was a "no name." He was one of the highest profile coaches in college basketball. If you don't follow college basketball, I can understand that you might not have heard of him. But taking his "no name" Butler team to two straight NCAA championship games put him at the top of everyone's coaching list who follows college b-ball. Hard to name any coach who got more out of his players than Brad Stevens did at Butler, and while he might have done so somewhat anonymously at first, taking his team to the NCAA championship once made him well known; doing so the very next year, especially when his team lacked any future NBA stars, definitely made the "no name" label a thing of the past for Brad Stevens. At that point he probably could have had any NCAA coaching job in the country he wanted, but he didn't want another one. This NBA opportunity, however, was too much to pass up.